But the distinguishing characteristic of the Peloponnese region of southern Greece is a more rugged beauty, defined by its thick groves of olive trees—the largest and most precious of which are the Kalamata groves that can also be identified from the number of other types of olive trees also grown in the region by their silvery green leaves.
|Kalamata olives are the precious crop of the area.|
Dotted in with the olive groves are also orange and lemon trees, while native bougainvillea and rhododendron grow wild along the roadsides—no care or watering needed. The people are as warm and friendly as the climate. Just when you feel really hot and sticky from the humidity, a cool breeze blows across you (we named this “God’s breath”). Indeed, we felt that the inhabitants are truly worthy of the natural blessings bestowed upon them, as they are openly and passionately strong in their Christian beliefs, evidenced everywhere by the many churches and the individual shrines outside and inside their homes.
Many of the visitors to this region come to visit family; though generations of people left the area after World War II, they remain in close contact with those who stayed behind as well as in close contact with their fellow villagers living near them here at home in North America. So what truly makes the trip to the Peloponnese region most special is that it’s not overrun with tourists, offering a true and non-contrived Greek experience.
The largest city in the region named after these treasured trees, Kalamata is easily accessible from Athens or has a decent sized airport of its own as well. There, you will also find the spectacular Westin Resort Costa Navarino, which happens to be managed by the daughter of our newly made friends operating the Ardamis villas in Monemvasia—a place we have added to our list of not-to-miss treasures for anyone visiting this region, and an easy drive from Kalamata, Sparta, or other cities of the Peloponnese. It proves that you can truly stay in the Peloponnese region and not miss a thing you would hope to experience in Greece— the sea, the beaches and the islands here are all picture postcard worthy.
|And the man with the vision, Vasillios Ardamis|
s of the region and served as the means to attain the
dream he envisioned as a young college student.
When restoration began, a Byzantine coin dating from 711 was found in the ruins. Vaillios didn’t originally plan to make it into the collection of guest suites that it is today, but later decided that this special place needed to be shared. Without altering any of the distinctive architectural elements, the Traditional Houses of Ardamis are a collection of eight fully air conditioned spacious suites, each individual to itself and finished with the utmost in quality materials and furnishings, including super premium mattresses and linens; all are kept at a level of cleanliness equivalent to a five-star resort in America. The suites each offer their own unique overlook to the sea, and Ardamis’ huge common terrace provides the quintessential view of the Mediterranean. Night is particularly dramatic thanks to Ardamis’ stellar architectural lighting.
Vasillios and his wife, Despina, operate the guest services, which include their own “Super Food Breakfast” served to guests in their suites and devised to give them a complete and healthy start for the day with antioxidant ingredients, fresh yogurt and honey, fruits, nuts—and yes—olives, too!
|The view from our room|
All the history and luxuries aside, this would not be as special as it is without the exuding warmth and hospitality of the Ardamises themselves. They know everyone in town (thanks to Vasillios’ 13 years of service as President of the Area Business Association) and referred us to other special people that added to our outstanding experience.
The To Kanoni Restaurant is named for the cannon that sits just beside it; there we enjoyed grilled octopus, freshly caught fish, and superb Baked Lamb Riganto and got to know the precious owners Pietre and Despina. Wandering through the network of alleyways on the lower slopes of the castle citadel amongst the ruins of ancient archways and byways are many fascinating galleries and specialty shops where we met several more business owners we count as friends that we will seek out on future visits. We heard wonderful things about the white sands beaches of Elafonisos, accessed by a short ferry ride from the tip of the island, and will put that on our list of things to do on our next visit to the Peloponnese. In our minds, any trip to Greece would be incomplete without some time spent here. Yia Sas! (To your health!)