SANTORINI: A TASTE OF GREECE, WHITE AND BLUE

Plato’s Atlantis, the cradle of a rich and powerful ancient civilization, the land shaped from it’s own volcano, welcome to Santorini. The southernmost of the Islands of Cyclades and perhaps the most romantic, it is often chosen by those who have to pronounce the life changing “Yes”. A journey that reveals and at the same time confirms all of its extraordinary beauty.

IMPRESSIONS: FIRST STOP IN SANTORINI

In a school geography project, just a few moons ago (I was at the secondary school), me and my friend Lisa were asked to “plan” a travel itinerary in Greece. I remember clearly our program: “First stop in Santorini”. After so many years, I’m finally here.

Destiny has taken me to this island for a friends wedding. I soon discover, however, that well over 8,000 marriages are performed here every year and the idea to celebrate this special occasion on Santorini reveals it’s success among the most diverse nationalities, especially among young Chinese couples.

00_IMG_8933Marriage aside, Santorini is a stop not to be missed if you like houses with characteristic structures, whitewashed churches with blue domes, the volcanic soil and the cliffs. This small perfect world is only 79 km square, at times it seems unreal. The air smells of salt, the wind whips the clothes hanging out on the line to dry and bougainvillea provides splashes of color almost like a painters palette! Stopping in Santorini is a duty and to fall in love with the island is a must.

Three days to discovery this island and it’s black soul I have barely enough time to understand what would be my ideal lineup.

My first stop, a must, is Oia, the northernmost village of the island, I get lost in the maze of alleys and emerge at the mill. Dinner with a sunset view and a walk at night among the shops and terraces overlooking the sea. Downhill we find Thira, the island’s capital, as well as it’s main town. From here you can’t miss the cable car that goes down steeply towards the Caldera, from here you can admire the island from one point of view which is decidedly alternative. And again, “To the lighthouse”, a ride to the lighthouse on the south-west to breathe the scent of the sea, between the cliffs, and hear its sound accompanied by seagulls. Finally, if you have a free sunset, scramble without hesitation to the citadel of Pyrgos and watch the sun that sets over the horizon, illuminating the entire Gulf right to Oia; Magic has a new synonym: is called Santorini.

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MEETINGS: THE FISHMONGER AND THE GRINDER

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Technology has conquered the world and obviously has also arrived in Greece, even on Santorini. However, to my great joy, sometimes during my travels I run into a reality such as the ones I’ve found here on the island. Those that bring you back in time to an era not too long ago, where the scales were manual and the grinder passed under the house. In Santorini I experienced unique moments which transported me to another time passing the vehicle of a knife grinder who goes from street to street with his megaphone calling for clients and a fishmonger who looks around with a bored expression attracting attention more to himself than to the fish that he has on display next to his essential scales. These are images that will stay in your mind and give a glimpse of authentic life, one in which the commodities have passed but they have not taken everything away. Fear not however, in Santorini there is a luxurious resort and modern supermarkets in all major centers, but do not forget that this is still an island and the flavor of the past remains.

KITCHEN: HEALTHY SUMMER IDEAS

Locally however write down this address: Selene, Pyrgos, Santorini, 84700 (http://selene.gr) The restaurant has an amazing view of the sea which accompanies dishes which have a delicate flavor and a wonderful vista. It’s the ideal location for a romantic evening or a special occasion. Maybe you should leave it as the last point of your culinary trip to Santorini and take home memories.  In my opinion the risotto and the quail were very good. Prices are a little expensive and the service a bit slow, but it was worth the effort anyway.

One final piece of advice: do not miss out on the hunt for a wine comparable to our own Italian masterpieces. With a lot of effort from the winegrowers (because of the strong wind the grape vines are grown in bush land), I think the wines are excellent. Also Mythos, the classical Greek beer is very pleaseant, especially if served at the right temperature, which marries perfectly the flavor of traditional dishes.

00_IMG_9236From every country I visit I always go home with recipes and alternatives to change my daily diet. This time was no different. Greek cuisine is ideal for those who like strong flavors, herbs and ingredients of the Mediterranean. And they are at least a dozen ideas for fresh, tasty salads and sauces that I have taken home from this short trip. Not only feta and pita then, but much, much more.

