For some time Santorini had conquered our dreams through the photos of its blue domes that stand out against the blue of the sky and the sea, contrasting with the blinding white bases that in turn emerge from the red-streaked black of the rocky walls of the caldera, at centre stage.
Between the blue of the domes and the caldera
And when we finally realized our dream its legendary beauty took our breath away and stole the heart. So many images and words that have tried to describe the views that can be admired from every corner of the caldera, the colored churches, the applause sunsets but living this live is something else.
And if in fact, at centre stage is the caldera, that immense chasm that represents the heart of the island, the most scenic part is certainly the northern one with its white villages crowning the steep and high cliffs.
The walk from Thira to Imerovigli via Firostefani and from there to Oia, is an experience that is not forgotten, especially if done at dusk when the clear colors of the houses, churches and rocks fade into more shades soft and less defined.
The natural balconies of Thira and Oia, the highly photographed towns overlooking the snow-white caldera, do not disappoint. Starting with Thira and its sparkling orthodox cathedral rebuilt after the terrible earthquake of 1956.
It represents the symbolic monument with its immense dome and is located close to the terraces that offer unforgettable views of the caldera. Inside, the beautiful frescoes by Cristoforo Assimis and the large golden chandelier shine.
Lose yourself in the streets of this crowded town among the shops that sell a bit of everything, the sparkling jewelers and white houses set into the rock above steep cliffs overlooking the sea, among which, almost suddenly, splendid views of the blue open up.
And look out over the harbor where all the cruise ships are moored, which can be reached from the center of the town through a 587-step staircase on foot or by mule or through a modern cable car.
But the blue domes most represented in the world are found in Oia and are those of the churches of Agios Spyridonas and of Anastasis and we immediately notice them watching the people that crowds in front of them looking for the perfect framing, among which there is a small group of oriental girls who make a real fashion photo shoot by changing their clothes and accessories as if they were on a catwalk.
The highest point of Oia is the castle which was the seat of the Argyri family under the Venetians and which today is stormed by tourists to take pictures of the mythical sunset.
Another glimpse of the most immortalized is the one that picks up the windmills that turn pink when the sun goes down over the sea and before being swallowed by the outline of the island of Folegandros it seems almost suspended between earth and sky: one of the magic of Santorini sunsets that we enjoyed in spite of the great hats of the Japanese tourists with their ordinance masks.
Despite the wind has left us no respite we gladly faced the journey that leads from Thira to Oia on a walk that offers unforgettable views. From Thira we reach Firostefani: between the two villages there is no solution of continuity and it is enough to follow a path to find oneself immersed in the small village among mills, shops and interesting restaurants, all with a view of the caldera.
Along the road, in Imerovigli is the convent of Agios Nikolaos, dated around 1651 and dedicated to the three saints Panteleimon, Zoodocos Pighi and Nicola.
From here the path leads to Skaros, once the most important fortified village of Santorini. Today only the big rock remains, Skaros Rock, about 20 meters high, some ruins and the small chapel of Agios Ioannis Katiforis.
On the highest point of the island, on the other hand, at over 300 meters above sea level is Imerovigli which dominates the entire island, so much so that in past centuries it was the main defensive outpost: its name derives precisely from “vigla” which means “watch over” and “imera” which means “day”.
It is a quiet town compared to Thira and Oia, because the only people who go around them are the customers of the splendid caldera-view hotels. So you walk up and down the steps that lead to the sea between resorts wedged inside each other, with overlapping terraces equipped with jacuzzi and sofas to welcome guests ready to admire the spectacular sunsets.
Afterwards you can reach Oia: it takes about two and a half hours on foot. To those who do not feel like taking the route, we suggest the panoramic road that reaches the picturesque village by car, passing through Finikia, the village of the farmers who worked in the plains and vineyards, which today represents a good alternative to stay a stone’s throw from the well more expensive Oia to which one arrives through a short walk.
In Oia you go to watch the wonderful sunset but also to wander through alleys and small shops. Also worth a visit is Atlantis Books, considered by The Guardian as one of the 10 most beautiful bookstores in the world, and opened in 2004 by a group of friends from Cyprus, England and the United States, who after spending one vacation in Santorini fell in love with it to the point of opening up their business.
In the bay below Oia is the pretty fishing village of Ammoudi, with its marina and pied dans l’eau restaurants to reach at sunset for a romantic dinner. We were there last evening to greet Santorini worthily with a sumptuous dinner of fish, but very affordable. With the plus of fun, shared with the laughter with the restaurant owner sitting like a queen to oversee her place, due to the waves of the sea that reached the tables shielded by transparent plastic curtains and the water that flowed on the floor to avoid promptly raising your feet.