10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Mediterranean

From the world’s first pizzeria to a growing hip-hop scene — discover little-known facts about the Mediterranean.
by 1008

Extending from the Nile River to ancient Rome, the Mediterranean Sea is home to some of history’s most fascinating cities and sights. With so many things to see, you’ll want to consider a Mediterranean cruise that visits several of the region’s jaw-dropping destinations along the coast. First up is Oasis of the Seas, returning to Barcelona, Spain for the first time since 2014, sailing to top destinations in the Mediterranean during the summer season. Anthem of the Seas will also make her way back to Europe in summer 2020, sailing from Southampton, UK – the first time since she debuted in 2015.

Even with all its starring roles in movies and history books, how well do you really know the Mediterranean? We’ve compiled a list of 10 facts about the region that may surprise you. So test your knowledge and tuck these away. You never know when they’ll come in handy (hint: Trivia Night).

  1. The Romans thought the sea was, literally, the middle of the earth. Because of this, they first called the Mediterranean “mediterraneus”—Latin for “middle of the earth.”
  2. Believe it or not, Rome is the birthplace of the shopping mall. The first-ever mall was built by Roman emperor Trajan between 107 and 110 AD. Trajan’s Market consisted of several levels and more than 150 outlets that sold everything from clothes to food and spices.
  3. The Strait of Gibraltar—where the Mediterranean Sea joins with the Atlantic Ocean, and Spain nearly touches the top of Africa—is only eight miles wide at its narrowest point.
  4. At the height of the Roman Empire, the entire border of the sea belonged singularly to the empire for several centuries. Today, the sea touches three continents and 21 modern states, including 11 countries in Europe, five in Asia and five in Africa.
  5. In 1830, Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, widely believed to be the world’s first pizzeria, opened its doors in Naples. Today, the restaurant’s ovens are lined with lava rocks from nearby Mount Vesuvius. Drop in for wood-fired slices or take a pizza-making class where you can learn how to toss your own authentic Neapolitan pie.
  6. Málaga, Spain, one of our popular ports of call, was built by the Phoenicians in the 7th and 8th centuries BC, making it one of the oldest cities in the world. You can still see some of the original city walls in the cellar of the Museo Picasso Málaga. (That museum, by the way, was built to honor one of the city’s most famous natives: Pablo Picasso.) 
  7. Barcelona was recently ranked as one of the top 25 destinations in the world by TripAdvisor’s 2019 Travelers’ Choice Awards, but fun fact: the city’s beaches weren’t even used for leisure until 1992 when the coastline was revamped for the Summer Olympics (including a five-mile strip of sand imported from Egypt).
  8. In ancient Rome, some residences not only had central heating and indoor plumbing, but also heated floors. A few more inventions we can thank the Romans for: concrete, newspapers and sewer systems. 
  9. Pisa’s famous landmark isn’t the only leaning tower in the area: the Church of San Nicola and the bell tower at the Church of San Michele degli Scalzi also have a similar posture, because of unstable soil in the area.
  10. That’s a rap: Marseilles, France, the country’s largest Mediterranean cruise port, is well known for its hip-hop music scene, thanks to artists and groups like Akhenaton, Jul and Keny Arkana.

Ready to set sail and explore all that the Mediterranean has to offer? Click here to book a cruise, and don’t forget to check out our guide for packing before you go.