Reset Password

Advanced Search
Your search results
20/05/2020

Dailymail: A little Italy… in Greece

The undiscovered island of Syros is an Italianate masterpiece and hopes to have us in the picture this summer

  • Syros is an island of 22,000 souls in the middle of the Greek Cyclades 
  • The island’s biggest attraction is its Italian-style capital city of Ermoupoli 
  • Tourists use the island as a pit stop between Mykonos and Piraeus in Athens 

Ermoupoli is possibly the most extraordinary town in Greece. There’s no maze of alleys, no whitewashed houses and no heaps of tangled fishing nets in the harbour.

What you get instead is a busy city, whose broad squares, grandly domed churches and pastel-coloured mansions look more Italian than Greek.

Ermoupoli is the capital of Syros, an island of 22,000 souls in the middle of the Cyclades. New fast catamarans started docking there last year, which is how tourists discovered it — they use it as a pit stop between Mykonos and Piraeus, the main port of Athens.

Italianate Ermoupoli is Syros’s biggest attraction. It was established in the 1820s by refugees from the ravaged islands of Chios, Psara, Kasos and Crete during the Greek War of Independence. They were canny traders and shipbuilders whose industry turned Ermoupoli into the principal Greek port until the rise of Piraeus.

They built stately homes in the prevailing neoclassical style, and decorated churches with heirlooms. One of them turned out to be quite a sensation.

Papa Kostas, the parish priest of the church of the Dormition of the Virgin, is keen to recount the story. ‘It was March 1983, the first day of Lent, and George Mastoropoulos, the archaeologist, was cataloguing the icons brought to Syros.

He was cleaning them carefully until he started jumping around like a child. “Papa Kostas,” he said, “you have a veritable treasure here”.’

What Mastoropoulos had revealed below the grime of the centuries was the signature of El Greco. I look at his Dormition, painted in Cretan style when the master was in his 20s, and I’m glad that it didn’t end up in a faceless museum but remained in the loving care of Papa Kostas.

A quick stroll from the church leads me to the central Miaouli square, dominated by the town hall and its long, monumental stairway.

I continue through streets paved with marble to the Apollo theatre, built in the style of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples.

I pass the church of St Nicholas the Rich, a domed basilica on Corinthian columns, and end up high above the town, on a cove crowned by a string of palazzos.

The next day, I climb up to the medieval town of Ano Syros, on a steep hill overlooking the harbour.

It’s here, in the old capital, that I finally discover those characteristic claustrophobic lanes, pelagic panoramas and white-washed houses.

Once again, Syros ignores the rulebook: the monastery belongs to the Capuchins, while the churches feature organs, polychromatic statues, wooden confessionals and teachings by Pope Francis.

A priest in the Church of St George explains: ‘Ermoupoli is Orthodox, but the rest of Syros is Catholic. The island used to be under the protection of the Pope. Now we celebrate Easter together on the Orthodox dates by special dispensation from the Vatican.’

No surprises, though, when it comes to the beaches. From Ermoupoli a bus runs a circuit of the southern shore, where the sands are toffee-hued and the water transparent.

The most developed resort is the golden crescent of Galissas, where I’m welcomed at the highly celebrated restaurant Iliovasilema. It serves Greek cuisine with a creative twist: sea-urchin salad, fennel flan, beef cheek orzotto.

Another popular resort is Kini, a compact fishing village with a pleasingly quiet harbour, where I board a boat with Syros Adventures for a day trip to the northern beaches.

Our final stop is Grammata, a sheltered bay with iridescent waters. I decide to follow the shore around a rocky promontory where shipwrecked sailors have carved messages of gratitude since ancient times.

Not dressed for hiking, I slip and wreck my flip flops — a disaster, as I’m left barefoot on sharp rocks. A Greek couple on a sailing boat spot my predicament and throw me a pair of sandals — that miraculously fit — so I can complete my walk. ‘Keep them,’ they shout, refusing my offers of money. ‘It’s you who needs them.’

So that’s how I remember Syros. Idiosyncratic and eccentric the island may be, but its soul belongs to an old-fashioned Greece where acts of generosity to strangers are still part of daily life.

 

Category: Blog
Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

  • The views were breathtaking

    Dimitra's review on Airbnb

    Best place to go for a relaxing holiday! The cozy house was perfectly stocked and tastefully decorated. The views were breathtaking! Great location to enjoy a quiet place near the beach. I strongly recommend it and I will visit it again soon!

    Dimitra
    Fabbrica BnB

    Love the house

    Lir's review

    Love the house! It is pretty much my dream home. 3 good size bedrooms, one ensuite and one extra bathroom. Glass fronted fireplace has been great for the winter stay. Huge light living area, plenty of sofa and table space – with the added bonus of having good television and playstation. Lovely kitchen with everything you need; huge fridge/freezer. Perfect patio with bougainvillea and view to sea, with great table, chairs and sun loungers. All built for comfortable living and lovely decor.

    Lir
    Fabbrica BnB

    The House is amazing with great view

    The House is amazing with great view

    The House is amazing with great view. Thanos is also amazing and willing to assist in every way. Thank you for everything Thanos

    Akis
    Fabbrica BnB

    Spacious, lovely house with a beautiful view over the bay

    We had a wonderful 2 weeks in this spacious, lovely house with a beautiful view over the bay. Thanos was a great and communicative host. We are already contemplating coming back next summer. Recommended!

    Nadja
    Traditional house in Megas Gialos

    The sea view is enchanting

    vagelis

    The sea view is enchanting in a fantastic quiet location to enjoy the sea and the sun in peace. The house is very comfortable, beautifully decorated and fully equipped. We had a fantastic time. Thanos and Louis welcomed us at the port and helped us with a car rental and gave us very useful information about the island. We recommend it to everyone and especially to those who love the sea as it is next to the beach.

