Fira is meant to be the jewel in Santorini’s crown. As the main town it sees thousands of tourists pacing its streets every summer as they gather to experience its breath-taking views, stylish boutiques, caldera cable-car rides and luxury hotels. But this, in my eyes, is essentially where the problem lies. Fira has become a caricature, and an over-crowded one at that. I guess that this is unavoidable to a certain extent. Whenever a location gains fame or recognition it then becomes obliged to conform to the stereotype it has created. It reminds me of cities like Seville, which travel writers have noted as having become so obsessed with hanging onto the charm and tradition that made them popular the first time round that they have lost their edge and have missed out on the exciting new projects, contemporary architecture and forward-thinking ideas which have made cities such as Barcelona eclectic as they offer a fresher blend of old and new. In the case of Fira, this has come in the form of blue and white novelty souvenirs, fish pedicure salons, peeling photographs (all of exactly the same view), and t-shirts emblazoned with mimicked Ancient Greek fonts. Obviously tourists will continue to stream in and out on a daily basis but for those who are able to opt for Oia instead should definitely do so – it feels much more genuine, relaxed and authentic. Having said this, the views in Fira were incredible.
Lunch was served at Volcano Blue where our waiter’s threadbare pants were viewable through his battered cargo trousers. This turned out to be to our advantage as it put off the snobby tourists – we had the roof terrace to ourselves. Obviously the service wasn’t of the silver standard, and it wasn’t the best meal of my life, but it was delicious and came in the heartiest of portion sizes. Order the mussel and octopus pasta and you won’t be disappointed.
When our calves started to feel the strain of traipsing up and down the steep face of the caldera we began our pursuit for something ice-cold and with a view. Vitamin Bar on the terrace of Hotel Porto Carra fitted the bill. Iced-coffees, cold chocolate milk (my newly-discovered guilty pleasure) and freshly blended juices are served in Shoreditch-esque glass milk bottles with chunky straws.
And the view just speaks for itself…
So Fira wasn’t quite as charming as I had anticipated and having to walk at the same pace as the gaggle of tourists in front of us (who were, may I just add, wearing kitten heels on cobbled stone paths and steep slopes!) was not entirely enjoyable. However, as a one-off day trip it was great, and worth it to get another glimpse of volcanic wonders in every shade of steely marine blue.