It has long puzzled me why more Americans don’t find their way to the Greek island of Kefalonia. Brits we have aplenty, Italians, French, Dutch and a sprinkling of Germans, but Americans, almost none.
My wife and I spend most summers in Fiscardo in the north of Kefalonia and every year we wonder at the absence of Americans. It really is a mystery because many people’s idea of heaven is summer on a Greek island. These are people who like natural beauty, sun, swimming, eating, sleeping and exploring and who prefer this to be done in quiet, uncrowded places. This description covers most of our friends, which I guess says a lot about us.
If you made a tick box for where we live, it would look like this:
Extraordinary beauty: tick, in trumps. Actually, no words can describe how lovely it is. You have to go there to properly understand.
Good Weather: tick. Perfect weather a lot of the time, hot sunny days, warm nights – no need to wear clothes really.
Unspoiled: tick. It can’t last.
Warm sea: tick and how. (“How to relax”, by me: go to sea, loll in waves until crinkly, lie on beach, read book, get hot, go to sea, loll in waves. Repeat until hungry.)
Good food. Tick. For example, I have a mate called Odysseus who looks a bit like Obelix, the cartoon character. He runs a taverna on a beach where his mother (who also looks a bit like Obelix) is the cook. She cooks whatever’s fresh and to hand from local ingredients. Man, put it like this: you have never tasted tomatoes like that in your life – promise – and the bread Oddy puts on the table is freshly made, stuffed with olives and tastes like a Greek myth. Besides, I challenge you to name a more romantic evening than a moonlight boat trip to a taverna on a beach where the evening entertainment is listening to the lapping of the waves and a steady supply of local wine.
Other islands to explore: tick. Homer’s island Ithaca is a five-minute boat ride from our front door: we often go there for lunch. The island of Lefkada is 20 minutes in our speedboat, when I’m driving. My wife takes longer.
Uncrowded: tick. Thank heavens, it’s set to stay that way; the north of Kefalonia is so beautiful the Greek parliament agreed it had to be protected and passed laws to protect it “as an area of great natural beauty.” That makes it unique because it’s not easy to gets Greeks to agree on anything.
A little off the beaten track: Yup, but that’s another thing that makes it special
Fiscardo is not one of the most beautiful villages in Greece it is THE most beautiful. The area around the village is densely forested almost to the sea, the coast is dotted with small, secluded coves, the sea is calm and warm and perfect for swimming. There are extraordinary views in every direction and the islands of Ithaca and Lefkada form spectacular backdrops.
Given that it is so beautiful and life on a Greek island is so delightful, you’d think we would have more US visitors. I asked some American friends who visit us nearly every year, why they thought we have so few American guests.
There was a simple explanation: Americans don’t know about Fiscardo and no one’s told them how great it is. Our friends took the view that this is a good thing, because it’s their secret and they like it that way.
Northern Kefalonia’s charm has not gone entirely unnoticed in the US, because one US demographic that is well represented is the mega-rich, who in summer, form up in a flock of mega-yachts and cruise the Med, pausing for a while in Fiscardo. Americans, Russians, Arabs and Europeans anchor happily side-by-side just outside the port waited on by dozens of crew prepared to cater to their every whim. My observations on this: the Arabs hardly ever come ashore, the Russians have a lot of long-legged, very attractive, blonde female crew members, and the Europeans seem to be losing ground in the “my yacht’s bigger than yours” competition. Entry level for this competition these days is a yacht with built-in submarine and two helipads. Can you imagine what a thing like that costs to run?
Another US category well represented in our hood is famous people: We get quite a lot of famous Americans, the kind who really want to chill and be left alone “unrecognised” and undisturbed.
The locals know how to play this game and never recognise any famous person under pain of ferocious scorn from others. Obviously it is not easy to “unrecognise” Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks having breakfast at a local taverna, for example, but common politeness demands no less than an honest attempt to remain ignorant.
Behind the scenes it’s a different story, with strutting boastfulness on display: “Ok, so you had the King of Belgium in your place last week, I had Hugh Grant and Gwynneth Paltrow here today, so what about that, huh?” and so on.
Of course you don’t have to be famous to enjoy Kefalonia, you just have to be discerning. So if you want to discover the island, we’d love to see you.
We have four villas in the north that we rent in summer – check them out at www.dolichavillas.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
By the way, the best breakfast in the world is Kefalonian honey and the local yogurt.