Santorini

The final stop of our six-week trip was the Greek island of Santorini for a chilled out week of R&R. We stayed at the very beautiful Astra Suites in Imerovigli – well away from the hustle and bustle that other parts of the island, such as Oia and Fira, offer. Unbeknown to us when we booked, the resort is actually along the cliffs and it’s a fair walk up and down many stairs to get around, so be warned! From our balcony we had a beautiful view over the Caldera which provided the perfect spot to have breakfast each morning.

Astra Suites Santorini Breakfast View
Astra Suites Santorini Breakfast View

Oia is a famous spot for watching the sun set, however a walk up the cliff face from the hotel in the evening gave us the perfect vantage point to watch it from.

Santorini Sunset from Astra Suites

Other than swimming, drinking, eating and reading we didn’t want to make too many plans. We booked in for a private island tour with Kostas Sakavaras, a private tour guide who I found via Viator. Kostas took us on a half-day tour of the island that included many hidden gems. We finished the tour at a winery where I picked up a couple of bottles of Vin Santo, a wine from Santorini that I was starting to become quite fond of. As the island is very windy, the grape vines used to grown the grapes are grown low to the ground in a circular shape and often appeared as decorations and light fittings – I would’ve loved to have brought one home.

Santorini Grape Vine

Both Kostas and the staff at Astra Suites were happy to make dining recommendations. Knowing that we were going on a volcano and sunset cruise and therefore would be visiting the old Fira port, Kostas recommended Palia Skala (George’s place) where we had the tomato fries (think fritters), Santorini salad and gavros – lightly battered and fried fish. The tomato fries were delicious. If you do intend on visiting the old port, try and time your visit so that you aren’t in the line for the cable car for an hour along with all the tourists returning to their cruise ships. We got caught, but didn’t have much choice as we needed to get down there to catch our boat for a sunset cruise.

Tomato Fries - Palia Skala

At most places we went to, we also ordered a Santorini salad. Typical of what we call a ‘Greek salad’ back home, they featured lovely produce from the island – tomato, cucumber, onion, olives and feta.

Santorini Salad

Dotted all over the island were places to stop for gyros; a bargain at 2.50 Euro.

Gyros

Near the resort was Anogi restaurant, where we went one night and feasted. I started with a block of feta cheese wrapped in filo and topped with a honey sauce, while D had a pita topped with meatballs. For main I opted for the tomato rice while D had fish. Whilst the tomato rice was a simple dish of rice cooked in a tomato based sauce and topped with feta, the frehsness of the tomatoes made this dish a winner. For dessert I had baklava while D had the ‘death by chocolate’ chocolate cake. Lighting wasn’t great which means there aren’t any photos to show you, so you’ll just have to take my word for it on this one!

For the final night in Santorini, and the holiday as a whole, we went to Selene, which is considered the best restaurant in Santorini. Kostas had advised us against it, saying he thought it was overrated, but we decided to stick with the booking. We’re glad we did because the food was sensational. Sitting outdoors also meant dinnercame with a beautiful view of the sun setting.

Selene Santorini Sunset

To eat, I had quail to start while D had baby octopus, both of which exceeded our expectations.

Quail Selene Santorini

D Entree Selene Santorini

For main, I had slow cooked lamb that I never wanted to end. Given it’s been so long so since we visited, we unfortunately can’t remember what D had. Anyone willing to take a guess what’s under the dome?

Selene Lamb Santorini

D Main Selene Santorini

For dessert, D had a chocolate constellation; dark, milk and white chocolate in all types of textures. Crunch and silky smooth mousse side-by-side … and the sphere – wow.

D Dessert Santorini Selene

The inside of the sphere. Hold your horses chocolate lovers!

D Dessert inside Selene Santorini

My dessert was a take on baklava, served with a glass of Vin Santo – a great way to end the meal and the trip.

My Dessert Selene Santorini

One final recommendation for Santorini is to do a sunset cruise. We went on board the Thalassa which the hotel booked for us, but I am sure there are others to choose from. The cruise lasted about five hours all up, including a hike up a volcano and a visit to the thermal hot springs (which aren’t very warm). Food was included and the sunset incredible. A perfect way to end our holiday.

Santorini Boat Sunset Edited

Santorini Sunset

Rome

After giving our stomachs somewhat of a rest in Switzerland, Venice and Tuscany, we got back into the full swing of things when we arrived in Rome. We stayed in another GoWithOh rented apartment in a perfect location – walking distance to most of the attractions we wanted to see and places we wanted to eat at, and there was a fairly decent bakery across the road. It also came with what was probably the most comfortable bed we’d slept on to that point, which made getting out of bed slightly more difficult each morning! The hot water in the apartment wasn’t great though – we were lucky if it lasted 10 minutes between the two of us.

