Marathi and Loutraki: two little gems in eastern Akrotiri

Once again we are here to talk about Akrotiri, that is the rugged and isolated peninsula where Chania airport is located. As already mentioned in the past, the first time we came to Crete we gave the cold shoulder to this area, to all appearances rough, barren and uninteresting. As time passes, we actually found out new gems showing us this steep tip of the island in all its beauty, a really magical area…

Foto con sito 3In this post, we will talk about two lovely little beaches, very close to Chanià and located in the south-east coast of Akrotiri peninsula: Maràthi and Loutràki.

Being a few kilometres distant from each other, we decided to visit them both on the same day. In the morning, we sunbathed in the peaceful Marathi, divided into two sandy bays by a small marina. Like most of Cretan beaches, this one has also an area with full facilities and a free one, as well as cafes and taverns with sea view. Foto con sito 1 Being quite secluded, it’s ideal for those who don’t want to put up with the tantrums of the popular Meltemi, the cold and dry wind coming from the north and that it often blows in summer in Crete (luckily, we would say!). Here, the uniquely clear water is shallow for many metres and often calm: ideal to have long relaxing swims, let the children play and, why not, snorkel….Foto con sito 2 Not to mention the beautiful view you can enjoy from the shore! The rough peaks and cliffs of Akrotiri stand out just before you and make you feel cuddled by Mother Nature.

The morning in Marathi moved lazy and relaxing, and after a quick sandwich, we decided to reach the arms of its little sister, Loutraki. The name itself, “Loutraki”, (“small bath”) predicts what we will find. Foto con sito 3A tiny piece of heaven, surrounded by two promontories and scattered by cluster pines whose branches provide some refuge from the heat. Here as well, the colour and clearness of the water makes an impression. The shades of blue alternate gradually as the sea gets deeper, and walking few metres towards the horizon you can clearly spot a few hermit crabs, all with different shells, running frantically back and forth on the clear and sandy seabed. The actual beach is completely free.Foto con sito 1 If you want lounger and umbrella, on the right side of the beach, there is a grassy area provided with facilities and shared also by a hotel and a café. The latter offers to all bathers the chance to use the loungers in exchange of a purchase. After few swims, a chilled Mithos beer and a lot of sunbathing, we headed home and we decided to end this relaxing day with a bang…

We had heard about a joint in Chania where they serve fresh fish in a casual environment…we had to try it! The tavern is located in one the main streets of the town, Daskalogianni, in the neighbourhood of Splantzià, very much loved by Chania residents. It’s called “To Maridaki ”and itis now one of the restaurants that we recommend to our guests! 20150613_120015The place is cosy, decorated in a “maritime”style and features something we appreciate a lot: an open-plan kitchen. Even though, surprisingly, the fish is not a speciality of this island, since historically inhabited by big lamb and pork meat eaters, at“To Maridaki”, asin few other taverns in town, you can always find freshly caught fish masterfully cooked on the barbecue, steamed or fried, according to your liking. The peculiarity of this place is that the waiter, before giving the menu, will take the guest to see the window next to the kitchen and choose any kind of vegetables, pulses, first courses prepared on the day by two smiling women.IMG-20150613-WA0001 But the best part is that they will take you in front of the refrigerated section to choose whatever catch of the day you prefer! Once chosen, he will weigh it, tell you the price and ask you if it’s ok. Then, you just need to decide how you want it cooked and, finally, you can enjoy it! Prices are definitely fair, as always in Crete. A lovely grilled fish accompanied by a side of grilled vegetables, a generous portion of steamed octopus with a spicy tomato sauce and local vegetables, black-eyed peas with peppers and cooked Cretan herbs, half litre of white wine, toasted bread with olive oil and oregano: 37 euros for two! And obviously, we couldn’t say no to dessert and raki (the local grappa) offered by the hosts at the end of the meal…wonderful! There’s no much to add… perfect ending to a perfect day!

Are we making your mouth watering? It’s just few hours by plane, think about it ;-)…

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Lissos and Sougia: where history and landscape come together

We are back, as promised, two weeks late but hey! Better late than never. Today we are going to talk about our last excursion with our mates Laura and Carlo. Crete, end of October, and still warm and sunny. No wonder why we choose Crete as our new home!!