    Vangelis
    Fabbrica BnB

    Best place on this wonderful island

    Airbnb Review of Markus

    Wonderful place in a rural surrounding. Quiet and with perfect privacy. The house is perfectly located close to wonderful beaches with a stunning sea view. It is very clean and well equipped. 4 cats became our friends during our stay. We met Louis who’s showed us everything and who is so caring and willing to help. We really loved our stay and can recommend this place without my Limitation – best place on this wonderful island.

    Markus
    Traditional House in Megas Gialos

    Très jolie maison

    Francois Airbnb review for Fabbrica BnB

    Très jolie maison, idéalement située, la plage juste a coté, et d’une propreté impeccable. Thanos est un hôte très accueillant, très à l’écoute des voyageurs et prêt a rendre service. Super sejour!

    Francois
    Fabbrica BnB

    The house was spacious and fully equipped. Amazing sandy beach

    natasa

    The house was spacious and fully equipped with lots of sun light. Υou don’t have the impression that is semi-basement at all. There are windows all over the place. Εven though the temperature outside was over 30 degrees , we didn’t used the air condition because inside it’s keeping a nice and fresh atmosphere … Very clean and nicely decorated , Thanos and Louis they were very kind and always available for our needs. There is a small beach (almost private ! not sandy beach) 20 meters away and a big sandy beach caribbean style 100 meters away that you can just stay there all day and go with the flip flops at home to bring some food and continue! Thank you guys for your amazing home and hospitality we really enjoyed and we will see you definitely soon !!

    Natasa
    Fabbrica BnB Guesthouse

    Amazing hospitality

    Cristina

    The house overlooking the sea. Fantastic land scape. Amazing hospitality. Super holiday.

    Cristina
    Fabbrica BnB

    The view is unforgettable

    tereza

    The view is unforgettable. Super comfortable spaces, fully equipped to the last detail. the beach is under the yard. We did not have to move the car to take a bath. The hosts were very friendly and helpful in everything we needed.

    Tereza
    Fabbrica BnB

    Η αυλή καταπληκτική με υπέροχη θέα στη θάλασσα

    Το σπίτι είναι πολύ όμορφο. Η αυλή καταπληκτική με υπέροχη θέα στη θάλασσα.

    Το σπίτι είναι πολύ όμορφο. Η αυλή καταπληκτική με υπέροχη θέα στη θάλασσα. Όλοι οι χώροι είναι καλαίσθητοι και εξαιρετικά καθαροί.

    Μείναμε με τα τα δυο μικρά παιδιά μας και αποδείχθηκε πολυ λειτουργικό μιας και διαθέτει όλες τις ανέσεις.

    Ευχαριστούμε τον Louis & Thanos για τη φιλοξενία.

    Lefteris/Natasa
    Traditional House in Megas Gialos

    Excellent views to the sea

    Cynthia's review for Traditional House in Megas Gialos Syros

    We loved this place – it is a beautiful house with excellent views to the sea and great swimming options within five minutes walk. We found the house an excellent choice for two couples – there was plenty of room, with the large deck being our favourite eating space. Louis and Thanos were very helpful as we needed to hire a car and they sorted this out for us prior to arrival.

    The house is very clean and well appointed.

    Highly recommended.

    Cynthia
    Traditional House in Megas Gialos

    Amazing place and hosts! 

    Sofia
    Villa Alba in Azolimnos

    Directly accessed from lovely private terrace overlooking the sea.

    Directly accessed from lovely private terrace overlooking the sea. Spacious apartment, just completed, tastefully equipped and furnished. Good quality kitchen and appliances. Powerful air conditioning, limitless hot water. Everything you need for a relaxing stay in beautiful Kini. Located between main Kini beach and smaller Lotos beach. Minutes from either.

    Julian
    Waterview Apartment near the beach

    Perfect beach 5 m walking

    Perfect beach 5 m walking

    Incredible house, really perfect beach 5 m walking.

    No doubt to repeat again, everything was perfect, you feel like at home in the moment you arrive.

    Antonio
    Traditional House in Megas Gialos

    A lovely place to stay in Syros

    Karsten

    A lovely place to stay in Syros. But please consider renting a vehicle. Megas Gialos is nice, but is also small. Thanos is a very friendly host who is always reachable, when needed. House is very clean and has an amazing view over the sea. Would always come back if my ways will touch Syros again.

    Karsten
    Traditional house in Megas Gialos

    Σίγουρα θα ξαναπάμε! Tο σπίτι είναι πολύ όμορφο

    Σίγουρα θα ξαναπάμε! Tο σπίτι είναι πολύ όμορφο

    Εμείς ήμασταν τρία ζευγάρια με τρία μωρά, το σπίτι ήταν εξαιρετικό σε όλα τα επίπεδα, οι άνθρωποι μέχρι και παρκοκρέβατα μας είχαν, το σπίτι είναι πολύ όμορφο και μεγάλο με πολύ καλά στρώματα για ύπνο, σε πολύ ωραία τοποθεσία με θέα στη θάλασσα. Σίγουρα θα ξαναπάμε και μας άρεσε πολύ και το νησί!

    Dimitris
    Erato Suite in Megas Gialos

    Πολύ όμορφο διαμέρισμα με ησυχία, θέα και ηρεμία

    Πολύ όμορφο διαμέρισμα με ησυχία

    Πολύ όμορφο διαμέρισμα με ησυχία, θέα και ηρεμία. Πολύ κοντά στην Ερμούπολη και σε υπέροχες παραλίες. Καλή σχέση ποιότητας και τιμής.

    Konstantina
    Fabbrica BnB