For three days, 95% of our diet consisted of pizza, pasta and gelato (we had gelato at least six times in three days). Not that I’m complaining, of course ;) We had awesome pizza at Forno Campo De’ Fiori – they make it in large (think ironing board size) sheets and you simply tell them how much you want and they cut it into more manageable sizes that work out to be about 1 EURO a slice. The ham and a simple Bianca (olive oil and salt) were the highlights.

HamPizza

Pizza Bianca

We also had pizza from Roscioli bakery (not to be confused with Roscioli restaurant which is just around the corner) where I had a pretty awesome potato and rosemary pizza. As a friend commented, no one makes a potato pizza like the Italians.

PotatoPizza

I asked the lady who rented us the apartment where the best gelato to be found was and she said Giolitti and Gelateria del Teatro, both of which were on my list and both of which had damn fine gelato. I especially loved the caramel and pistachio flavours at Giolitti.

Giolitti

For dinner, we loved L’Arcangelo. To start, I had their suppli, which was an arancini ball, a potato croquette, a deep fried ball of custard and a piece of anchovy on some peanut brittle! Other than the anchovy/peanut brittle being a bit odd and seemingly out of place for me, I really enjoyed this. The deep fried custard was something else, and totally unexpected as part of an entree. Had my Italian been better, or the waitress’s English better, I would’ve ordered a whole plate of them for dessert!

For main I had the carbonara and let me tell you, I will never have a carbonara in a Melbourne restaurant again! Rigatoni with crispy pancetta, an egg sauce and topped with parmesan. Simplicity at its best.

L'Arcangelo Carbonara

On our final day, we had a late lunch at Roscioli restaurant where we started with some of the house made ricotta that they brought out for us to try.

Roscioli-Ricotta

For our entree, we shared the Burrata with sundried cherry tomatoes. Oh my. In hindsight we should’ve stopped there, but didn’t.

Roscioli-Burrata

For main, I had the carbonara, while D smartly went for the lighter option – a salmon tasting plate. For me, the carbonara came too heavily pre-peppered for my liking, putting the one at L’Arcangelo slightly ahead of this one. D loved the salmon; two different styles, each tasty, but one slightly over-seasoned. He also thought it needed something – perhaps a light, pizza-base-style bread – to go with it.

Roscioli-Carbonara

 

Roscioli-Salmon-Tasting-Plate

For our final eating in Rome, we did a twilight Trastevere food tour with Eating Italy. NB: we did pay for this tour, but after chatting to them on Twitter for a bit, they did give a code for 25% off the tour. Compared to the tour in Barcelona, this one was far more structured I guess you could say, to the point of feeling a little too much like a production line for my liking. When you walk into places and they are expecting you because they get tours through a couple of times a day, you have to wonder if you really are being taken to the best places, or to the places who pay for you to be taken there. I don’t know how their business model works, nor do I especially need to know, they were just some of the thoughts I came away with at the end of the tour. What I did love about the tour was the ‘backstage’ access we got to some of the places, including the wine cellar at Spirito Di Vino. As for the places we visited and the food we had, there were highlights and lowlights.

Highlights included Biscottificio Innocenti, a family run biscuit shop where I especially loved their old school, conveyor belt style oven. The biscuits were pretty good too!

Innocenti

At La Renalla, we were taken to the back of the bakery and pizzeria where we got to see the wood fired oven in action – all the more impressive given it is powered by hazelnut shells!

La Renella Oven

 

The final place we visited was definitely a highlight - Fatamorgana for gelato. I had read that this place served good gelato, but none of the locations were convenient for any of the sites we were seeing, so I was glad we got to try it as part of the tour. The hardest thing was choosing two flavours. I chose the passionfruit and raspberry white chocolate. The passionfruit was out of this world good. The only regret is that it was the last stop and I was so full that I couldn’t go back for seconds.

Fatamorgana

The one real lowlight of the tour was where we went for our ‘main’ course – Osteria Der Belli. Here we were served pasta – 3 kinds of it and this is how it came out. We eat with our eyes, right? So unappealing. I realise that plating 3 different pastas onto one plate probably isn’t easy, but if it’s going to look this bad, just don’t do it. As for the taste, they really didn’t hit the mark there either.

Pasta Trio

Overall, we did enjoy the tour and the mix of places we went to, never doubling up a type of course. The walking aspect wasn’t too strenuous, the guide was very friendly and knowledgeable and we enjoyed it as much for the tour of the Trastevere neighbourhood as the food.

And now, we head to our final spot of the trip, Santorini, for a week of R&R.