DSCN3520We decided to explore the south west coast of the island. Firstly, we reached Sougia by car and then we followed the stunningly beautiful European E4 path, scattered with mountains, starting from Ai Kyrkos gorge. The trail going from Sougia to Lissòs remains one of our favourite routes here in Crete, the secret of its beauty lying in the diversity of its landscape, which encompasses rills, caves, a small and stony path scattered with pines and shrubs. Its planes summon to memory images of lunar landscapes. Our hike lasted about one hour and a half and then we finally reached Lissòs and the unforgettable bay of Ai Kyrkos. And when on top, you can’t help asking yourself: « What an amazing place is this? ».

But let’s focus on the Temple of Asclepio, the crown jewel of the archaeological ruins of Lissòs. The beautiful mosaic on its floor is the centrepiece of it all; it dates back to the first century and it reproduces geometrical shapes and a big quail. Then, you realize you are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rock-walls, carob and centuries-old olive trees, facing this human masterpiece. In over 1000 years this complex has faced and survived so many challenges! And there is so much more to come…the entire necropolis lays further in silence, scattered with dozens of arcosolium tombs. Death seems to dominate everything and the deafening silence instills respect for the place we are visiting. But we did not forget to visit Ai Kyrkos chapel and, west of the beach, the incredible church of Panagia (Holy Mary), whose marble rocks belonged to an ancient sarcophagus. There you can find a fine representation of Medusa’s head, the Gorgon monsters beheaded by Perseus.

Last but not least, a well-deserved rest, we finally arrived at the beach! Emerald colour, smooth and sanded pebbles, a surreal transparency…This place will never stop to impress us, no DSCN3635wonder it is so loved by the Cretans. A perfect conclusion of this memorable trip, and was a satisfaction looking back on our steps! After some hours spent sunbathing, and one last swim, at 4.30 pm we caught a ten minutes boat ride back to Soùgia. It was such a wonderful day, and we would like to conclude by thanking our mates Carlo and Laura, who already came to visit twice and that are our favourite kind of travellers, the ones that never say no!

Thanks, mates!

 

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Click on the map to see where all these spots are

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Samaria Gorge: the giant of Crete

After livening up your summer with some of the best beaches of the island, today we want to tell you about our last amazing adventure, exploring the other side of Crete: the mountain.

DSCN2920Have you ever heard about Samarià Gorge? Probably you have, since it’s the longest gorge in Europe and one of the greatest natural wonders of this part of the world. Last Saturday, together with our friend Fernando, we embarked in one of the most exciting experiences of our life!

DSCN2925We left Chania at 7.45 with a bus to Omalos, but it actually continues till Xyloskalo, where the actual excursion starts from. After having paid the 5 euro entrance for the Samaria National Park (founded in 1962), equipped with water, sandwiches and a lot of energy, we were ready to start! The excursion of this gorge is not for everyone: 16 km long, it takes about 6 hours walking, counting the stops for eating, drinking and using the toilet. The road is almost all downhill: you start from a 1200 mt height (from Xyloskalo) and then you arrive at the southern coast of the island, at Agia Roumeli. Every 2-3 km, you can find fresh water springs, toilets and rest areas with tables and benches where you can have a packed lunch and restore your energy.

DSCN2926Our walk started with a steep and marked path that tried our strength straight away. We took about one hour to descend to the bed of the gorge, surrounded by centennial pine trees and breath-taking views over the valley. Going on, the road was a bit more “diverse”, as it was dug in a riverbed that in the winter fills with water. Huge rocks, strangely shaped trees, mountain walls more or less smoothed by the wind, and small brooks to cross. But the most memorable encounter of those first few kilometres was definitely with one of the inhabitants of this gorge and these mountains: the legendary feral goat Kri-Kri, endemic species of Crete.
DSCN2969The examples of the area, most likely used to the amount of daily visitors, are easy to approach: they look like small ibices and their cubs are the cutest in the world!

