The Mediterranean diet has long been celebrated as one of the best in the world – as nutritious as it is delicious – but it’s not just the food here that has such a positive impact on people's lives.
Factor in large doses of sunshine and sea air, as well as quality time spent with loved ones, and the Mediterranean region's countries have all the key ingredients for a life of health and happiness. And you don't need to live here to share in its benefits – from Naples to Nice and Palma to Dubrovnik, taking a break along these shimmering turquoise waters is bound to give you a boost of joie de vivre too. Spanning Southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, each of the Med’s twenty-two countries is unique – but certain quintessentially 'Mediterranean' traits do exist. Read on for our exploration of life, the Mediterranean way.
The Mediterranean region is one of abundance, especially when it comes to food and drink. Fertile lands, guaranteed sunshine and cooling coastal currents provide excellent growing conditions for anything and everything from figs and satsumas to asparagus, artichokes and pomegranates. Winemaking famously has its origins here, including the fortified varieties of sherry and vermouth. And what connects the cuisine of the countries of the Med is a penchant for freshly cooked, seasonal, local ingredients, treated simply, and with love.
Start your day the Italian way, where everything is structured around the ritual of coffee. In fact, the custom of offering a warming drink, from herbal infusions to red or black tea, is deeply embedded across the region. The Turks say that drinking a cup of coffee together commits one to forty years of friendship, while in Jordan, if you’re offered an Arabic coffee, it’s a sign of welcome and generosity that has its roots in Bedouin culture. Enjoy a fresh mint infusion at various stops on a road trip through Morocco, or do what the locals do, savouring several small glasses in Tunisia over a game of chich-bich, or backgammon. Order a plate of baklawa to go with it on the rooftop of the Tunis Marriott Hotel.
You'll notice distinctly Mediterranean flavours in the region's array of cocktails and digestifs - especially the zesty citrus in Italy’s limoncello and burnt orange in some of the country's favourite aperitivos. Enjoyed from the marina from the Agorà Bar at the Cervo Hotel, Costa Smeralda Resort in Sardinia, the warm hues of a Negroni perfectly match the spectacular sunsets over Porto Cervo marina. And anise, so beloved as an aperitif or after-dinner flavour, is variously found in ouzo in Greece, pastis in France, sambuca in Italy and arak in Lebanon. In Türkiye, order it as rakı in the Glass Restaurant and Lounge at Caresse, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Bodrum. Diluted with water to a milky hue, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a plate of grilled sole.
Across the Mediterranean, the best fresh produce is found in local markets – that's why restaurant chefs can rely on nature’s bounty to add seasonal touches to their menus. The proximity to the sea means there’s a fantastically diverse offering of fish and seafood, from tender squid, octopus and shellfish delicacies to the likes of sardines, swordfish and sea bass still glistening with freshness. Try the GB Roof Garden Restaurant at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, A Luxury Hotel Collection, Athens for a delicious plate of the kitchen's famed lobster orzo pasta, or fish carpaccio with citrus fruits and mastiha oil – not to mention views of the Acropolis.
Of course, the Med is also synonymous with the olive. The trees, with their delicately thin, silver-green leaves, provide sculptural beauty and shade on hot days, as well as one of the region’s most ubiquitous ingredients. Drizzle the extra virgin oil liberally on bread with halloumi and cracked green olives at Parklane, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Limassol, or spread olive tapenade, mixed with capers, on tostadas in Spain. And with plentiful lavender, saffron and rose in the region too, yours will be a sensory journey of aroma, colour and taste.
Long al fresco lunches, perhaps under the shade of a hanging vine or in a bougainvillea-strewn garden, mean that dinner is generally taken much later in the evening, and is sometimes a lighter affair. Often multi-generational in style, families and friends might share plates of hummus and flat bread, meze of grilled lamb or tuna, or tapas of peppers, anchovies and cheese, washed down with small carafes of water and vino. Garlic-infused cold soups like vichyssoise, gazpacho and salmorejo are just the thing on a warm night.
