Shakespeare holidays: All the world's a stage
As Britain prepares to mark the 450th anniversary of the Bard's birth, Aaron Millar takes holiday inspiration from his legacy
Sunday 20 April 2014
Shakespeare's 37 plays tell stories of love, jealousy and revenge that transcend time and culture. Celebrations for the 450th anniversary of his birth take place in Stratford-upon-Avon next weekend (shakespearesbirthday.org.uk), but it's also possible to visit the settings of some of his most beloved tales, from balconies in fair Verona to the castles of cursed kings.
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark", said Marcellus to Horatio in Shakespeare's longest play, which was set in the city of Elsinore. Today, you can visit the rather more salubrious location of Hamlet – Kronborg Castle – on a week-long cycling trip offered by Inntravel (01653 617 001; inntravel .co.uk). Set off on the self-guided Danish Castles & Coast tour in August for performances of the play in the courtyard of Kronborg (00 45 4921 6979; hamletscenen.dk/uk). It costs £748pp with B&B, most dinners and cycle hire. Flights extra. Departs 24 May to 30 September.
'Twelfth Night', Balkans
Explore much of the modern-day Kingdom of Illyria, setting for one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies, on a tailor-made tour of the Balkans. Travel along the Croatian coast, where the play's heroine, Viola, is shipwrecked, through Bosnia and Herzegovina, and utter the Duke of Illyria's words, "If music be the food of love, play on". Balkan Holidays (0845 130 1114; balkanholidays.co.uk) offers an eight-day tour that combines time in Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Plitvice Lakes National Park and the island of Split, plus stops in historic Mostar and Sarajevo . The price of £773pp includes half-board, Gatwick flights and coach travel; weekly departures 4 May-28 September.
Split in Croatia, once the Kingdom of Illyria 'Romeo and Juliet', Verona
Take a themed walking tour around Verona, the city that inspired the most famous love story of all time. Visit Juliet's balcony, the re-imagined setting for the words: "O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?", the church where the star-crossed lovers married and more. Bailey Robinson (01488 689 700; baileyrobinson.com) has a four-day trip in Verona staying at Palazzo Victoria for £395pp with B&B and flights from Gatwick. A private two-hour Romeo and Juliet walking tour costs £140.
Shakespeare's tale of jealousy and revenge begins in Venice, but reaches its bloody and tragic climax in Cyprus. Cox & Kings (020 7873 5000; coxandkings.co.uk) has a seven-day tour of the island that starts in Larnaca, then moves north where Othello, having been sent to defend Cyprus from attack, is driven mad with the conviction that his wife, Desdemona is being unfaithful. Priced at £825pp, it also includes a visit to Famagusta, believed to be the setting for Othello's castle. Flights, hotels, transfers and guiding included; regular departures to 7 November.
In act four, a ghost – appearing as a child wearing a crown – tells Macbeth that he "shall never vanquish'd be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come against him". In the hills around Dundee, it's still possible to visit the ruined fort at Dunsinane Hill, known locally as Macbeth's castle, and Glamis Castle ( glamis-castle.co.uk) nearby, the setting for the play. Time your trip to coincide with the Findhorn Bay Arts Festival, in Morayshire, 24-28 September ( findhornbayarts.com) for a celebration of the history and myths surrounding the real Macbeth (0845 859 1006; visitscotland.com).
The Parthenon in Athens 'Timon of Athens', Greece
"The gods confound – hear me, you good gods all – Th' Athenians both within and out that wall!" Timon, feeling betrayed, curses his city, setting in motion a tragedy that will end with his death. Peter Sommer Travels (01600 888 220; petersommer.com) has an eight-day archaeology themed trip that transports guests to Athens in the time of Timon – the city's golden age. The price of £2,345pp includes full-board, expert-led visits to Attica, the Acropolis, the Theatre of Dionysus and more. Flights extra. Departs 1 June.
'The Tempest', Bermuda
This magical tale is thought to have been inspired by a real tempest that wrecked an English fleet off the coast of Bermuda in 1609, stranding the crew of the Sea Venture. The area is one of the best places to dive sunken wrecks, with more then 400 sites spanning 500 years of history. Dive Bermuda (00 441 238 2332; bermudascuba.com) has three-day, six-dive packages for $405 (£270) including equipment hire. Purely Bermuda (08000 336 335; purelybermuda.co.uk) offers a week's B&B at the Rosedon hotel for £1,559pp, with flights from Gatwick.
'The Merchant of Venice', Venice
Discover the city of Shylock, one of Shakespeare's most complex and controversial, villains. Visit the former Venetian ghetto where Jewish money lenders, such as Shylock, were once forced to live. Stop at the nearby Jewish Museum (00 39 041 715 359; museoebraico.it; €4) to learn the background of the play. The Luna Hotel Baglioni (00 39 041 5289 840; baglionihotels.com) has an arts and culture package that includes entrance to many major sites including Doges Palace and the Correr Museum. A three-night stay costs €777pp, B&B. Flights extra.
'Antony and Cleopatra', Egypt
Antony, defeated, famously cries to Cleopatra "Egypt, thou knew'st too well my heart was to thy rudder tied by the strings". Explore the history surrounding the play, travelling from Alexandria – the city of Cleopatra's birth – to Cleopatra's Pool at the Siwa Oasis. Egypt Uncovered (0845 130 4849; egypt-uncovered.com) offers the nine-day tour from £779pp with accommodation, most meals, transport and excursions. Flights extra.
'Julius Caesar', Rome
This popular tragedy dramatises Caesar's assassination in 44BC. Ace Cultural Tours (01223 841 055; aceculturaltours.co.uk) has a six-day expert led trip to the Italian capital taking in many of the sites from the play, including Capitoline Hill, where Caesar was assassinated, and The Forum, where his killers, Cassius and Brutus, confess their treachery. The price of £1,520pp includes flights, accommodation, most meals and guides. Departs 20 October.
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