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Norwegian's Official Travel Blog

Off-The-Beaten-Track Museums to See on Your Western Mediterranean Cruise

A Europe Cruise is the quintessential destination for checking items off your bucket list. In Rome that’s the Coliseum and the Vatican. In Paris it’s the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. London has Big Ben and the Tower of London. You get the picture. But what do you do when you’ve "Been There Done That," checked off the major items on your bucket list? We’ve assembled a selection of off-the-beaten-track museums to add to your itinerary.

While on a Rome cruise try the National Pasta Museum, an homage to Italy’s national dish. “Taste the real history of the Italian first course,” is the museum’s slogan. Displays cover everything from the history of pasta, to making pasta by hand to large scale pasta production. Experts relent that pasta was born in China and brought to Italy, but the Italians take credit for developing dry pasta, thus prolonging its shelf life and fostering the spread of pasta worldwide. The museum proclaims pasta “food for the world.” Next stop…lunch.

National Pasta Museum

Once you’ve seen the sights of Florence, take a peek inside the Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, the world’s oldest pharmacy. More than 700 years ago Dominican friars began cultivating medicinal herbs for use in tinctures, medicines and perfumes. They sold their wares here in the former monastery. Frescoes from the 14th century still adorn the interior. There’s a small museum displaying the tools of the herbalist trade and the porcelain vases used to store the products. Many of the original recipes are still made into lotions and soaps today. Pick up some scented souvenirs for the boudoir back home.

While you marvel at the beautiful sights in Cannes, don’t forget to look down. This capital of film culture is home to the Allee des Etoiles du Cinema, or the Star-Studded Floor. More than 150 handprints of film celebrities line the walk. Expect many French stars but look for the handprints of Mel Gibson, Sharon Stone, Julie Andrews and more.

When you cruise to Palma, Majorca, take a break from the bucket list to visit the Museu de sa Jugueta, or toy museum. More than 3,000 toys from the 19th century to the present are assembled from Spain, Germany, Japan and the Americas. There’s a play area for kids and a bar for the adults.

Seen enough sculptures cut from marble? While in Barcelona visit the Museu de la Xocolata, or the Chocolate Museum, where you’ll find life size chocolate sculptures of everything from Tom & Jerry to Spongebob Squarepants, soccer star Lionel Messi and a stunning rendition of Michelangelo’s pieta. Upon arrival, your entry ticket is a bar of chocolate. Exhibits cover the origins of chocolate, Barcelona as the center of chocolate distribution, and the 19th century Barcelona workshop where chocolate was first converted into a solid. Learn where cocoa comes from and how it is grown and processed. See the machines used to process chocolate and elaborate tableaus from chocolate including castles and a Roman chariot. Visit the café for truffles and hot chocolate. You’ll never see or taste chocolate the same way again.

After you’ve seen Pompeii and Herculaneum, you won’t want to miss the Sunken City of Baia, an underwater archaeological park in the Gulf of Naples. Baia was an ancient Roman resort for the extremely affluent. Patricians visited for the bathhouses filled by warm spring water from volcanic vents in the earth. The water was said to have healing properties. Baia was rumored to be a destination of hedonism and scandal. There was a casino at the resort. Julius Caesar owned a villa at the site and Nero, Hadrian and Caligula were regular visitors. Centuries later the site was abandoned due to rising sea levels facilitated by local volcanic activity. Today the underwater ruins are visible via glass bottomed boat. See surprisingly preserved mosaic tiled floors and amazingly intact statues. Imagine the once bustling playground of Rome’s rich and famous.

Sunken City of Baia