That said, not to be trivial, I’ll tell you about a tasty dish that I found in most restaurants : Hummas. A sort of puree a little ‘bitter, but very tasty, correctly served hot, which may be accompanied with pita or enjoyed by itself almost like a puree. The recipe calls for a mix of dried boiled beans (a little like we do with chickpeas),  oil and salt to taste. All blended together to form a smooth paste. Obviously variants are many: those who add an onion to make the mixture more tasty, some add a boiled potato. The choice is yours and you can invent your favorite combination. I swear that even if the weather is hot this dish can be really enjoyed to the last spoonful.

00_IMG_9097Locally however write down this address: Selene, Pyrgos, Santorini, 84700 (http://selene.gr). The restaurant has an amazing view of the sea which accompanies dishes which have a delicate flavor and a wonderful vista. It’s the ideal location for a romantic evening or a special occasion. Maybe you should leave it as the last point of your culinary trip to Santorini and take home memories.  In my opinion the risotto and the quail were very good. Prices are a little expensive and the service a bit slow, but it was worth the effort anyway.

One final piece of advice: do not miss out on the hunt for a wine comparable to our own Italian masterpieces. With a lot of effort from the winegrowers (because of the strong wind the grape vines are grown in bush land), I think the wines are excellent. Also Mythos, the classical Greek beer is very pleaseant, especially if served at the right temperature, which marries perfectly the flavor of traditional dishes.

GUIDE: A DIRECT FLIGHT

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Warning. In my opinion one does not come to Santorini for the sea, this is not  Sardinia . For who is looking for pristine beaches and crystal clear waters better not to choose Santorini or the Cyclades (except perhaps for the small paradise Koufonisia), famously volcanic. In Santorini one breathes a romantic atmosphere, relaxes, enjoying the sea, walks undisturbed among the tangle of narrow blue and white buildings of the center. The choice of the residence at this point is crucial, if equipped with a panoramic view and a swimming pool all the better. A Imerovigli and Oia there are certainly lots of choices. However if you enjoy a more private place, away from the “chaos” that characterizes the small villages crowded with tourists, you can opt for Villa Fabrica (http://www.villafabrica.com) at the Citadel of Pyrgos. Nice rooms, totally white, pools and above all a view of the island that has no equal.

As to getting there: the most comfortable way from Italy  is with a direct flight. Consider, however, that the frequency of flights is reinforced in the months between June and September. Just over two hours and you will be with your feet soaking. Using tactics “do not go when everyone else goes” you will find fair prices, obviously not the same can be said for the weekend, August, etc.

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As for getting around locally quads are perhaps the most intelligent solution from a cost-benefit point of view, also in consideration of the matter of parking. If you can not give up the use of local public transport (I confess that I am can’t, even just for the sake of curiosity), then do not miss the bus. Economic and overcrowded, offering good opportunities for encounters with tourists from around the world they cover the entire surface of the island from north to south. This will be the most suitable place to exchange impressions of the island with traveling companions, because it takes about an hour or so to travel from north to south and vice versa.

To avoid in any case: the months of July and August, during which, as happens in many cases in our seaside resorts, you can only half enjoy the island. I would not like to have to tell you again about this.

 

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IN MY SUITCASE: SUNGLASSES AND SUN CREAM

There are at least two good reasons to protect oneself from the sun in Santorini. First the white reflected glare of the sun, one seems to be in a huge open-air solarium (it is not a joke). Then there is the wind. Sometimes strong and almost annoying, other times faint and pleasant, but the result does not change. It is this breeze which caresses ones skin deceivingly, subtly making you forget all but the effect of the scorching sun. In the summer months in particular the Meltemi wind doesn’t stop (the name says it all). Result? Inevitably you end up getting burnt without realizing it. My advice: after you brush your teeth in the morning, dive directly into the tube of sunscreen.

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BOOKS AND FILM: ATLANTIS BOOKS

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Unusually, this time I’m not going to suggest a book or movie that inspired me and that helped me to take home memories. Of my trip to Santorini I cherish in my heart  “Atlantis books” (http://atlantisbooks.org): a small bookshop organized in the dandy spirit, a basement full of books, memorabilia, thoughts, little masterpieces and a lot of love. Hovering in this little world are casual visitors hunting for books not randomly, so like sleepy dogs and cats looking for a shelter to shun the heat and the light of the day. A little hidden gem that I thank luck and also a little bit the faithful Lonely Planet for letting me find it (“1000 Places to See in the World”: v. The number 679). Here you will find stories of Greek myths and legends, as well as timeless classics. The friends who were with me opted for “The Old Man and the Sea”; and me? I would have literally taken away the whole shop …

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