The Med can do fine dining, too, of course, with great panache. If the fancy takes you in France, you can’t do better than one of the Côte d’Azur’s glitzy harbour hubs, such as Marseille, Monaco or Cannes. As sails gently flap in the evening breeze and yachts bob alongside their moorings, sip a glass of champagne at the Riviera Marriott Hotel La Porte de Monaco and hang with the cosmopolitan set.
As is the case in many hot climes around the globe, the Mediterranean pace of life is generally slow – and since you're on holiday, why not embrace it and go with the flow? Linger over breakfast, then bask in the morning rays at one of the gloriously situated pools or by the beach – start as you mean to go on for dreamy, lazy days by the water. For an extra dose of la dolce vita, end each day with some entertainment, from live street music to vibrant bars and clubs.
Perfectly poised on its own peninsula, The Westin Dragonara Resort, Malta has breathtaking sea views as well as lidos adjacent to the coastal waters, meaning you don’t need to stray too far from your beautifully appointed, air-conditioned room. And that can only be a good thing, should you opt for the age-old tradition of a midday siesta between crisp, cool sheets.
In the afternoon, grab a patch of the Med’s glorious 46,000 kilometres of coastline – incorporating stunning islands and a huge array of Blue Flag beaches – all for yourself. A luxurious stay at the beachside Sheraton Tel Aviv puts you in the best spot to enjoy the plethora of white sands that Israel is known for, or opt for a stay on an island in the Med and take a relaxing boat trip to explore the many bays and inlets. If the skipper drops anchor a while, dive into crystal-clear waters, or take in some late afternoon sun at one of the calm, hidden coves.
Alternatively, visit one of the many ancient monuments or museums that pay homage to the Mediterranean's diverse, multicultural past. An historically important trading route, the legacy of a myriad of cultures is woven into the buildings here - from the Arabesque architecture of Andalusia and Türkiye's Greco-Roman ruins to the coastal fortifications surrounding Malta. Stay at Crete’s spectacular coastal Domes Noruz Chania, Autograph Collection, an adults-only lifestyle resort, and visit the nearby old town and its historic 14th century Venetian harbour for a rich taste of Greek island heritage.
The ancient tradition of spa towns and hammams along this cerulean coast has continued with a modern twist, from glorious, heated jacuzzis to rooftop and infinity pools with the most spectacular views. For the ultimate in Mediterranean hydrotherapy, stay at a luxury spa hotel, like the sumptuous Sheraton Dubrovnik Riviera Hotel. But wherever you are on the Med, there is joy in simply gazing at the azure blending of sea and sky from your beach lounger as gulets, yachts or feluccas pass by.
The Mediterranean is awash with music and live entertainment in the evenings, whether it’s the clubs and bars of Ibiza and the Balearic Islands, or flamenco on the streets of Seville and Andalusia. Across the traditional music of the different countries too, there's a fabulous fusion of the rhythm and sounds of Europe, Asia and Africa, formed by their shared history. In folk music, acoustic string instruments and small drums provide the accompaniment to beautiful serenading voices.
If clubbing’s your thing, head to the iconic, adults-only Glow bar on the rooftop at the W Ibiza at Santa Eulalia for never-ending views of the sea and in-house DJs. Or opt for Mallorca, another idyllic island that also knows how to party. Stay at The St. Regis Mardavall Mallorca Resort and get the best of both worlds – daytime luxury and relaxation, plus a lively nightlife scene nearby.
For a perfectly serene Barcelona evening, enjoy some laidback fun and beautifully crafted cocktails at The Barcelona EDITION's Bar Veraz, then step out to savour the night air. With the hotel situated next to the Picasso Museum and the Barcelona Gothic Cathedral, you're perfectly placed to promenade along Las Ramblas in step with local families and romantic couples, listening to the heady sounds of street performers. From mandolins and guitars to the harp or long-necked saz or bağlama, the Med is infused with the sounds of melodious instruments, creating the soundtrack to your evening strolls. Come the end of the day, you’ll know just what it means to live well.
Published: September 02, 2022
Last Updated: March 31, 2023
Article Tags: Athens , Barcelona , Bodrum , France , Greece , Ibiza , Italy , Malta , Mallorca , Sardinia , Spain , Tunisia , Türkiye
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