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Sitting in the southern Cyclades, Santorini is magical, romantic and perhaps the most quintessentially ‘Greek’ of all the Hellenic islands. It is also quite special in that is is home to a vast volcano; indeed the islands which make up Santorini form the ring of the caldera. Why is this important to food lovers? Well, all of that volcanic activity and ash has created a unique ecosystem with porous volcanic soil, which – combined with an almost perpetual state of drought – produces utterly distinctive flavours in all of the produce grown on the island.
Like in much of Greece, the food of Santorini relies heavily on great quality, fresh and local produce to elevate deceptively simple dishes into wonderfully flavourful meals. Santorini is world famous for its fava and cherry tomatoes, and then there is my personal favourite, the freshest of fish and seafood. Santorini’s recipes aren’t necessarily what you you think of when Greek food comes to mind; much of it is lighter, but it is all best enjoyed when sitting in a restaurant overlooking Santorini’s wonderful caldera view with a glass of Santorini’s finest wine.
Russell's verdict on gastronomic Santorini
Views - Oia is famous for its sunsets – but trying to find a perch on the castle or table in a bar can be difficult. Stroll along the caldera to the village of Imerovigli which is draped down the side of the caldera and watch the sunset over the famous blue-domed churches.
Volcano - You can’t get away from the fact you are staying on a giant volcano. It will greet you every morning as you look out across the lagoon. So why not take a boat trip out to the central volcanic island of Nea Kameni, where you can walk around the smoking crater and bath in volcanic hot springs?
Getting there - Santorini is relatively easy to get to having its own small airport with connecting flights available from Athens. From May 2014 both British Airways and EasyJet will be running direct flights from the UK. The best way to approach the island is from the sea, getting spectacular views of the inner caldera villages from the lagoon. Boats run daily from Piraeus and stop off at other Cycladic islands on route.
Russell Bowes' guide to the Cyclades' finest dining
Wine of Santorini
Back in the '80s Santorini wines had a reputation for being cheap, produced in bulk, and being uninteresting, so why is wine my first recommendation? In the last couple of decades this has turned around: vineyards which had previously been squeezed to allow a few more hotels have resurged to their former glory of the early 20th century, creating one of Greece’s premier wine touring destinations and some of Greece’s best wines. Handily, most of Santorini’s vineyards are concentrated around the village of Megalochori, making it easy to see several in a day.
Assyrtiko is the main grape variety, but there are also whites such as Athyri and Aidani, and reds like Mantilaria and Mavrotragano to try. Wines tend to be acidic with an explosive body. To find out more about Santorini’s wine history and try the best the island has to offer visit the Koutsoyannopoulos Wine Museum in one of Greece’s few wine caves.
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Santorini cherry tomatoes
Two foods truly encapsulate Santorini’s great quality produce: one is the fava, and the other is this – the cherry tomato. Santorini has been growing cherry tomatoes since they were brought to the island in 1875, and since then Santorini has taken cherry tomatoes to be their own – there is now a variety named after the island. They are included in many of the island's recipes from seafood pasta to tomato keftedes, a tomato fritter often served as a starter with a glass of wine. The best place to enjoy these is in the Kapari Taverna on the edge of Firostefani.
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If you only eat one Greek dish when you visit Santorini, it really should be the Santorini fava. You might think one fava is much like any other and you would be right, unless you were talking about the Santorini fava. This pulse has been produced on Santorini for over 3,500 years and like much of the island's produce has taken a unique flavour from the soil. Fava is most often served prepared as a dip with red onion and capers; try it with some bread and a glass of beer whilst looking out at the beautiful island vista. A favourite place of mine to try this was Anogi in Imerovigli square, Imerovigli.
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Being an island adrift in some of the clearest waters around Greece you would expect Santorini to be home to fantastically fresh fish and seafood, and you would be right. Many restaurant menus, cafés and tavernas feature fish and seafood prominently (or even exclusively). Look out on the caldera in the early morning and you’ll see a myriad of small fishing boats returning to port on the smaller island of Therasia. To enjoy the freshest seafood prepared simply but brilliantly, take a boat trip across to Therasia for its unprepossessing restaurants. If you’re on the mainland, head to the capital Thira (Fira) and find Mama’s House for its seafood pasta.
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"Man cannot live by bread alone" – and nor can he live without a good portion of greens now and then to keep him healthy! Thankfully Santorini again serves up something special in great handfuls of Kardamides, the elegant and flavourful green herb which is collected each spring as it pops up across fields and vineyards. More often than not, it is served as a side dish to stronger flavoured fish which need something more robust to complement them. Enjoy a big portion of kardamides with a cherry tomato salad at Krinaki in Oia.
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Wine of Santorini by Jameson Fink
Santorini fava by Klearchos Kapoutsis
Seafood by Russell Bowes
Kardamides by J B
Santorini Holiday Homes
Its cliffside location makes for some stunning and dramatic views
Villa Derra stands on the caldera cliffs half way between the villages of Imerovigli and Oia. Its architectural design showcases the best in Santorini’s traditional architecture, b...
You receive a free bottle of the local wine to welcome you to the villa
If you've ever dreamed about visiting the lost island of Atlantis, Villa Artemis may well be a dream come true for you.
Villa Artemis is located in the midst of the tradit...
Santorini Grace villa Unit for 8 is a private villa 35 meters from the beach .The villa can accommodate 8 persones with 4 separate bedrooms and two toilets. The constraction of the villa is in a such a way so guests can be accom...
.Santorini Summer Lovers house located in the most beautiful place of santorini is front of the famous beach Pori of ierovigli Village only 6 Km from main centers of santorini such FIRA/OIA and 3 KM from caldera side. The house ...
The town of Oia with its picturesque Cycladic houses clinging vertiginously to the cliffside is situated in the north of the island, with spectacular views over the Caldera and the Aegean Sea. Villa Anemos is in a particularly lovely location, per...