DSCN3007 Halfway through, we arrived at the old village of Samarià where its inhabitants lived until the opening of the park in 1962. To think that people could live there is really unbelievable! Taking advantage of the service area equipped with toilets and tables in the shade, we had our sandwich and relaxed our tired legs that after 2 hours walking were starting to give up…

DSCN3054Bold and determined to reach the sea as early as possible, we resumed our journey after 30 minutes’ break. The surrounding landscape was changing repeatedly, and this made the walk varied and exciting. DSCN3066

Walking through rocky walls high hundredths of meters and centennial trees that incredibly grow from that rock, we felt very small. In that place and in that moment, we were facing the absolute superiority of Nature over man. Suffice it to say, that Samaria Gorge, together with the Mount Olympus National Park, are the only preserved areas in Greece to be included in the MAB Network, which is the Unesco programme “Man and Biosphere”. This must be the reason why here live nearly 500 species of plants and animals, of which about 70 are endemic of Crete.

DSCN3074After about 5 hours’ trek, we finally reached the most famous spot of this gorge, the “Iron Gates” (Σιδερόπορτες). This passage is known to be the narrowest of the canyon. After kilometres of very wide spaces (up to 150 mt wide), here the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only 3 metres, and the sides soar up to a height of 600 metres…it’s breath-taking!

DSCN3121After the gates, the worst was over! Once at the end of the route, we stopped at a kiosk where we were asked to show our entrance tickets, and we walked the last very sunny stretch of cobblestone separating us from the sea. After about 20 minutes, we finally spotted a mirage at the horizon, our “oasis in the desert”: the Lybian Sea!! Despite our exhaustion and the sore calves, we sped up our pace and in a jiffy we were swimming in the fresh and clear water of AgiaRoumeli, incredulous to finally be there! And in this place of unreal beauty, with volcanic sand and pitch-black pebbles, we spent two hours of well-deserved relax.

DSCN3124At 5:30 pm, we took the last ferry to Hora Sfakion, where at 6:30 pm there was the last bus to Chania. Even in the hour spent on the ferry, Crete has given us some pieces of paradise, with its unbelievably blue sea water and the magnificent White Mountains (Λεφκά Όρι) as a backdrop.

What can we say more about this adventure… the pictures are quite self-explanatory, don’t you think?

Anyone of good will, strong legs and love for the nature should go for this experience. Rest assured, you will never forget it!

Bye, everyone!

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Click on the map to see our path

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Glyka Nera, Loutro and Finikas: the rough and poetical South

Those who follow us on Facebook have already been able to look at some pictures anticipating this post, because, as you already know, we love to arouse your curiosity and keep you in suspense!

ItinerarioWe had thought long and hard about this trip and we finally decided to take it! Starting from the north-west where we live, we embarked on a trip to the opposite coast, the south-west, after travelling for about an hour and a half in the rough and charming mountainous hinterland that opens up under Chania.

The first village we reached was Hòra Sfakìon (or Sfakià), where we parked the car for the whole day, since it wasn’t needed any longer…

Sure enough, this coastal area of Crete boasts some of the wildest, most secluded and difficult to access beaches in the island, featured by an unquestioned and unspoilt beauty!

The first one we arrived to was Glykà Nerà, beautiful and much praised bay, accessible only by sea or by foot. From Sfakia, we took the 10.15am boat to Loutro, following the directions of the boatman himself, an attractive and authentic Greek man, with a ponytail, pitch black beard and a vest too tight to be able to contain the culinary habits of an obvious good eater!

DSCN2491Unfortunately, the sea was quite rough that morning, so much that it made those 10 minutes crossing to get to Glyka Nera quite wet… well, it didn’t really matter since we would have soon gone swimming anyway!

