Fiscardo is one of the prettiest ports in Greece. Located on the northern tip of Kefalonia, it is an area so beautiful that the Greek government has protected it by law. Around Fiscardo, dense forests reach down to innumerable small coves where pebble beaches are lapped by crystal clear water. I had been to Kefalonia before and visited Fiscardo on a day trip around the island and thought to myself then, that if I ever came back, that is where I would like to stay. And indeed our lovely little boutique hotel in the tiny village of Antipata just outside Fiscardo was so idyllic that we didn’t feel the need to wander too far from this most pleasant spot.
Afternoon in Antipata
We stayed at the delightful small hilltop Dafnoudi hotel, and our nearest beach was Dafnoudi beach. Although it was only accessible down a steep rocky path it was well worth the trek as it was a stunning little cove with white pebbles and warm, see through, glass green sea. Swimming in the warm clear salty shark-free sea is always a highlight.
Captivating cove at Dafnoudi beach
Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian islands (Corfu and Zante are its next door neighbours) and while it only has about 40,000 native inhabitants these numbers swell during the summer months when tourists (particularly Brits) flock to the Island for idyllic summer holidays. One of the most northerly of the hundreds of Greek islands, Kefalonia is very green, home to the endangered loggerhead turtle and some unique geographical features like the Melissani caves.Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is set on the island of Kefalonia, and the film, shot here on location in 2001 has helped to popularise the island still further.
Uniquely in Kefalonia, Fiscardo retains the architecture and ambience of a by-gone era – a time when the Venetians ruled here. The picturesque harbour is surrounded by Venetian-style houses painted in pastel colours, andin summer, the bay is filled with vessels from small sailing boats to large yachts all nestled together a few feet from pavement restaurants and cafes specialising in traditional Greek cuisine.
Join me for dinner?
The remains of the old Venetian lighthouse can still be seen at the peninsula and you can walk up to it at sunset when its back drop is the pale pink vision of Ithaca – it is a spectacular view. The beautiful sheltered harbour of Fiscardo has always been a thriving port.Fiscardo, as it turns out, is one and the same as the ancient town Panormos, mentioned by the 5th century BC Greek historian Herodotus.
The Panormas café
In late 2005, when building a shopping complex close to the harbour in Fiscardo, workers discovered a plaque dating back to ancient Greece. In late 2006 construction workers building a new hotel near the centre of the village, stumbled upon a perfectly preserved Roman-era grave complex filled with gold jewellery, glass, clay pots and bronze artefacts. On a nearby plot, archaeologists even discovered a remarkably well-preserved theatre with its stone back rests still in place.
Other excavations have uncovered remains of houses, a baths complex and a cemetery, all dating to Roman times – between 146 B.C. and 330 A.D. The Greek Culture Ministry said at the time that the find is unique. “Nothing else like it has ever been discovered on any Ionian island,” said a ministry spokesman. “The site was missed by grave robbers and was untouched when opened. It is so perfectly preserved that the 2000 year old ancient door still swings open smoothly on stone pivots.” So this picturesque place was also a favourite hangout of the Romans. And possibly a more popular posting than Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall I surmise.
Stop the ferry!
Today Fiscardo is a beautiful, relaxed and charming place to stay. Lovely restaurants curve around the picture perfect harbour, and you can sit and watch the comings and goings of ferries and yachts and other sailing shenanigans all day without getting bored.
Yachts for hire
Up market boutiques cater for wealthy visitors but it doesn’t seem that expensive at the moment, possibly because of the strong pound against the Euro. There doesn’t seem to be much of a crisis going on here. Even the Greek feral cat contingent look quite well fed and content as they beg with their big Greek cat eyes for food at your dinner table.
Look into my eyes…
There are over one million olive trees on Kefalonia, covering almost 55% of the island’s area and Olive oil production is a major component of Kefalonia’s economy. Kefalonia used to export it and before the 1953 Ionian earthquake, there were 200 oil presses operating on the island; today, there are just thirteen. Kefalonia olive oil and the rather rare and delicious Mavrodaphne du Patras sweet red wine are hard to find if you don’t buy them here.
Wine production in boutique wineries is another feature of Kefalonia. Greek wine has come along away since the early days of tourism. Gone are the rough vintages which took the roof off your mouth, with only alternative being the medicinal Retsina or the aniseed Ouzo. Greek wines are really pretty good now and often use varieties of grape which are unique to this part of the world which also makes them more interesting than any Californian chardonnay. So raise a glass to magical Fiscardo, one of my favourite spots in one of my most favourite of holiday destinations.