Given the past few years, you’ll have noticed that travel isn’t quite what it used to be. Instagram. Brexit. Covid. America. But let’s not get into a row over it. Far better, in our eyes, just to pick your holidays with a more judicious, exacting eye — and to use our handy, highly unsubjective, Med-ready reckoner to do so. Bonnes vacances, friends.
Where's In... ?
Porto Ercole, Italy
Remember that Slim Aarons photo with the tanned lady poised elegantly on the end of a gleaming white speedboat seconds before it docks on a wooden jetty, the two just about to touch, like Adam and god on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Well, that was shot at Porto Ercole, the elegant Tuscan bolthole perhaps best famed for housing Il Pellicano, one of the most understated but lovely hotels on the planet. Thankfully, the handsome little port town has remained largely in its Slim Aarons pomp ever since the snap was taken.
This tiny Greek island has stayed pleasingly below-the-radar, and is a favourite of some of London’s most tasteful tastemakers — a label, you’ll notice, they would tastefully despise. Along with Paros, Naxos (we’ll get to that) and Koufonisia, Antiparos makes up the central Cyclades region — not too far from the thrumming, Insta-scarred likes of Mykonos and Santorini (we’ll get to them, too), but somehow a whole world apart. Dotted in simple white homes, and almost eerily serene, acolytes of the island spend their time at rocky beach restaurants that haven’t changed much since the 1960s, and in gorgeous, sprawling, open-plan villas.
Isola Bella, Italy
“Beautiful Island” – surely that’s enough of an allure to bring you here. This tiny, craggy spot, whose outline takes the form of an oversized ankylosaurus-tail club (or something along those lines) is one of the most stunning features of the Sicilian coastline, and it is especially pleasant in September and October, when peak tourist season is over and the sea is gorgeously warm. You won’t get much Corleone-inspired travellers here (grazie, dio), but you should still make like a character from a Lampedusa novel and live it large in one of the mainland’s bayside stays. If rich in time, it’s also worth hopping across the sea to Porto Katsiki, for its huge vertical cliffs.
It’s back to the Cyclades for a second time, with Naxos. Likely the best-known destination on our list, the largest of this island group has lush green gorges, stunning seascapes and remote villages where locals still live, dress and eat in a traditional manner. Though hiking is the order of day, we’d rather that you find yourself a beach restaurant and try some local specialities – Tortuga, a coastal bistro with a bohemian style, serves some of the finest meze dishes and cocktails worthy of an ancient-style bacchanalia.
Where's Out... ?
Overripe, overhyped, and somehow all a bit Tony Blair-era — full of people who peaked pre-Millennium Dome, one feels. There are beautiful parts to it, of course, including some truly lovely little coastal spots, and several highly interesting private villas set in rolling, rocky, almost jungle-ish grounds. But, in general, Ibiza’s clientele seems to bounce between sweaty stag-do ravers, finance bros with NDAs, and born again yogis from west London who think the island might finally be the answer. Spoiler alert: it isn’t.
Loud, overrun, blotted with unfinished villa projects, and not even particularly pretty, Mykonos is Greece’s self-proclaimed party island. And like anyone who calls themselves, say, a ‘party person’, one can never escape the sense that the place is just trying a little too hard. DJs play in the supermarkets. Restaurants offer special Instagram-grade tables. Everyone has suspicious lips. It is not, as its fiercest loyals might claim, a vibe.
A beautiful cascade of white-washed, softly domed houses; a dazzling vista of sparkling blue sea. Santorini, the southernmost of the Cyclades, is rather unique — just unique enough, in fact, for everyone to take the precise same photos of themselves while they’re on it. Instagrammers literally queue up at the best vantage points to capture the same shot — usually while clutching an oversized hat to their head, for some reason — and the whole place hums with the edgy timbre of competitive vanity. A great shame, because the island is genuinely good and obviously very pretty. One day, years from now, it will be used as a visual case study on how Millennials ruined everything.
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