We hadn’t planned on taking a summer vacation this year and in fact, we normally don’t. Closed for vacation – chiuso per ferie, the city tends to empty out in August as do many places in Italy. It’s the perfect time to wander the city, see the sights, enjoy the bagni di Napoli – Naples bathing beaches, and catch up on some work. And, for the last few years there’s been some great summer events thanks to the fairly new initiative, Napoli Estate. Running from 21 July to 2 October this year, it is a packed schedule of concerts, theater, movies in the park, and other events staged in some of Naples most characteristic venues. Also running through 8 September, Un’Estate al MADRE promises six nights a week of music, art, dance, film, theater, performances and exhibitions at the MADRE museum.
Why would we give all that up?
We usually don’t, preferring to take vacation around Christmas or later in the winter. But last year our holidays and beyond were completely consumed by our never-ending move from Posillipo to Chiaia. So when the husband came home and announced he had to go to Chania, Crete for two weeks I thought “why not?”
I’ll do a little sightseeing and shopping, work on my tan and take in the sun and the sea while he’s off working. Who knows, I might even be able to get a bit of work done myself. The evenings and weekends he’ll be free to enjoy a bit of a mini summer vacation and we’ll be back home by the second week of August.
Then he added, “Since we’ll already be in Greece, why don’t we take a few weeks off after that? Figure out where you want to go and we’ll spend the rest of August on vacation.” I so didn’t see that one coming. I have tons of projects in the works and figured I’d catch up on them during August. But if there is one thing I can’t do, it’s to say no to the man who has given me the world – figuratively and literally. So with less than two weeks before we were scheduled to leave, I frantically began planning a five-week vacation in the Greek Islands at the height of tourist season.
First priority was to find a hotel in Chania and after a quick search I found many of them had been long booked up. No big surprise there. With miles of sandy beaches, crystal clear blue waters, water sports, snorkeling, diving, and plenty of hiking and gorges to explore in the mountainous terrain of Crete, Chania has been a popular tourist destination since the 1980s.
Luckily for us though there were still some places left and we vacillated back and forth about where we wanted to stay. The old town, the city, the prefecture, Chania offers plenty of choices. Large resort hotels, beach front hotels, self-catered apartment complexes, villas, city hotels, Old Town hotels, and more.
To the west of the city, large resort complexes dot the coastline between the towns of Agia Marina and Platanias. Many of these have just appeared in the last few years, especially in Agia Marina, creating a nearly uninterrupted strip of high-end and midrange beach hotels and resorts intermixed with amusement arcades, tons of souvenir and t-shirt shops, and the obligatory tourist restaurants, bars, and cafes.
I suspect the presence of these new hotels are not exactly welcomed by the locals, and I can understand why. Miles of unspoiled beaches are being over-developed and have become overrun tourist meccas, something I must admit I didn’t give much thought to the first few times I stayed there. But leaving that aside for a moment, this area is still a guilty pleasure for us and I have to admit that every once in a while it’s fun to take a non-working, non-thinking, non-cultural vacation.
We’ve stayed at the Thalassa Beach Resort in Agia Marina several times and like most of these resorts, the front of the hotel sits on the main road with the property to the rear extending to the beach. A stunning hotel, it has a beautiful pool that overlooks the private beach, a spa, and a restaurant and poolside bar. I have loads pictures of the Thalassa and Platanias from our last stay and will add a few to the post when I get back.
To the east of the city, the Perle Resort Hotel and Spa just outside the village of Stavros on the Akrotiri Peninsula still had rooms left. I’ve been to the spa at this “five-star” resort hotel with pool and private beach, and considered staying here. But without a car, it’s location felt a bit too remote to me. Also in the Stavros area I found a number of self-catering options with pools and private beaches, but again a bit too remote.
On the west side of the Old Town of Chania, just a 10 minutes walk from the characteristic Venetian Harbor (which I will write about in another post), a variety of modest and midrange beach hotels and seafood tavernas sit just across the street from the Nea Chora beach. With a large number of self-catering apartments and a free beach, or for just €5,00 you can rent two chairs and an umbrella for the day, the Nea Chora area makes for a very family friendly and affordable vacation.
Economical to be sure, but we were looking for something with a bit more charm and character. In the end we decided to stay in Old Town Chania so we’d have easy access to shops, restaurants and the beach and no need for a car.
I found a small local hotel that, if it was anything like it looked in the pictures on the website, would be ideal. I didn’t know it at the time, but it turned out to be next to one of our favorite Chania restaurants, Tamam and just one short block up from the Venetian Harbor in an alley no wider than our own Vicoletto Belledonne a Chiaia.
One of the hottest tickets in town, more about our quaint little hotel in Chania and lots of pictures in my next post!
More about Chania in our Summer in Chania series.