In any case, getting close to that wonder and enjoying the spectacle of the nature helped us forgot the salt shower of a minute before. A high and impressive rocky side of Lefka Ori (White Mountains) is the background to a narrow strip of pebbles that ends in blue and emerald and unbelievably clear waters!DSCN2499

We didn’t think it twice and, after descending to the tiny pier/floating boat, we laid down our towels and enjoyed an amazing swim! The environment was very relaxing and the people hanging out there were certainly eccentric and colourful. We saw youngsters with tents pitched on the sand and laundry hanging out under the sun, hikers in their bathing suits coming down from the mountain wearing their trekking shoes and huge backpacks, and, of course, there were naturists! Everything was very exciting! We would have stayed there all day people-watching!  DSCN2529

But back to us, as we haven’t told you a very important thing, that is why this place is called Glyka Nera, which means “sweet waters”. Well, the name comes from the fresh sweet waters that, straight from an underground spring, flow among the pebbles of the beach and end into the sea! Strolling around, you can actually notice these puddles among the stones, and in the middle you can see the gush of totally drinkable water spurting out from the ground. It is for this reason that it’s been installed a shower, working thanks to a solar panel, which gives to the bathers the precious liquid for drinking or simply rinsing the sea salt away.  DSCN2522

After a relaxing couple of hours and a last gaze to this little heaven, we left Glyka Nera. Jumping on the famous Delfini boat, we reached the village of Loutro in about 10 minutes.

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What’s the best way to describe the poetry and the magic surrounding this marina isolated from the rest of the world? It’s not easy, as it needs to be seen in order to be understood. Located on a half-moon shaped bay, the village consists of no more than 20 or 30 buildings, including houses, old community centres and small hotels. The view is amazing, as you can see all these small houses, identical to each other, all white, with the flat roof and the sea-coloured balconies! Do you want to know what Loutro reminds us of? A nativity scene!DSCN2562 You know at Christmas, when you set up the village behind the grotto? It’s exactly the same! And in this case as well, there is a reason behind the name Loutro, which means “bath”, and the key role is played by the many springs found in this area, whose water was able to reach as far as the nearby village of Anopolis.

After a delicious lunch in one of the many seafront taverns (13 € for 2 people…itnever ceases to amaze us!), we decided to get to a last destination: Fìnikas (or Finix, or Phoenix).

This time, however, we told ourselves: “Saddle up and go! We walk!”.Clearly a bit nervous and proud, we then took the E4, one of the 11 European long-distancepaths. We had heard about it many times and read many stories, and even today we dream of covering the Cretan route, 500 km from east to west (and sooner or later, we will do it!). For now, we can proudly say to have stepped on it for few kilometres! From Loutro, we passed by the first beach of Finikas (reached in about half an hour) and we arrived at the second one, in another 15 minutes: very rough beach, with rocks and pebbles, a small hotel and a couple of taverns, perfect setting for those who love a wild environment and total isolation (if you don’t mind the goats to keep you company!). DSCN2577
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On our way back, definitely in need of a restoring swim, we stopped at the first bay: small, stony, very pretty, with a few white and blue hotels as a backdrop. Despite the freezing water, we swam for few minutes, and then packed our stuff and climbed up the mountain again. Passing once again by the scant but suggestive ruins of the ancient town of Finikas, we slowly headed towards Loutro. Close to the town, we enjoyed for the last time the view from the top and filled ourselves with beauty, before taking the boat to Hora Sfakion and to our car.

How amazing is the south, guys! DSCN2582

Hopefully, we didn’t bore you to death with this long story… but also we hope we have managed to deliver a taste of this charm and a bit of Cretan sun to your houses and offices!

See you soon!

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Stavros and Kalathas: Akrotiri’s beaches

It’s not the first time we talk about the peninsula of Akrotiri on our blog. For example, the time we were at the Seitan Limani beach or “Devil’s harbor”, the beautiful zigzag inlet… do you remember? Or during our trip to the three wonderful monasteries of AgiaTriada, Gouverneto and Katholikò. Well, we have to admit it: the area we considered important only because of the airport has revealed itself to be an unlimited source of beautiful surprises!

MONTAZ 04 HRAKLEIO.cdrA couple of days ago, we explored another couple of lovely coves that this rugged Cretan spike offers: the beaches of Kalathàs and Stavròs.

DSCN2380 Let’s start from Kalathàs: you can easily reach it in less than half an hour driving from Chanià. A gold sandy shore, crystal waters with wonderful blue shades, and beach equally divided into a free area and an equipped one… a definitely enchanting place! To be more precise, there are two beaches: a very small one and another larger one, provided with bars and beach umbrellas. The water of Kalathàs is very shallow, and it’s possible to reach the islet in front of it with only a few strokes. So, we spent our Monday morning in this quiet spot of Akrotiri… the week started slightly differently than it used to when we lived in Vicenza ;-)!

