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Greece/Italy Trip

When did we go….

  • Sep 6-20, 2022

 

Why did we go…

  • we wanted to take a warm fall vacation, had never been to Greece, and wanted to explore more of the Amalfi Coast as see Venice

 

 

How did we get there…

  • 9 hour flight from Calgary to Frankfurt and then 3 hours to Athens (1 hour taxi to our hotel)
  • 50 minute flight from Athens to Santorini (ten minute drive to our hotel)
  • 50 minute flight from Santorini to Athens and then 1.5 hours to Naples (one hour drive from Naples to Sorrento)
  • 75 minute flight from Naples to Venice (water taxi to our hotel)
  • 1.5 hour flight from Venice to Frankfurt and then 9.5 hours to Calgary
  • we flew business class for the main legs, and that makes a huge difference in reducing jet lag

 

 

Where did we stay…

Athens:

  • Athens Utopia Ermou
  • beautiful view of the Acropolis
  • centrally located on the main shopping street of Ermou
  • nice sized room with a semi-circular bedroom view of the city
  • rooftop restaurant

Santorini:

  • Ethos Vegan Suites
  • new boutique hotel
  • centrally located in the town of Fira
  • nice outdoor sitting area with a heated patio tub
  • no views other than the building across from our room
  • amazing vegan breakfasts
  • incredibly nice owners (Coskun & Artemis)
  • the property was previously Artemis’s grandmother before they converted it

Sorrento:

  • Hotel Zi Teresa was very underwhelming, so after one night, we moved to…
  • Grand Hotel La Favorita
  • this hotel was centrally located, beautifully appointed, rooftop terrace and pool with spectacular views, and incredible service
  • one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed at
  • our hotel room number was ‘123’, which was kind of funny

Venice:

  • H10 Palazzo Canova
  • centrally located on the Grand Canal
  • beautiful new hotel
  • rooftop terrace lounge/restaurant with fun young servers
  • easy walk to all the tourist sites

 

 

Where did we eat…

Athens:

  • Elaia Taverna (dinner, rooftop terrace, view of the Acropolis, excellent service and food, fun vibe)
  • Palio Tetradio (lunch, terraced and narrow street, decent food, terrible flies)
  • Barbounaki (dinner, seafood only, excellent chow, and the free four-part dessert was a nice touch other than for the weigh scale)

Santorini:

  • Cacio e Pepe (Fira, dinner, Italian, average service, decent food, no views)
  • 218 Moires (Oia, lunch, great ocean views, good view, decent service)
  • Panigyri (Fira , dinner, nice outdoor courtyard, unique food selections, very good)
  • NERO (Imerovigli, dinner, beautiful ocean views
  • Esperisma Bar (Fira, lunch, great views, decent food and service)
  • Sunset Ammoundi Tavern (Oia, dinner, amazing location right on the water, spectacular sunset, good food, and service)

Amalfi Coast:

  • Bar Sirenuse (Sorrento, lunch, fun location right on the main street, Mare got accosted by a pigeon, average food and service)
  • Casa tua (Sorrento, dinner, quiet sidestreet location but great music ebbing in from a bar down the street, amazing food, lovely setting, great service, fun vibe
  • Chez Black (Positano, lunch, nice location on the beach promenade, interesting service as they opened a half hour late and our waiter was wearing his pants around his ankles…ha ha)
  • Bagni Sant’Anna (Sorrento, dinner, Marina Grande area on the water, wonderful food and an amazing vino – Monte Carbonare Suavia)
  • Ristorante Sorrento o’Parrucchianola Favorita (Sorrento, dinner, nice garden setting, birthplace of cannelloni, very good food and an entertaining waiter).
  • Rist La Basilica (Sorrento, dinner, indoor seating was unfortunate, decent food and vino)
  • Inn Buffalito (Sorrento, lunch, nice meal, fun side alley street ambiance, met some fun people from NYC)
  • Blu Water (Sorrento, dinner, good food, lively sidestreet atmosphere)

Venice:

  • Osterio Bancigiro (dinner, outdoor seating on the canal, very nice meal)
  • La Porta d’Acqua (lunch, outdoor seating on the canal, terrible service but decent food)
  • Osteria Ai Do Farai (dinner, inside venue where the locals dine, very good food and service)

 

 

What did we do…

Athens:

  • visited the main square (Syntagma), where we watched some Tiktok dancers and some Parkour stunts
  • toured the Acropolis (a spectacular historic site which includes the Parthenon, very busy)
  • visited the Acropolis Museum (a beautiful modern structure with amazing marble exhibits)
  • walked through the Plaka and Psirri districts (historic buildings, lots of touristy shops, restaurants, and coffee shops)
  • walked uphill to Mount Lycabettus and took the funicular to the top, where we enjoyed incredible views of the entire city

Santorini:

