Ithaca is one of those Greek islands that aren’t on most people’s radar unless you are a fan of ancient Greek literature and you know that it is the renowned home of Odysseus, the mythical hero of Homer. Despite the fact that the island is only 2km northeast of Kefalonia, this is an even more secluded and tranquil experience.
The capital of the island, Vathy is a picture-perfect town with stylish neoclassical buildings constructed around a sheltered bay area and in the centre of the bay is the petite island of Lazarétto, a former sanatorium, and prison. Most of the cultural highlights of the island are based here including the Maritime – Folklore Museum of Ithaca and the Archaeological Museum of Ithaca.
During our visit, we stayed at the quirky, art-house delight that is the Perantzada 1811. Their interior designers have done a splendid job turning every nook and cranny of this hotel into a display area for artistic masterpieces. All the greats of modern contemporary designers are present including the likes of Verner Panton, Tom Dixon, Ingo Maurer, and Philippe Starck.
You do wish they somehow had space for a shop to sell local artwork, albeit there is a curated selection of designer clothing for sale. Although when I did quiz the staff about the origins of their exquisitely patterned cushions, I was told they were bought from Zara Home.
There are no large-scale resorts or chain hotels on the island so it must have been an almighty feat to install an infinity pool on the premises of Perantzada, especially considering the main neoclassical building was built back in 1811. The infinity pool looks onto the shimmering bay area and there are plenty of sun loungers dotted around the pool with no need for you to wake up early to secure your space. The predominant theme of the hotel is 50 shades of white with the odd splash of blue from the pool and the perpetually glorious Greek skies.
We stayed in the newer wing of the hotel, which was constructed around 2007. Most rooms have a sea and pool view and, in some ways, it reminded me of the idyllic views from hotels in Lake Como but without the pretension and the expensive price tags. The polished concrete flooring might seem odd to begin with for northern Europeans until you appreciate the cooling effects once you come back from a hot day’s stroll around town.
Top-quality supplies have been sourced irrespective of whether they are from Greece or not, hence we have Italian design linen and Spanish cotton bathrobes, although toiletries are Greek, from Korres. The rainbow shower was extremely spacious and could easily fit a couple. There are 17 individually decorated rooms in total.
There isn’t a formal restaurant as such on-site, but breakfast and snacks are provided. There is an extensive selection of pastries, cereals, fruits, cold meats, and cheeses, etc for breakfast. Instead of being served buffet style, you walk around, and the server picks up the items you want for you. The hot items were slightly weaker in terms of quality and that is understandable given they don’t operate a professional restaurant kitchen.
Walking along the promenade of the bay, you will come across many of the restaurant offerings of the island. Most are focused on Greek cuisine and in particular seafood, the best and most popular is The Batis, which is on the other side of the amphitheatre shaped bay.
To do at the hotel
Apart from swimming, you can enjoy the impressive coffee table books in their library along with a selection of popular novels and there is also a DVD collection for those who don’t want to discover the idiosyncrasies of Greek soap operas.
To do nearby
The hotel provides bicycles for residents, which are ideal for discovering the local area and cycling to the beaches on the island such as the stony Filiatro Beach which is a popular snorkelling spot. It is all about nature here with exciting hiking trails or you can hire an e-scooter to zoom around the scenic spots or gather up your family and friends to hire a yacht out for the day.
In a nutshell
It would be a Greek tragedy if you went all the way to magnificent Greece without discovering this hidden gem of an island and celebrating its natural beauty.
The rooms can be booked from 100 euros.
You can connect to the island via boat from Kefalonia and Lefkada and to the ports of Patras, Killíni, and Astakós on the mainland. The best way is to fly to Kefalonia then take a car ferry across to Ithaca. The hotel is only 15 minutes away from the port.