DSCN2401Around lunchtime, we hopped on our car and headed north, to Stavròs. It’s a short journey, about 10 minutes, completely immersed in olive trees and the typical mini grapevines of Crete. We knew that there were two beaches here as well, both very beautiful. Considering that it was really hot that day, we decided to spend the afternoon in the one that we heard to be the windiest. Besides, we had heard about an “alternative” tavern in this bay and we decided to try it out for lunch.

DSCN2405The sign said: “Ηλιοβασὶλεμα– Sunset: Greek, French and Arabic cuisine”. Anxious to try this place, we arrived there, parked our car and first of all we admired the view of this gem called Stavròs. Very few people, an absolute peace, clear and grainy sand which becomes stones on the foreshore, a wild landscape and a turquoise sea constantly caressed by the breeze…stunning!

In the middle of the beach there was the Sunset tavern, a wood cabin with the roof made of palm leaves and, listen here people!, the kitchen was set up in an old and wonderful caravan! Oh, we go nuts for this kind of things! The atmosphere of the place was very hippie, like its eclectic owner Malika, a French lady with curly hair and always barefoot! We really liked the place, therefore we took a seat and asked to order food. DSCN2402Malika brought us the menu, one of the highlights of this place: two small, rectangular blackboards written by hand with chalk, bound together by two zips! In this way they created an original menu, which is also ecological and updatable all the time…respect, guys! The content of the menu met our expectations too: together with the classic Greek and Cretan specialties like dakos (barley donuts with fresh tomato, feta, onion and oregano), baked eggplants andfresh fish, the menu that day offered also a delicious hummus (a middle-eastern dip made of blended chickpeas, tahini sauce and garlic), vegetables couscous and oriental rice… a nice mix, we were in for a treat!

After the pleasant lunch we spent the afternoon chilling at Stavròs beach, enjoying the hot sun of July and the refreshing, transparent waters of this rugged, silent rocky bay… what a dream!

And also this day was over, leaving us with sweet memories… And if you enjoyed our Monday in Akrotiri, leave us a comment!

Talk soon!

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Wonders of Falasarna

At just 50 km from our house, the varied western coast of the island provides us with another wonderful area, the area of Falasarna (or Falassarna or Phalasarna), with its sharp-coloured beaches and the archaeological ruins of its ancient city. It was one of DSCN2264the main Cretan cities during the Hellenistic age, and it reached its period of resplendence between the middle of the 4th century BC and 67 BC, when the Romans decided to destroy it and lock its doors in order to eliminate piracy! But it became famous thanks to its natural harbour, the only one in the whole western coast of Crete. Sure enough, in the Hellenistic era, this city, whose name came after the homonym local nymph, was one of the most important maritime forts of the island.

DSCN2268The best preserved ruins are certainly the following: the round-based harbour tower (4th century BC). It’s the only visible one of the original four, and it’s divided internally by two cross-shaped walls; the small tanks, initially used in the public thermaeand then to wash the clay in the artisan workshops; the harbour quay, with still signs of the bollards; the fortified walls,and a throne carved in the rock, probably dedicated to the god of the sea, Poseidon.  DSCN2272

The site is not very big, you can visit it with a short walk and, despite the hot weather, this area is often windy, therefore we managed to fully enjoy the tour of these ancient ruins. It’s always amusing to imagine how the life here was in those days or how those people could be able to conceive certain architectonic features, according to us very modern! Ancient Romans and Greeks certainly knew what they were talking about!

DSCN2269This is another place that we recommend, especially if you stay here at Villa Anastasia or around Chania, since it’s really close and easy to reach. Besides, the entrance price is only 2 euros! The opening times are: from Tuesday to Friday, from 9am to 3pm.

After stocking up in culture, we couldn’t help but dedicate ourselves to one of our most favourite activities, basking in the sun in one of the beautiful Falasarna beaches, with light-coloured and coarse-grained sand. This windy and lovely bay was once awarded the best in Crete, and one of the top 10 beaches in Europe. It includes 5 beaches, one next to the other. The main one is known as Pacheia Ammos, and it is 1 km long.