  • watched the amazing sunsets off the west side of the Island from various vantage points
  • walked from Fira to Oia (spectacular views, challenging footing in places, 350 meters elevation, 12 km, 3.5 hours, supplemented with a donkey ride)
  • our hotel owner/host (Coskun) took us on a six-hour driving tour of the island through Pyrgos, Megalochori, Vlychada (visited the Tomato Factory), and Akrotiri (archeological site, red sand beach , and lighthouse)
  • had a spa day at Aressana in Fira (average experience, nice facility, shorter and more average treatment than we expected, nice time lounging by the pool beforehand)
  • walked around Oia, enjoying the fantastic architecture and views as well as some pistachio gelato which was ‘to live for’

Amalfi Coast:

  • visited Pompei (UNESCO World Heritage site, amazing history, fun and knowledgeable guide)
  • walked around Sorrento, enjoying the shops and overall city life as well as lounging on an ocean sundeck
  • took a boat to Positano and had lunch, shopped and dipped into the ocean (beautiful town with a very steep landscape)
  • took an 8-hour driving tour of Positano, Praiano, Emerald Grotto, Amalfi, Atrani, Minori, and Ravello (Ravello was the fav by far)
  • visited the island of Capri (30-minute boat ride in rough waters on the way over, were not able to visit the Blue Grotto due to the choppy sea, beautiful island with many vistas from the harbor (Marina Grande) and the towns of Capri and Anacapri, were part of a tour group which was very painful – never again!!!, next time we would hire out one of the open air taxi’s to tour us around)
  • walked around the town of Sorrento, checking out some of the local neighborhoods and the downtown shopping
  • spent all of our ‘down time’ lounging on our hotel rooftop terrace

Venice:

  • walked around the city, visiting some of the historical sites, enjoying all the canals and bridges, and getting lost in all the narrow sidestreets
  • rode a gondola which was a neat experience, except Mare wanted our gondolier to sing, and that wasn’t in his repertoire

 

 

Background:

Athens:

  • capital of Greece
  • population of 3.5 million
  • the heart of Ancient Greece, a powerful civilization and empire
  • the city is still dominated by 5th-century BC landmarks, including the Acropolis, a hilltop citadel topped with ancient buildings like the colonnaded Parthenon temple
  • one of the world’s oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence beginning somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennia BC
  • it is widely referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, largely because of its cultural and political impact on the European continent—particularly Ancient Rome
  • in modern times, Athens is a large cosmopolitan metropolis and central to economic, financial, industrial, maritime, political, and cultural life in Greece
  • its port Piraeus is both the largest passenger port in Europe and the third largest in the world

Santorini:

  • pronounced ‘sando rini’
  • population of 14,000
  • one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea
  • it was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC, forever shaping its rugged landscape
  • the whitewashed, cubiform houses of its two principal towns, Fira and Oia, cling to cliffs above an underwater caldera (crater)
  • Fira and Oia overlook the sea, small islands to the west, and beaches made up of black, red, and white lava pebbles
  • all the houses are painted white except a few that have gone through some rigorous approval process
  • there are 374 Greek Orthodox churches on the island

Sorrento/Amalfi Coast:

  • Sorrento has a population of 18,000 people, but it can swell to 60,000+ on a summer day
  • it is the birthplace of limoncello and cannelloni
  • the Amalfi Coast is a 50-kilometer stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region
  • it’s a popular holiday destination, with sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches and pastel-colored fishing villages
  • the coastal road between the port city of Salerno and clifftop Sorrento winds past grand villas, terraced vineyards, and cliffside lemon groves
  • the roads on the Amalfi Coast and Capri are incredibly narrow, and it defines logic how vehicles pass each other in many areas

Venice:

  • Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on 118 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, with 400 bridges
  • it has no roads, just canals – including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces
  • 55,000 people live on the historic island of Venice, and 250,000 live in the greater Venice area
  • the name is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC
  • the city state of Venice is considered to have been the first real international financial center, emerging in the 9th century and reaching its greatest prominence in the 14th century
  • although the city is facing some challenges (including an excessive number of tourists and problems caused by pollution, tide peaks, and cruise ships sailing too close to buildings), Venice remains a very popular tourist destination, a major cultural center, and has been ranked many times the most beautiful city in the world

 

 

What did we not do that is on the agenda for next time:

  • on Santorini, we would consider staying in a hotel on the west side of the island overlooking the ocean for at least one night
  • check out some other Greek Islands (Crete, Mykonos, Zante)
  • on the Amalfi Coast, visit the island of Ischia, and spend a couple of nights in Positano
  • in Venice, visit some of the neighboring small islands
  • explore the parts of the various cities/towns where the locals live

 

 

Final thoughts:

  • we took carry-on luggage for the first time for this length of a trip, and it worked out well as we avoided waiting for luggage and didn’t buy as much ‘stuff’
  • security at the Frankfurt airport brought in the bomb squad to investigate my holistic Chinese tea (sheesh!!!)
  • the weather was spectacular, with highs around 30 and lows around 20 (some days of higher humidity were borderline uncomfortable)
  • it always amazes us how many people still smoke in European countries
  • the crowds were crazy in most places, and the ignorance of many tourists is tough to stomach at times
  • the old Italian servers were gruff, abrupt, and borderline rude in many cases (let’s get a youth movement going!!!)
  • we didn’t have to wear masks anywhere in either country
  • we would consider getting around Italy by train as that is likely quicker and more efficient than flying

 

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