Gianni and I had an amazing 6 weeks in Europe last year, experiencing some of the very best parts of Italy, Greece and Poland. This year we braved the worst of winter that Melbourne could throw at us, until it was too much to take (after all, my husband is from Brisbane). And so we squeezed in a short sojourn; a short whirlwind tour of our favourite spots and a few new ones too (as it turns out, we seem to like volcanos?). It seemed that both of our parents and many of our friends had the same idea and would be joining us along the way which made it the perfect opportunity to experience some of our favourite spots in a different light, travelling as a small group with great company.
Our first stop was Greece, flying direct through Abu Dhabi to Athens and onto the beautiful island of Santorini. With no time to waste we decided to fly to and from the island this time, avoiding the longer (but cheaper) ferry trip. After a 22 hour commute in total it took us all of 5 minutes to hop into holiday mode. On our very first night we headed straight into the main town of Fira for a beautiful sunset dinner with friends and planned out our next few days to make sure wemaximised every hour of our stay. Before I knew it, it was 10pm, the sun was gone though it was still 27 degrees. I realised, as I sipped on a refreshing and silky smooth 'Freddo Cappuccino' at Diverso Bar that it was 7am and 7 degrees back in Melbourne; we had traded the frosty mornings for a European heatwave, but I took solace in the fact that I could get to work on a much-needed tan!
We chose to spend a few nights at our hotel from last year, Infinity Collection. The hotels central position and unique modern cave style rooms were memorable enough to return but it was the managements service and acquaintance that really had us coming back for more. In addition, the owners had just opened a new luxury villa in Imerovigli which could comfortably accomodate four adults so it was the perfect option for my parents and my husband and I. It's vantage point at the highest town on the island over the volcanic caldera was mesmerising, whether it be from the private infinity pool on the roof top, the jacuzzi out front, or from the breakfast table!
As soon as the sun had risen again we were heading for the old port to hop on a Spiridakos half-day catamaran cruise. We missed out on this tour last year as I was a little ill, so it was the first thing on our itinerary and we ventured out with friends. Taking us all around the island over 6 hours we were treated to a gourmet freshly cooked lunch as we sailed around the geographic marvels of the red beach in Akrotiri, the white beach, the black beach and a spot of snorkelling to cool off amongst the fish and octopus! We were even taken to the sulphur hot-springs; the volcano lies some 1,500kms below the waters surface I was told, but its heat and minerals still reach the surface and are unmissable. Our short voyage back to port was graced with some live and impromptu singing from the boat's lovely chef, some traditional greek music mixed with a few english classics which when sung in a greek accent just added to the ambience.
The next day we drove our tiffany blue convertible Fiat 500 down to Chilli beach bar on the black volcanic sands of Perrissa beach. Towels, umbrellas, chilled water and al-a-carte meals all available at very reasonable expense! Without a doubt we have some of the best beaches in Australia, but now when I lay on the golden sands at the Gold Coast I fear I will be disappointed as I look for my buzzer to order some fries! Gianni took to the blue glassy waters on a jet-ski for 30 minutes and had an absolute ball as I relaxed on my sun-bed; "Another freddo cappuccino please!"
As it turned out, we had more friends from Australia on the island than we had even expected, and so for dinner we ended up a party of 10 and all headed, on recommendation, down to the flat plains on the opposite side of the caldera to a recently renovated restaurant called Yallo. It was a tightly-held secret of the locals and for good reason; once just a small canteen cave in the wall serving fishermen, it was now a beautiful private restaurant, beside the beach but off the beaten track and serving up some of the freshest and best seafood you can find. I could feel the holidays kilo's coming.
Spanakopita for breakfast didn't exactly help that cause but it was so fresh and deliciously delivered from the local bakery to our Infinity Collection Villa, what was I to do? Luckily I worked off a few calories walking through all of Oia before the sunset; a little shopping in the boutiques, a few frappe's later and the postcard sunsets were before me. Dinner was spent with our 'intimate' group of 7 at the new and very funky Catchrestaurant; fresh fusion sushi platters to start with a whole fresh fish and 1kg steak to share. On a single day in Oia I had witnessed natures beauty, plenty of donkeys and no less than THREE marriage proposals (they all said yes thankfully, or that may have put a dampener on festivities). We enjoyed 5 beautiful days on the island in total with family and friends; making some new life-long friends along the way.
Santorini. Saint Irene. My husband was proud to announce that it was actually an Italian name, not Greek, for the island was once inhabited by the Venetians. He was clearly getting nostalgic and he had every reason to be proud of his Italian heritage as our short plane ride direct to Napoli and the Amalfi Coast would prove.