When Christine and I were planning our summer holiday, the conversation centered around whether to go back to Italy or not. Finally, we pivoted and decided that we should try somewhere new. We looked at Croatia, Malta, Montenegro, the Peloponnese region of Greece and Corfu. Some good choices certainly but Corfu emerged the winner after a friend told us to imagine Corfu as the love child of Italy and Greece. That did it. It was the same but different.
We found Corfu to be a lush and beautiful island unlike most of the other Greek isles that are arid and scrubby. I will spare you the 3000 years of history but its influences are palpable. The period when Venice ruled the island lasted just over 400 years and if you’re in Corfu Town, one could seriously question whether you were really in Venice. When the Venetians displayed indifference in protecting the island, the Turks took this as an opportunity to raid Corfu finally laying siege in the battle of 1716. Later, it was the French under Napoleon and later still the British who took turns ruling the small island. All of this is important because of Corfu’s strategic position at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea. One of the real oddities of the island is that there are 20+ registered cricket clubs similar to other islands like Bermuda where the Brits introduced the game. Another oddity? There are 17 Philharmonics and 80 Orchestras on an island of 100,000 people. That’s because all children are required to learn 2 musical instruments at a level of semi-professionalism.
Corfu Town, the capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a labyrinth of alleys and winding streets punctuated by large plateías or squares alongside marvelous architecture. Here you will find hundreds of people dining outside and enjoying a refreshing beverage or two to slake their thirst in the 95 degree temperatures. If there’s one thing we learned it’s this: don’t visit Corfu in July or August unless you’re a camel or a painted turtle. The heat and the humidity will knock you off your feet. During our trip, we only visited Corfu Town once though we had planned to visit more often. Fortunately, our one visit to town was punctuated by an arrival on our hotel’s elegant speedboat, the Miramaretta, as it navigated its way through the harbor and the dozens of mega-luxury yachts.
Our initial plans before arriving were to learn about the entire island. Unfortunately, best laid plans can often go astray as they did on this trip. But I can tell you, the Ionian Sea is mesmerizing. I could look at it all day examining its azure and cyan color, docile tidal waves, and vitreous surface. It’s also the most buoyant sea that I’ve ever been in other than the Dead Sea. You positively feel like a yellow bathtub duck that can’t and won’t be capsized.
We loved our hotel, the Domes Miramare, Aristotle Onassis’ former summer hideaway. We spent most of our days on their beach or in the Ionian resting and relaxing. The staff could not have been more delightful, friendly and diligent. In the future we might like to try the Angsana Hotel or the Grecotel Imperial because of their proximity to Corfu town.
Visit with an appetite. The food was delicious, fresh, and healthy. We agree that we had one of the very best meals we ever had at a lovely, restaurant in Corfu town called La Tavola Calda. Yep. It was Italian. And on top of that, the Neapolitan chef and owner, Nino, used to live in Charlestown MA.
Final thought: Even Christine and I both got a stomach bug that made us alter some of our plans and kept us from some others altogether, we asked ourselves this question: would we go back? The answer is a full throated “yes.” But we would go in April until the beginning of June or September through October when the temperatures have moderated.