The heartland of Greece has a look and feel similar to Tuscany. The prevalent fields of the agricultural industry and surrounding villages adorn picturesque valleys and hillsides. Architecture is also similar with predominately red-tiled roofs atop stone or stucco structures.
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.|
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|
The Castle of Monemvasia is located on the extreme southeastern tip of the region overlooking the Mediterranean. It is actually on an island separated from the mainland by an earthquake in 375 AD but is connected by a short causeway today. The town and fortress were first founded in 583 and developed into a prosperous trade and maritime center, eventually becoming an important landing place for the Byzantine Empire. Vasillios (Bill) Ardamis grew up outside of Sparta and first came to the area when we was attending university studying economics. He fell in love with the history and architecture and thought if someone was able to have a home there, it would be incredible. He went on to establish a restaurant on the main highway that leads to Monemvasia, which grew to become one of the most successful restaurant
So, years later, Vasillios learned about a property being sold in Momenvasia and went to take a look. He discovered an opportunity to purchase some of the most important buildings of the castle which had served as guest quarters for the various kings’ visitors. It includes the only tower that exists in the castle, 14 meters high with seven windows and 800 year old marble in place. In total there are approximately 3,500 square feet inside the walls of the property he purchased.
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|