DSCN2285It’s easy to fall in love with the exotic colours of the sea in this protected area! Yes, you are right, we say that about every beach we visited so far, but it’s the simple truth! In regard to beauties, here in Crete you will be spoilt for choice! Moreover, if you love beach parties, we’ve been told that there are many in Falasarna during the summer, to be precise on the first Saturday of every month…a must see for us as well!!!

See you soon!

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Click on the map to see where these spots are

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Balos: welcome to the awesome show…of Nature!

DSCN1922Those who follow us on Facebook have already seen that our dear friends Laura and Carlo, from Vicenza, are here with us in these days.

Being good hosts, we had to show them the beauties of the island, so yesterday we took them to visit our favourite beach, Balos.

Despite having already visited it, I have to admit that it’s easy to be touched by this spectacle of the nature. And we also realised that the pictures don’t give justice to it, as its beauty is so perfect that the camera inevitably takes away a bit of this perfection and even a piece of soul… The only remedy is to come and see it live, don’t you think?

Taking the National Road towards west, after 40 minutes driving we arrived at the entrance of this protected area, where a lady in a kiosk asked us for a 1 euro environmental fee per person, as requested by the city of Kissamos for the clean-upand safeguard of Gramvousa peninsula, a natural area of priceless beauty and value, where Balos beach is located. This unique landscape hosts about 400 species of plants and over 100 species of birds, as well as cute animals, such as the Mediterranean monk seal (whose origin is here) and the loggerhead sea turtle, which comes often to visit these shores.

DSCN1984After the first stop, we started going up a steep scenic route that endedafter 30 minutes in a car park. We parked our car and got ready for a 40 minutes’ walk until our destination, Balos.

The route started quite flat among the mountains and the bushes of Mediterranean scrub, and then changed in steep stairs down to the beach. The funny thing is that for the first 10 minutes you don’t realize where the path is taking you, as you are surrounded only by rocks and shrubs. And suddenly, the paradise shows itself before your eyes, catching you by surprise: the Balos lagoon in all its beauty and its countless shades of blue…Nothing less than many Caribbean beaches!DSCN1935

Luckily, at 10am the beach was quite empty. We rented four loungers and two umbrellas, and for the whole day we enjoyed the warmth of the late May Cretan sun, which it didn’t seem strong due to the breeze blowing in that area, but we definitely noticed it later on our skin:-D

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There is only one small bar on the beach that sells sandwiches, drinks, coffee and ice-creams.

Obviously, the steep stairs we took downhill in the morning, would have become a hard climbing in the evening! But it was totally worth it! And it was an excellent way to burn your lunch ;-)!

In any case, since we love to give away information, the laziest ones would like to know that you can reach Balos also with one of the many cruises leaving from the port of Kissamos (about 30 minutes west of our house) in the morning and coming back in the late afternoon, at the total price of 25 euros. These cruises have got pros and cons, and we are about to explain why.

The negative aspect is that, arriving by sea, you miss the amazing view of the lagoon (see cover picture in our blog!) enjoyable by walking the path we took yesterday. The positive aspect, on the other side, is that the majority of these cruises stop at very interesting Gramvousa islet, to the right side of Balos. DSCN1924There are many legends around it; according to some people, Eolia (Gramvousa), king Aeolus’home, god of the Olympus, was the island where Ulysses stopped for a month before going back to Ithaca. It is important to consider also the historical aspect, since the presence of an unassailable Venetian fortress of the 16th century, built as a protection from the Turks, and from which you can enjoy a very pretty view. And obviously, let’s not forget the legends about pirates (always our favourite!). Indeed, after Gramvousa was firstly freed by the Ottomans, thousands of Cretan people and revolutionaries settled on this piece of land in the middle of the sea. Due to the critical conditions of that time, soon the island became a stronghold for pirates, who were ransacking any boat sailing there. According to legend, one of their treasures is hidden inside one of the many caves in the island…we love this kind of stories!

To sum up: perhaps because we have a weakness for this magical place, or because we came back after one year, or probably because it’s much better when you share it with your best friends, but yesterday was one of those days you don’t easily forget!

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Click on the map to see the spot of this article 

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