Hello, my darlings!! I’m home at last from my travels.
Usually when I get back from a trip I just dive right into the jewels…and we’ve definitely done that, but I thought it would be fun to give you a look at the cities I visited this time, too. Mr. DitL and I had a grand adventure with a full two weeks of travel: from Athens and Santorini in Greece and then to Italy for Venice and Vicenza.
I left a piece of my heart in Santorini. I’ve wanted to go there for years, but I don’t think I had a very good idea of what to expect, beyond white buildings and romantic views.
There’s no way to accurately explain how beautiful Santorini is, so I will just say that it is not overrated. I was expecting it to be one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been, and I was still impressed.
Mr. DitL and I did our Santorini vacay in two phases: for the first two days, we stayed on the South side of the island, near Perissa beach. The volcanic black sand beaches of Perissa and Perivolos are the best beaches on Santorini for actual beaching. The entire beachfront is lined with restaurants, each of which have beach beds and cabanas paired with umbrellas that you can either rent or use for free if you order something from the restaurant. It sounds like a recipe for party town, but Perissa is staggeringly chill.
We beached, strolled, ate, beached, and strolled. It was quiet and calm – surprisingly so, but maybe that’s because September is just after the busy tourist season.
Having a home base in Perissa was also ideal for visiting the Red Sand beach and the incredible sight of the prehistoric site of Akrotiri, an active archaeological excavation of a Bronze age town. Both were as cool as they sound! The Red Sand beach was much harder to access than we’d expected – the access path was much more of a mildly death-defying hike than a path – but it was worth it for the view and the feeling of accomplishment.
After a few days at the Smaragdi Hotel in Perissa, Mr. DitL and I migrated North to the gorgeous Aria Suites at the caldera’s edge in the city of Fira. The Two Hotels approach served two purposes: it let us experience different sides of the island without needing to spend too much time on buses or taxis, and it let us save money in Perissa, which is the less trendy side of the island, so that we could afford stay somewhere truly luxe in ultra-desirable Fira.
The Aria Suites is a tiny hotel – only 6 suites – in a quiet pocket of Fira, Santroini’s biggest city. The combination was perfect: Mr. DitL and I had a gorgeous airy suite all to ourselves, with breakfast served on our private terrace every morning and a perfect view of the sunset from the two lounge chairs on our other terrace. We alternated between exploring the shops, restaurants, bars, and museums of Fira and sipping wine on our balcony and admiring the view.
Fira and the even fancier Oia are what you picture when you think of Santorini: white stone buildings, endless sky, blue-domed churches. It’s exactly as absurdly beautiful in real life as you’d imagine it would be.
The food in Santorini was not as consistently fantastic as the food in Athens, but it was still good – especially meals that involved fresh seafood. My favorite restaurants were 41 and Argo. But still, Santorini was a dream come true and I would return in a heartbeat if I had the chance.
Athens!! We were only in Athens for a couple of days, but that gave us time to see quite a bit.
We stayed at Athens Center Square, which was a perfectly acceptable hotel if you’re trying to save most of your travel budget for other things (which we were). It was tiny, but clean and safe and well-run with a beautiful view of the Acropolis from the rooftop bar. Located just outside the very touristy part of the city, next to a fruit market that was slightly creepy at night but fascinating during the day.
We spent most of Athens seeing historical sights. The Acropolis was just stunning as I’d always dreamed it would be: both the ruins themselves and the view from the hilltop. We visited the Acropolis museum and the sights nearby; the Roman Agora, Hadrien’s Library (of course.) We also visited the Ilias Lalaounis Jewelry Museum and the Benaki Museum, which has a stunning collection of historical jewelry! I’ll tell you more about those in another post soon.
The food in Athens was incredible! Affordable, flavorful, plentiful, and thoroughly enjoyable. My dinner the first night was the best salad I’ve ever had and things only improved from there. Some highlights were hot, sweet Lukumades doused in ice cream, flavorful pitas from Hoocut, and fresh, delicious plates of magic from Ta Karamanlidika tou Fani.
Athens is a fascinating city to walk around – the graphic street art, the omnipresent pieces of history, the incredible museums – but I didn’t quite fall in love with the city itself the way I’ve fallen in love with other places I’ve visited. I felt like most of the areas we saw fell into three categories: very touristy, too expensive for people with finite budgets to enjoy, or not especially well maintained. It was still very interesting to walk around, and I’m glad I went, but I didn’t feel the need to spend more than a couple of days there.
Mr. DitL and I have now had the great pleasure of visiting Venice on four separate occasions – every time I’ve attended VicenzaOro – and I’m still completely in love with the city. It’s just the strangest, dreamiest, most wonderful place.
This visit was lightning quick, but still a pleasure. We strolled along the canals, sipped wine and Aperol Spritzes, ate tiramisu, had bellinis at Harry’s, and strolled some more. I also discovered an amazing antique jewelry store during this visit to Venice, but you’ll have to wait to hear more about that!
If you’ve been reading Diamonds in the Library for any amount of time, you know I’ve had the honor of attending the VicenzaOro jewelry show in Vicenza, Italy, several times now. This year, for the first time, I actually got to spend some time exploring the city of Vicenza! The international press was invited to come early this year to take in some of the local sights, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to learn more about this lovely little city I’d previously only driven through.
My two favorites were the Teatro Olimpico, and the Villa Valmarana ai Nani (Villa of the Dwarves), although I also enjoyed the Palladio Museum. The Teatro Olimpico was completed in the late 1500’s and a truly staggering amount of the original theater remains: including the trompe-l’œil onstage scenery, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi for the theater’s very first performance in 1585. It is cleverly designed to give the effect of several city streets leading to a distant horizon and it is the oldest surviving stage set still in existence. So, so cool. Definitely visit if you ever have the chance!
The Villa Valmarana ai Nani (Villa of the Dwarves) is a beautiful residence known for its exceptional fresoes and named for the unusual seventeen statues of dwarves that guard the Villa’s outer wall. There seem to be a number of legends to explain these unusual statues, all sad stories with a daughter of the house at the center.
Like any adventure, our travels had their low points…but overall, it was an incredible pleasure and I’m grateful for every second of the trip.
What do you think, my dears? Do you like seeing the non-jewelry side of my travels?