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  • Maria Giovanna Palazzo

Greece - Mediterranean Flavors

Paros – Naxos – Santorini

Written and pictures by Maria Giovanna Palazzo

At a slow pace...

Yes, this is how the Greek islands should be experienced, without haste, slowly indulging every single moment whilst the blues, whites and violets of the bougainvillea flowers fill your eyes in your daily routes around the Cyclades Islands, images that will surprise you every time because they are the essence of these lands, rich in history, legends and myths.

 

PAROS

Paros is the right destination for those looking for their first contact with a small Greek Island, and they want it to be "like a postcard", because this is more than an island. It is the soul of all Cyclades. It is their sum, it is the box that collects all the sensations, images, colours, and sounds of an entire archipelago.


Parikia is the capital and main port of the island. Its promenade by the sea is full of taverns and bars. The most beautiful walk is through the labyrinthine stone-paved streets of the centre that develops at the foot of the ancient Venetian settlement. Furthermore, climbing up to the church of Agios Kostantinos you can admire one of the most beautiful sunsets in Greece.

The second largest inhabited centre is Naoussa. Once a quiet fishing village, today it is chic, frivolous, with a vibrant nightlife and luxury resorts and beach hotels abound. Here you can sail at sunset on a gulet and dine with fresh fish cooked by a chef / skipper


Do not forget the other beautiful villages, they are worth a visit as they are absolutely authentic: Kostos, Lefkes, Marpissa, Piso Livadi, lose yourself walking through the narrow lanes to discover the true nature of these places off the beaten track.


Beaches are scattered along the coast, most of them are lovely coves, but if you want a different perspective we recommend you to participate in one of the many daily cruises on a catamaran or motorboat. One of the best is towards Antiparos, the little sister island of Paros.

 

NAXOS

Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades Islands and it offers mountains, hills, and of course beautiful and large beaches. A paradise for kitesurfers, and a place where a true legend was born ....the myth of Ariadne!


Ariadne, in love with the Athenian hero Theseus, helped him escape the Labyrinth after he slew the Minotaur, a beast half bull and half man, giving Theseus a ball of wool (the proverbial Ariadne's thread) to be able to mark the path travelled in the labyrinth and then get out of it easily but Theseus carried her to Naxos and abandoned her there where she was rescued by and married Dionysus the god of the grape harvest, winemaking, fertility, insanity and ritual madness.


Chora Naxos

Chora Naxos, the capital of the island, welcomes you immediately with an iconic symbol of its past. A pleasant walk to the end of the promenade leads to what remains of the temple of Apollo, the Portara, a door that plunges directly into the blue and where it is customary to gather every evening to admire the sunset.

The old town is a tangle of steep streets where getting lost is both easy and exciting.


Chalki

To have an idea of what Naxos was like before the tourist boom, visit Chalki the ancient capital of the island. It is a beautiful village, for those who love to let time go by, browsing among the typical shops and art galleries, or photographing the splendid historic villas in the centre.

Chalki is also the best place to taste the Kitron, a typical liqueur of the island produced with a particular variety of lemon. Go to the historic Vallindras Distillery in the main square of Halki, they have been producing Kitron since 1896.


Only a couple of miles far from Chalki there is one of the oldest and most fascinating churches in all of Greece, Panagia Drosiani, inside which you will find small caves: some of these were used by nuns and priests to teach the Greek language to the local population during the years of Turkish occupation.


Apiranthos

Apiranthos is another essential stop during a holiday in Naxos. Its inhabitants are almost descendants of Cretans who took refuge in Naxos to escape the repression of the Turks and speak a very special language, different from Greek.

Here, too, you will find a centre with narrow streets paved with marble, lined with craft shops and art galleries.


Filoti and Koronos are other mountain villages to visit as well as you shouldn't miss Moutsouna or Apollonas, small villages by the sea that can be reached through a fabulous scenic road that winds and descends from the mountain down to the sea.


Not forgetting the other great protagonists of the island: the beaches!

The beaches of Naxos are among the most beautiful in the Cyclades and can be found in every direction: you could sunbathe every day on a different beach for at least 20 days!

Just choose the right side according to the day to find yourself on a shore sheltered from the wind and the Meltemi.

 

SANTORINI

It is the island of Greece best known throughout the world for the beauty of its landscapes, its romantic sunsets and its white houses and churches with blue domes. Do not expect a quiet island, Santorini is frequented by a large number of tourists at all times of the year.


Its curious shape, with the caldera in the centre of the island, is the result of a volcanic eruption which had immediate disastrous consequences with the sinking of a large part of the island but has become the reason for the tourist success. Santorini is also a place, as very few in the world, is often chosen for its unique hotel experiences. Fairytale hotels designed by well-known architects promise unforgettable stay, something unique that can only be perceived through one's senses.


Fira, built on the edge of the cliff that borders the “caldera” is always full of people. Cafes and restaurants offer a great view, strolling up and down the narrow streets full of shops and bazaars is the favourite pastime of tourists.


Firostefani is the natural extension north of Fira: the border that divides them is almost imperceptible. They are very similar even if Firostefani does not have to bear the many tourists who flock to the centre of the capital.


Few miles up to the north you arrive at Imerovigli, the balcony of Santorini for the splendid views it offers. The atmosphere is very quiet, no main street of shops but very good quality restaurants and luxury boutique hotels with infinity pools and luxury suites so the main pastime is relaxation, contemplation and chatting in front of a fresh sparkling prosecco bottle. It is the perfect place to experience an unforgettable honeymoon.


Finally Oia, which is more “town” than Imerovogli and more refined than Fira, dominated by art galleries, ceramics, crafts, for those ones who look for a place in between the quiet and contemplative Imerovigli and the super crowded Fira, except for the sunset where the whole island gathers here in Ia to applaud the show of the setting sun, crammed into the narrow streets that might detract from the magic of the moment. If you want to witness an equally spectacular but more intimate sunset, do it sailing on a catamaran or go to the Akrotiri lighthouse, you will not regret it!


And lastly, if you are exploring the rest of the island, it is worth a stop in Pyrgos a traditional small village, not invaded by hordes of tourists, characterized by a maze of narrow streets that offer infinite corners to photograph. The walk ends at the top in its highest part where the old Venetian castle is located. Another beautiful view!

 










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