Sun-kissed and spell-bound in Sami, Cephalonia.

Sami

Sami is a coastal haven in the island of Cephalonia in Greece with a modest population of only 1000 villagers but a strikingly abundant wealth of natural delights to see and experience. Sami was once an ancient metropolis and boasts an impressive acropolis that remains as a vestige of its former dominance whilst adding to its current charm. The Sami of today however, is a quaint village focusing on agriculture and fishing resulting in a rustic and enthralling destination that proves to be a perfect destination for your summer holiday. Sami is built on a bustling waterfront and has wide paved streets and a collection of Venetian architecture that are a result of the village’s trade route to Italy; what adds to the already romantic atmosphere of the picturesque village however, is its unique collection of both natural and man-made wonders that pertain to the Classical world really makes Sami triumph as a location to visit.

The coastal village of Sami, as dreamlike as it is, is met by a series of verdurous hills and attractive coves that make access to the natural splendour of the area all the more easy, and all the more accessible.

Sami too, has a breath-taking man-made accomplishments such as the aforementioned acropolis and sacred monasteries such as the small monastery of Agrilia, built in 1722 and decorated in the ornate Greek Orthodox style. I will survey some of the destinations that prove that great things often come in small packages and make a trip to Sami ascend above rival Mediterranean beach resorts, offering a diverse but powerful range of sights to put on the itinerary.

Melissani Cave

Melissani Cave

Melissani Cave is surrounded by forests and encloses a crystal blue lake which is met after advancing through local Sami plant life at the entrance of the Cave. A setting right out of a fairy tale it seems, but alas, that is not the reason Melissani Cave is often known as the Cave of the Nymphs. The reason for the enchanting pseudonym is because of the hauls discovered during the cave’s first expeditions. In 1951 and 1962 oil lamps, plates and figures depicted the Olympian God, Pan and several nymphs. The discoveries led many to believe that the cave once served as an ancient Hellenistic shrine to the creatures of myth. It not just the colloquial name that derives from the nymphs however, but the name ‘Melissani’ is in fact borrowed from one of the nymphs thought to reside there itself.

The supernatural connotations that are carried with the cave are understandable when such natural beauty is apparent, the manner in which the moss-topped rock faces contrast with the pure blue still waters with an overhead illumination from the sky above is both stunning and memorable.

It is no surprise that a popular way to experience the cave is in a quaint little boat tour, in which you are taken across the perimeter of the aquatic cave. The tour journeys through two big chambers, the afore-mentioned sun-lit chamber, wherein a hole in the ceiling enabled sunlight to enter the cave and mingle with the water and illuminating the walls with an ultramarine light. The sense of atmosphere is carries when you sail past a rock-formed island which precedes the second chamber, one filled with a display of naturally-formed and intricate stalagmites and stalactites.

Antisamos Beach

Antisamos Beach

Antisamos Beach is a scenic horseshoe bay and is widely regarded as the most attractive point of interest for visitors to Sami, its fame even spans to Hollywood as it was used as the Italian encampment in the film of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. However, the reason it should be visited is not because of an appearance in the silver screen but because of the untamed and fertile beauty of the beach its turquoise waters and its surrounding hills. The beach is tranquil and refreshing where a swim in the clear waters can be met by an equally clear view of the fishes that swim alongside you. Native Greeks choose to swim at Antisamos and that is because they are smart enough to exploit the gift of a magnificent idyll when they are faced with it.

Bavarian Horse Riding Stables

Bavarian Horse riding stables

The Bavarian horse riding stables are situated just outside of the Sami on the road to Poros which sits in between the villages of Zervata and Koulourata. The stables are run by a friendly and qualified horse riding instructor who opens their stables to anyone of any amount of experience. The reason the Bavarian horse riding stables are featured in this article however, is not due to amenable staff or the gimmick of the learning riding or dressage but due to the fact that on a horse’s back, one is fully equipped to absorb many of the scenic delights of Sami. The horses, like the surrounding area is of a high pedigree, and are both sturdy and elegant, coming from the Haflinger and Bavarian warm blood breeds. During the tours available from the stables, you will traverse Cephalonia and embrace some of the area’s most stunning sights.

Both your eyes and nose are stimulated as you trot through effervescent olive groves and parade through fruit orchards and the slopes of Mount Ainos; what can also be visited are the aforementioned monastery of Agrilia and Melissani Cave.

If the warm Mediterranean sun causes you to break into a sweat, there is also the option to ride your horse amidst the gentle waves of the Sea.

Sami Acropolis

The antiquated acropolis of Sami is the counterpart to the modern, vibrant village you see today and existed as a powerful fortified town from the Palaeolithic period. The acropolis sits atop a cliff of the Lapitha Mountain and bears ruins that indicate the once densely populated town that once fought in the Trojan War was so eternalised in Homer’s famous Iliad and Odyssey. In 188 BC, Sami was in fact conquered in a siege by the Romans, the result however, was not wholly detrimental for the town. Sami flourished due to the trade development that the Roman’s brought with them, resulting in the building of grand houses and public building that make the ruined acropolis such a compelling site to visit. Furthermore if imagining the remnants of the ancient town as the bustling place it used to be is not your intention, a visit to the acropolis is worthwhile just for the views alone. As it sits so high, the panoramic views of Cephalonia, Thaca, Lefkas and even mainland Greece are available and awe-inspiring. Not to mention the site is populated by roaming cattle, mountain goat and beautiful swarms of butterflies which add life and charm to the now extinct ancient town.

Sami is somewhat of a hidden gem and may not be at the top of the list of those wishing to delve into the heart of the Mediterranean. That however, should be remedied, Sami is stunning, rustic and sings with vivacity whether it be the memories of its glory days as an ancient metropolis or the glorious sights and culture that welcomes a visitor and seemingly persuades them to always come back!