This summer, I spent a glorious week at a beautiful villa in Corfu, the tan lines from which have now completely faded; come back, summer! We stayed in Benitses, a tiny fishing village with a small marina and an old harbour with a handful of restaurants and traditional tavernas scattered along the waterfront serving fresh fish, cold mezze, souvlaki, grilled halloumi cheese and daily Greek salads with local beers and wines.
The villa - San Stefano, built in 1782 - was recently listed in the Sunday Times' 30 sensational villas and featured in Conde Nast Traveller magazine and it didn't disappoint. Up in the hills, it has a spectacular view of the Ionian Sea, which stretches to the Greek mainland and Albania in the distance with cruiseships and little fishing boats dotted over the water.
We all flipped a coin and we got a bright large room with a four poster bed and gorgeous sea view. The villa has a huge farmhouse kitchen, a rolltop bath, walls covered with old photos and antique maps, a balcony overlooking its very own church and, the best bit, a private freshwater pool, in which we spent the majority of our time.
taking it back to the old school with TOPSHOP's white jelly shoes
Greek salads by the pool for lunch
Corfu was one of the most colonised islands in the Mediterranean, with the Romans, Byzantines and French all paying a visit, but the most lasting influence architecturally was the Venetians, as half the island looks like it could be Italy. Including the Achilleon, the 19th century palace of Elisabeth of Austria (also known as Sissy, the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary), built by an Italian architect in the late nineteenth century, which is now a tourist-filled museum.
The big white Pompeian building sits majestic atop a hill and is named after Achilles, whom the empress admired for his strength and beauty. Other than the beautiful exterior, the interiors were disappointingly renovated "in the style of" and the crowds spoilt it a bit, but worth a quick visit nonetheless.
We hired a boat one day, which was great fun until sunset when we all dived off the boat, causing my brother to lose his wedding ring. The mood dipped as we spent a frantic hour trying to find it in the 4m deep cove we'd docked the boat in as it got darker. The next morning we hired diving equipment and emerged from the cove victorious. Unbelievable good luck.
Each night, we walked down to the village through a maze of whitewashed buildings, geranium-filled gardens and sleeping dogs to one of the village's few restaurants (it isn't very lively, but that's a good thing - fewer tourists and miles away from Kavos in the south!) Our favourites were Paxinos and Klimataria for their fresh fish and Greek salad (the dishes of choice everywhere: yum).
It's the greenest Greek island I've ever visited; there's the usual vibrant pink bougainvillea but also eucalyptus, olive trees, orange groves and fields with wild flowers all around, with lizards, snakes, butterflies, dogs and dozens of cats in between it all.
it ain't Greece without feral cats
Next time, I want to go visit the World Heritage-protected Old Town with its ancient fortress, narrow streets and little squares then explore the unspoilt north-eastern coast. Hope to see you again soon, Corfu.
my favourite bikinis from Calzedonia
dusk on our last night