TRAVEL

    SPETSES: THE SPICE ISLAND

    BY PATROKLOS THEOFANOUS

    This little Greek island has always had an air of quiet glamour. And nothing has changed - all that's different are the beautifully boho hotels and a fresh, Greek-isle twist on the pop-up culture.

     

    The fading signatures in the guest book of the Poseidonion Grand Hotel read like a roll call of 1960s glamour: Elizabeth Taylor, Bobby Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman. Now, like the century-old hotel itself, the island of Spetses has undergone a discreet refresh, regaining its lustre as a playground for smart Athenians and the global jet-set.
    Spetses is only a scenic two-hour voyage by hydrofoil from the port of Piraeus, or a two-and-a-half hour drive from Athens International Airport to Costa. Surprisingly little has changed since the flag of revolt was raised against Ottoman rule outside the church of Agios Nikolaos on 3 April 1821. After that things went a bit quiet, the Spetsiots being content to commemorate the glory of Laskarina Bouboulina, the world's first female admiral. Her mansion (W: bouboulinamuseum-spetses.gr) is largely unaltered. Watching the sun set over mountains in the distance, it is hard to believe this serene landscape once echoed to the sound of gunfire, but cannons used in the battle are still dotted along the promenade, facing out to sea as a reminder of Spetses’s victorious past.
    The island is particularly popular with high-society Athenians, who retreat to their villas every summer to escape the stifling heat of the city. This is reflected in the prices of meals and the presence of boutique stores such as Emon.
    Yet, the Spetsiots place real value in the island’s natural beauty and history: the secluded beaches, pine-clad hills and ancient churches. While a couple of beaches and pretty churches are within walking distance of Dapia, it is well worth climbing into a water taxi or hiring a moped to explore the island properly.


    Where to stay in Spetses
    Poseidonion Grand Hotel | Spetses does both luxe and value places to stay, but with a dash of island boho. The upmarket option is the handsome, all-white bedroom decor of the aforementioned Poseidonion Grand Hotel (doubles from €200) on the seafront, a 1914-vintage landmark which enjoyed a major refurbishment a few years ago.
    Poseidonion Grand Hotel, Dapia, T.: 22980 74553

    Where to eat in Spetses
    Orloff Restaurant | Orloff Restaurant is located in a classic building which once housed the island’s first port authority in 1802. Its dishes are created with the finest ingredients and utmost care and features Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. The friendly staff serves a wide variety of quality meze dishes accompanied with local drinks and a large range of wines.
    Orloff Restaurant, Old Port, T: 2298 075444

    Tarsanas Fish Restaurant | Τhe famous fish restaurant Tarsanas is located in the old port of Spetses, in a wonderful setting with a great view of the sea. It offers delicious fish dishes, made with fresh seafood caught by fishers on the family’s fishing boat. The seafood specialties you should try include the marinated cuttlefish, the red mullets and the grilled lobsters.
    Tarsanas Fish Restaurant, Spetses, T: 2298 074490

    On The Verandah | The candlelit terrace at the Poseidonion looks over the Saronic Gulf and comes to life in the evening. The chef, Stamatis Marmarinos, has created a menu that uses fresh local ingredients and offers a twist on traditional dishes, with the pastitsio with foie gras a particularly calorific example.
    On The Verandah, Dapia, T: 22980 74553

    Where to shop in Spetses
    As one strolls up winding streets past the fish market, the action moves away from boutiques such as Emon Boutique (Agora Spetses, T: 6974777064), which stocks sophisticated fashion from The Motley Goat among other renowned brands, to traditional shops such as Isola di Spezie (T: 22980 73982), which sells powerful pine- tree honey and aromatically spiced local olive oil. In this part of town, Nikos the barber still applies his cut-throat talents to well-lathered gigolos.   

     

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