New York–based travel planner Artisans of Leisure (artisansofleisure.com) has standout experiences across the Mediterranean. Its tailor-made tours to the obvious destinations of Italy, Spain and France provide unobvious diversions, while it also has good on-the-ground knowledge of less-visited Lebanon. Experiences on offer range from private culinary classes with Michelin-starred chefs to appointments with Naples’ best tailors to expert-led journeys through Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus district and antiquity tours of Greece, Turkey, Israel, Sicily and Cyprus. Also try Janice Martorano of Protravel International (protravelinc.com): While her own heritage has left her with a particular love for Sicily, she has equal acumen on southern Spain, northern Italy and the Italian coasts. Smithsonian Journeys (smithsonianjourneys.com) runs a number of fixed-departure small-group tours (16 to 24 people). For 2013, a new two-week April 25 departure (repeated in September) takes in Mount Etna, Matera’s troglodyte churches, Pompeii and Roman Capri—accompanied by academic experts.
The Culture Experts
The Location Experts
Corsica: Jack Dancy, trufflepig.com
France: Craig Loupassakis, libertytravel.com
Greece: Christos Stergiou, truegreece.com
Israel: David Gilinsky, isram.com
Italy: Emily FitzRoy, bellinitravel.com
Lebanon: Philippe Brown, brownandhudson.com
Morocco: Max Lawrence, lawrenceofmorocco.com
Spain: Virginia Irurita, madeforspain.com
Turkey: Fred Poe and his daughter Ellison Poe, poetravel.com
Villas, Palazzos...A Simple House by the Sea?
For a delicious spread of villas, check in with Sylvia Delvaille-Jones of Villas & Apartments Abroad (vaanyc.com)—big houses for big families by virtue of giant pan-Mediterranean knowledge honed over 35 years. For fabulous Greek rentals, see Ileana Von Hirsch (fivestargreece.com), who will even rent her own Ithaca pad, where Madonna was once a client. This inside track doesn’t come cheap; as a guideline, a family house sleeping eight starts at $15,000 a week in August. Victoria Hooberman (scottwilliams.co.uk), who is at her best on the family-friendly Greek islands of Corfu, Cephalonia and Paxos, delivers more value, with prices from $1,500 a week. For a wide range of Sicilian houses, including simpler family-style villas, Huw and Rossella Beaugié are a very good source. Their company, Think Sicily (thinksicily.com), has now branched out into Puglia. For villas on the Maremma coast, in Puglia, in Cilento and on the Amalfi Coast, Emily Fitzroy (bellinitravel.com) has the grandest connections. For the Côte d’Azur, villa agents continue to fall over themselves to secure the best houses for high-paying Russians. What’s left to the rest of us is therefore overpriced. Ceri Tinley at Consensio (consensioholidays.co.uk) is as expensive as the best of them but focuses on independently owned villas. For pan-European villas, including Spain, the go-to specialists are Cedric Reversade—he’s particularly strong on Ibiza, Mykonos and Majorca, with a large number of properties exclusive to his books—and Edward Marquis (thevillabook.com), who in various iterations has been renting villas for the last 30 years. Abercrombie & Kent Villas (akvillas.com) is a big, trusted agency that in 2012 launched Sardinia and Ibiza programs. Our general advice is to shop around: Different agents may be selling the same home at varying prices for the same week. —Richard David Story
Fly Me to the Mediterranean
In Greek mythology, Scylla and Charybdis are the names of two monsters who guarded a difficult maritime channel somewhere in the Mediterranean. In modern times, the phrase is thought to denote the narrow Strait of Messina, separating Sicily from mainland Italy—two very different Mediterranean worlds. Whatever the story, the region oftentimes puts contemporary travelers between a rock and a hard place.
There are the region’s southern and eastern reaches—Libya, Egypt, Syria—torn apart by political complexities. There are its northern pleasure spots—the Costa del Sol, the Côte d’Azur—ravaged by mass tourism or competitive jet-setters. Navigating the area can feel like the labors of Odysseus, but direct flights from the United States—especially New York—to the Mediterranean’s port cities are plentiful enough. And with a stopover, one can take advantage of a clutch of savvy low-cost hops favored by Europeans.
To skip the coast traffic on the Côte d’Azur—in August it can be nose-to-tail jams—consider the helicopter service Heli Air Monaco, which flies between Monte Carlo, Monaco, and Nice, France, in seven minutes and costs $135 a person each way. heliairmonaco.com.
Air Berlin: Air Berlin runs frequent low-cost flights out of Germany for connections to numerous Mediterranean islands, including the principal Greek islands and Spain’s Balearic Islands. airberlin.com.
Air Europa: To reach the Balearic Islands from Madrid, pick up an inexpensive flight to Palma de Mallorca, Ibiza Town or Ciutadella de Menorca. aireuropa.com.
American Airlines: Fly direct to Barcelona from New York or Miami for easy Mediterranean access. For the Riviera, fly to Paris and pick up an inexpensive flight on Air France from Charles De Gaulle to Marseille. aa.com.
Delta: Direct flights from New York abound. Fly to Athens, Greece; Nice, France; or Málaga, Spain, for a visit to the Costa del Sol. Atlanta–Athens flights are another option. delta.com.
EasyJet: From London, EasyJet has a riot of flights for any coastal destination. Fly to Naples, Italy, for the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast; to Ajaccio, France, for the Corsican wilds; or to Bodrum, Turkey, for the white-walled resorts. easyjet.com.
Monarch: From London, head to Gibraltar for alternative access to Spain’s Málaga, or as a gateway to Tangier, Morocco, via an 80-minute ferry, FRS Iberia, which runs across the Strait of Gibraltar—quick enough for a day trip to North Africa. monarch.co.uk.
Ryanair: For inexpensive flights to Puglia, Italy, fly to Brindisi out of London, Venice, Rome or Barcelona. For Sicily, hitch a direct flight to Palermo from London, Milan or Madrid. ryanair.com.
United: To reach the other end of the Mediterranean, United flies directly from New York to Tel Aviv and Istanbul. (For direct flights to Beirut, take Lufthansa.) united.com. —Sophy Roberts