Spotlight on Spetses
Swedish entrepreneur and photographer Lisa Furuland Kotsianis shares her favourite summer snapshots of elegant Spetses, the Argo-Saronic treasure that’s often called “The Monaco of Greece”.
When did your romance with the island of Spetses begin?
We met a mere five years ago. But it was love at first sight.
How many times have you been back since?
We spend every summer, all summer, in the area. We have a house on the Peloponnesian mainland in Porto Heli, just across the bay from Spetses. We have delightful views of this gem of an island from our house. Spetses is very much part of our summer playground.
What’s the best way to get there?
Either you come by road from Athens, like we do, which is a 3 hour very scenic drive. Then, you catch a water taxi from the port of Kosta. It’s less than a 10-minute ride to cross the bay. Alternatively, you can get on a ferry from Piraeus (Athens). It’s only a 2.5 hour journey.
In one sentence, how would you describe the vibe or mood of your island?
Classical island allure and elegance.
How is it different from other Greek islands?
This small island has managed to be a key player in modern Greek history. The heroine Laskarina Bouboulina played a vital role in Greece’s war for independence, and Bouboulina built and commanded her own warships and took part in numerous naval battles. Her statue still defiantly looks out to sea from its position in front of the impressive Poseidonion Grand Hotel, a truly grand landmark built in 1914 – and at the heart of the Spetses social whirl. The epitome of la belle époque’s timeless elegance, the Poseidonion has always attracted high-profile Athenians and a discerning international crowd. There are also various exciting events organised throughout the year; Spetses Classic Car Race, the Tweed Run, the Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta which gives the island a ‘happening’ vibe. Not to mention satisfying my boys’ weakness for fine cars!
Every year, on the second week of September, the island also puts on one of its biggest shows, the Armata Festival, commemorating the famed battle in 1822, where 100 local ships took on 1000 Ottoman ships and triumphed. The Ottomans were ultimately forced to retreat after their Admiral’s flagship was torched. Many visitors comes to Spetses for this annual event that is celebrated with fireworks and the burning of a large wooden model of the Ottoman ship out in the bay.
Your favourite time of year to go there?
Any time from May to September.
Describe your perfect day in Spetses …
We often come out to play at night. We descend on the island for drinks, dinner and shopping in the evening. We make sure to get there before sunset, though, for a sundowner on Poseidonion Grand’s Verandah terrace before dinner. Or we pop over for a lazy Sunday lunch at one of the lovely seafront restaurants in the old harbour, and then stroll along the seafront back to Dapia (the new harbour), looking at all the beautiful neoclassical buildings and old sea captain’s mansions that line this gorgeous stretch, whilst being overtaken by horse carriages.
Best spot for a sunset cocktail?
Grand’s Verandah. For its cosmopolitan atmosphere (and celebrity spotting potential).
Your favourite beach or swimming spot?
No activity on Spetses compares to a trip out in a boat. Charter one and spend the day at sea. You will get to swim in the most amazing secluded coves all around the island, such as Zogeria, a stunning natural run of sandy bays with natural shade and shallow waters perfect for wading.
Where should we go for an always fabulous dining experience?
It’s hard to beat the truly romantic allure of the Orloff tavern, situated only meters away from the shoreline, in a building from 1802, and overlooking the old harbour.
Tell us one absolutely unmissable experience for first-time visitors …
A drink on Grand’s Verandah, some shopping in the beautiful winding cobbled streets, a meal at one of the waterfront fish taverns, and a walk – or a carriage ride – between Dapia and the old harbour, with the clip-clop of beasts’ hooves serving as the everyday soundtrack.
If your island was a celebrity or other famous person, who would it be?
Someone with grace, integrity and style, someone like Audrey Hepburn.
Do you have a favourite special memory or moment on Spetses?
Simply the seemingly endless, dazzling summers where the world – or more precisely, the prefecture of Argolida and the Saronic Islands, are your oyster. We find ourselves incredibly happy and at peace in this area which we have made ours and call our second home. The cornerstones of our quadrilateral area of summer bliss are: Porto Heli – with the amazing Amanzoe resort closeby, Ermioni – with its beautiful views and great little restaurants, Hydra – the fantastic time-warped charm of an isle with mariners’ mansions amphitheatrically arrayed around the harbour where extravagant yachts rub shoulders during peak season, and last but not least…Spetses. Is it gravity or attraction that keeps pulling me back? Needless to say, it’s the latter.
Lisa Furuland Kotsianis is the founder and CEO of global baby sleep pod brands Sleepyhead® and DockATot®. Lisa, who has studied art history, architecture and photography, recently relocated from Sweden to Athens, where she lives on the Athenian Riviera with her husband and two young sons.