What is an Italo-phile like me to do when planning a vacation outside of Italy? Go to Greece! Prior to my overseas work assignment (more on that later), I planned on vacationing somewhere in Europe with a friend. After tossing around some ideas, we decided on visiting our Untours location in Nafplio, Greece. Now, don’t take this the wrong way, Italy will always be my number one, but Greece was fabulous.
We started with several days in Athens, staying at one of Untours’ recommended hotels near the Plaka area, the Acropolis Hill Hotel. It was modern, clean and comfortable and just a short walk to the Acropolis. To top it off, we were assigned a room with a small balcony and a view of the Parthenon! We would have been just as happy to spend our evenings on the common rooftop patio taking in the view, but having our own balcony was the cherry on top. The Acropolis by night is breathtaking! Given all that I had heard, Athens was much more charming than I had expected. We enjoyed visits to the Acropolis and its new museum, the ancient Agora as well as walks around the Plaka and the Athens Flea Market areas. I could have actually stayed longer, being a city person, but Nafplio was beckoning.
Rather than pick up our car in Athens we decided to take the bus to Nafplio, which was a great choice. We sat back, took in the views and rubbed elbows with the locals; the seats are pre-assigned so no worries about the bus being over crowded. It arrives right in the center of Nafplio, a stone’s throw from everything, and within walking distance to most of the apartments, even with bags.
Our time in Nafplio was just heavenly. It was mid-September and the weather was still warm and sunny. We spent mornings visiting archeological sites and afternoons on the beach. Evenings were begun with a walk through the center of town and an aperitif at a café and then dinner, sometimes in, sometimes out. There are over 100 restaurants and tavernas in Nafplio, so the choices are endless. Even eating in was gourmet as the supermarkets and shops are well stocked and the open-air market, held twice weekly, offers beautiful fruit and vegetables and fresh fish. It was a true taste of authentic Greek life, blending both the modern and ancient worlds, along with the relaxation associated with a seaside vacation.
There is so much to see and do in the area and farther afield. We opted to just take it easy and really enjoy Nafplio itself and the closer towns and villages. It was awe-inspiring to walk through ancient sites thinking of the people who had passed through before me, the labor gone into building and establishing those ancient communities, and the subsequent labor and effort to rediscover and restore them. Epidaurus was by far my favorite. There is something magical about it, a silent presence that somehow touches you. The same could be said for Mycenae and the Acropolis in Athens for that matter. We also visited Corinth, Argos, Tiryns and Tolo. Our longest trip was a full day via ferry to the islands of Hydra and Spetses. After all, how can you go to Greece and not visit an island or two? Both were charming and very photogenic.
The food, you ask? And the people? Both genuine and wonderful, beginning with Christos, our Untours’ staff person extraordinaire! The Greeks all seem to speak at least some English, and they are quite good at it. They were so welcoming and friendly. And for the food, there is a bounty from both the land and the sea. Wonderful fruit and vegetables and cheese, and, of course, fish. The portions were generous everywhere we went, so needless to say, we went off our of diets during our stay. But, we did spend the afternoons swimming. (Trying to make myself feel better.) I found that I did enough walking around and swimming that the extra calories didn’t add up. Thankfully. Truthfully.
All in all, I loved Greece! I would go back in a heartbeat, especially now as I sit looking out my window at a very gray sky and the first snowflakes of the season. Yes, we could have “done” more while we was there, but I am so glad that we decided not to. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Nafplio. I was there long enough to become a temporary resident, learn its maze of tiny side streets, and pick a favorite café where the waiter got to know me and could make recommendations as to where to go or what to eat. Our stay also allowed me to be well rested before the start of my whirlwind work assignment in Istanbul and Italy, which was a good thing…
Read the following posts in this series, in order: