December 5, 2022

Church bells clang. Opening the shutters, I protect my eyes from the diamond gentle dancing off the Saronic Gulf.

Chatter rises from the veranda under, the place the Poseidonion’s breakfasting company chuckle as a superyacht tries, none-too-successfully, to dock.

Spetses packs a punch in her 9 sq. miles: authenticity, attraction, pure magnificence and relaxed sophistication.

Magical: The island of Spetses presents ‘authenticity, attraction, pure magnificence and relaxed sophistication’, says Teresa Levonian Cole

Spetses remains a favourite escape for fashionable Athenians — as it was in 1914, when Sotirios Anargyros, inspired by the grandes dames of the Cote d'Azur, built the Poseidonion Grand Hotel (above) as a luxurious hunting retreat

Spetses stays a favorite escape for modern Athenians — because it was in 1914, when Sotirios Anargyros, impressed by the grandes dames of the Cote d’Azur, constructed the Poseidonion Grand Resort (above) as an opulent searching retreat 

Regardless of proximity to the mainland — it’s simply two hours from Piraeus by hydrofoil, or a three-hour drive from Athens and a jump over the ocean by water taxi — mass tourism is unknown right here. 

Nicknamed Spezia (Spice) throughout Venetian rule due to its place on a serious commerce route, Spetses stays a favorite escape for modern Athenians — because it was in 1914, when Sotirios Anargyros, impressed by the grandes dames of the Cote d’Azur, constructed the Poseidonion Grand Resort as an opulent searching retreat.

And it was Anargyros, a rich tobacco service provider, who saved the island from over-development.

‘Spetses was identified in historical instances as Pityoussa [pine-clad], however by the twentieth century had change into deforested due to its essential shipbuilding trade,’ says Petros Petrakopoulos, president of the Anargyros Basis.

‘So he bought 45 per cent of the island and planted 100,000 Aleppo pines, stipulating the land may by no means be constructed on.’

With proceeds from the resort, Anargyros then based an elite faculty modelled on Eton. 

In the absence of private cars in the main town, on Spetses horse-power means the traditional four-legged variety

Within the absence of personal vehicles in the primary city, on Spetses horse-power means the standard four-legged selection

Spetses is just two hours from Piraeus, Athens, by hydrofoil, or a three-hour drive from Athens and a hop over the sea by water taxi

Spetses is simply two hours from Piraeus, Athens, by hydrofoil, or a three-hour drive from Athens and a jump over the ocean by water taxi

The author John Fowles taught right here within the Fifties and, impressed by his experiences, wrote The Magus, a cult novel set on a magical island he calls Phraxos.

‘Phraxos was lovely,’ his protagonist says. ‘There was no different adjective; it was not simply fairly, picturesque, charming — it was merely and effortlessly lovely. It took my breath away.’

The hikes by means of the forests of Spetses are certainly breathtaking. Within the late afternoon the solar is low and the pines and sage are at their most aromatic, whereas on the summit one can hear solely birdsong.

A water taxi takes you to a number of the island’s better-known seashores: Agia Paraskevi and Agioi Anargyri, for a lunch of meze and ouzo within the shade of its taverna, then Zogeria, famed for its pretty waters.

We move small church buildings, the seaside, and rows of previous cannon, as soon as aimed on the pirates who plagued these shores. The warehouse has since discovered new life as the fashionable bar-restaurant Mourayo

That is the seaside the place The Misplaced Daughter was filmed throughout the pandemic, offering much-needed income for the island and blissful isolation for forged and crew, who included Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson and Peter Sarsgaard.

No much less satisfying is the primary city itself. Within the absence of personal vehicles, right here horse-power means the standard four-legged selection.

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In a carriage drawn by a good-looking equine sporting blinkers, we hot-foot it alongside the seafront. Folks linger at cafes and, over scrumptious almond biscuits, watch the world go by.

We move small church buildings, the seaside, and rows of previous cannon, as soon as aimed on the pirates who plagued these shores. The warehouse has since discovered new life as the fashionable bar-restaurant Mourayo.

On the deep inlet of the harbour, the 18th-century whitewashed mansions of sea captains, garlanded in good bougainvillea, tower atop steep steps. Overlooking the scene is the fortified monastery of St Nicholas, patron saint of sailors, the place Spetses’ ‘Freedom or Demise’ flag was hoisted in 1821 as a name to arms in opposition to the Ottomans.

Within the historic dockyards, Pantelis is perched on the gunwhale of a standard fishing boat, rhythmically wielding a mallet. Throughout lie skeletons of different caiques, sawdust, and the scrumptious odor of pine and African teak. Pantelis climbs down, presents a calloused hand and leads me to a primitive workshop, the place essentially the most trendy accoutrement is a single gasoline ring to arrange espresso. 

Zogeria is the beach where The Lost Daughter was filmed during the pandemic, providing 'much-needed revenue for the island and blissful isolation for cast and crew', who included Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson and Peter Sarsgaard

Zogeria is the seaside the place The Misplaced Daughter was filmed throughout the pandemic, offering ‘much-needed income for the island and blissful isolation for forged and crew’, who included Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson and Peter Sarsgaard

Water taxis takes you to some of the island's better-known beaches, including Agia Paraskevi, pictured

Water taxis takes you to a number of the island’s better-known seashores, together with Agia Paraskevi, pictured

Mass tourism is unknown in Spetses, says Teresa. Pictured above is an aerial shot of the monastery of St Nicholas

Mass tourism is unknown in Spetses, says Teresa. Pictured above is an aerial shot of the monastery of St Nicholas

That is the world the place 18th-century service provider ships, supply of the island’s wealth, had been constructed and later transformed into battleships.

Pantelis, who learnt the craft from his father, has been a shipwright for 25 years. Of the seven yards nonetheless working right here, his is certainly one of solely two nonetheless constructing boats from scratch.

He says: ‘Today, fishing boats are manufactured from plastic, so we solely get about one new fee a 12 months. It will take two of us eight months to construct.’

Hiring certainly one of these caiques from Captain Tzimanis (‘the Wit’) proves a spotlight. A day of scorching solar, cooling breeze and superb sloth is spent exploring abandoned bays, swimming in turquoise waters, and picnicking on freshly harvested sea urchins and limpets.

By the point we return, I’m hungry once more. The previous harbour, teeming with seafood eating places, comes alive at evening.

I dine on a quieter aspect of city with septuagenarian artist Leda Papaconstantinou. On a terrace above the ocean, over a bottle of crisp Assyrtiko and plates of ceviche, big prawns and a scrumptious grouper baked in salt, I ask why she selected to stay on Spetses.

It was, on reflection, a slightly foolish query.

TRAVEL FACTS

Kirker Holidays (kirkerholidays.com) presents 5 nights B&B on the Poseidonion Grand Resort, together with Aegean Airways flights and hydrofoil, from £1,098 pp. See visitgreece.gr.