Discover A Maze Of Stone Cottages Straggling Down The Cliffside To The Dark Sea Below

Monemvasía means “single entrance,” and indeed the only way into Monemvasía town, or the craggy, Gibraltar-like little isle on which it rests, is through a stone archway at the foot of a fortress. Its massive wood-and-iron doors are permanently pushed aside, rotting picturesquely as muscular boys wheel carts of produce, water bottles, and fresh laundry along the cobblestones. Tourists enterprising enough to find and pass through the arch discover a maze of stone cottages straggling down the cliffside to the dark sea below.
Monemvasía island is tiny—a little over a mile long and just 328 yards high—but it is a minor marvel. After splitting from the mainland during an earthquake in A.D. 375, the protected citadel of Monemvasía eventually became the island that time forgot. Its allure is not sun, sea, and nightlife but rather the ability to live, however briefly, in another age. Its architecture has remained virtually unchanged since the days of the Byzantine Empire, when it was a signi…

They Loved Being Buffeted By The Waves And Then Reclining On A Rock, Letting The Tide Rush Over

There are more restaurants on my Manhattan block than on the entire island, but after working up an appetite swimming (it is a remarkably choppy sea), I was able to discern differences among each of the three tavernas that make up Monemvasía’s culinary trifecta. To Kanoni had the most interesting local dishes, such as saiti, a crêpelike spinach pie. Across the street, Marianthi lacked a view but had great specials, including thin green peppers stuffed with cheese. And I ate two dinners at Matoula’s, which had the largest terrace, so I could watch well-fed cats leap across roof tiles below me in the twilight while I ate spicysoutzoukakia (meatballs).
It didn’t take long for me to feel like a native. So I was barely surprised when, as I walked down the street one morning, someone called my name. It was the maître d’ from my favorite hotel in Athens, the Grande Bretagne. “I grew up here!” he bragged. “Well, in a village on the mainland. We would come here for church, for festivals.” A g…