16 July 2024
Escapes

Kalamata, the magical city of Four Seasons and 1000 Faces

I always try to find places that make me feel home  away from home. It’s this tendency I’ve had  since I was a  kid to visit cities and countries that speak to my heart. Being an ambivert personality which means that I tend to have both extrovert and introvert moments I try to pick places where I can easily recharge ,  stay away from the crowd when I find it necessary, and at the same time enjoy myself to the fullest if I feel like it. So, Kalamata, one of the biggest cities of the Peloponnese peninsula, undeniably satisfies both needs. 

There is nothing pretentious about this city, nor glamorous while at the same it is extremely beautiful and authentic. With an endless multicolored pebble beach of more than 5 km stretching under the sleepless eye of Mount Taygetos, this city will definitely make you want to come back. Some actually call Kalamata the city of a thousand faces because it offers so many options that it is impossible to do everything in one trip. And as a result you keep coming back and you keep discovering new things until you say “ yes Kalamata is one of my favorite destinations” and only a 2 hour drive from Athens, so one of  the best weekend getaway destinations. 

Where to stay

We chose Filoxenia for our long weekend escape for three reasons. First, it’s the hotel of my childhood memories where I spent my most beautiful summers  with my parents and my beloved grandmother. There is nothing more satisfying like sharing your  memories with you own kids while creating new ones. Second, the idyllic garden with the  pool that leads directly to the turquoise waters of the hotel’s beach is a privilege owned exclusively to Filoxenia. 

Last but not least, it is a value for money choice  because it offers good family packages, and also the hotel  is not huge so you still get to have this family atmosphere that we opted for. There are definitely visible areas for improvement such as the outdated rooms and internal common areas but the outdoor space makes up for the flaws which, however, can be disturbing depending on one’s personal needs. In any case you have several options for accommodation based on your needs and priorities.

Where to Eat 

On the first day we decided to stay in and dine early at the hotel’s restaurant to enjoy the amazing sunset this city generously offers from every corner.

In the evening we took a nice walk at the marina where we tasted some local sweet delicacies at the famous pastry shop Athanasiou. Check the link here https://www.athanasiou1938.com/

The next day as we could not leave this magical beach we ordered lunch from the beach bar Ipanema  and continued swimming until 20:00 in the evening. 

If you are a fish lover then Ksimeroma or Kourkoutas  is the right tavern for you. Situated just a little bit further from Filoxenia on your way to Verga, this hidden family restaurant with a terrace that embraces the Messinian Gulf is the perfect place for dinner.

Other than fish there are meat and vegetarian options but for me the fried zucchini and the baked bread to dip in your freshly chopped Greek salad is my kind of heaven. Combined with the cold beer “Kalamatianos”  from the local Mani brewery, it was all I could ask for.

For more info on the brewery click here 

There are so many sides of Kalamata worth writing about  but what absolutely took my breath away was  the fortified replica  castle from the Middle Ages, Kastraki in Verga which offers  the best city view and even better cocktails and a big range of Messinian wines.

Needless to  mention the chocolate soufflé with vanilla ice cream and the banoffee hemisphere that my daughters keep talking about. I went for a non-alcoholic drink called Aegean which was absolutely refreshing. More on this beautiful bar restaurant here 

 http://kastraki-meteoro.gr/en/kastraki-cafe-bar-restaurant/

Our third day was all about exploring the Agora and the local products. An early swim gave us all the energy we needed in order to face the 37 degrees heat and head to the old city which is filled with neoclassical buildings, 19th century churches fashion boutiques, art shops, rock bars  local ouzeries ( traditional cafes that offer ouzo and local mezze) but also shops with the region’s products. 

The old bakery Fraggeas  with the most tasty lalaggia won my impression. More than 100 years old, this small shop with the biggest wood stove ( can bake more than 80 kilos of bread in one go) offers a variety of orange, cinnamon and honey cookies but also different types of bread and rusks.

When you go to Kalamata one of the things you definitely need to try out  is the famous cheese Sfella , a hard salty cheese with a very rich and unique taste.  We were told to visit Polyphemus cheese dairy where the lady working there  told me how to replace feta  with sfella for my salad and she also gave me  the recipe for the most amazing cheese mezze, “ fried smoked saganaki” which I will include in my food section later on. As you walk down Aristomenous Street, don’t forget to explore  the Londos and Varvoutsis arcades, which are full of life and good food. One thing is sure, in Kalamata you eat well. 

And because the city  has been gaining a lot of audience in the area of fine dining we enjoyed a great dinner at Poseidon Ocean  View  https://poseidonkalamata.com/ a 5 times awarded restaurant . If you ever come here try out the ravioli with crab filling and the amazing fresh cod burger. The big list of cocktails satisfies even the most demanding but for me the highlight of the evening was the great saxophone player who made our last evening  special with his great lounge melodic playing. 

On our way to Mani

And we saved the best for last. I never leave Kalamata without bringing home a few  big white pebbles from Kitries beach, a village situated in Messinian Mani.

There is a place that holds a special spot in my heart. This place is called “Gaitanaros”, a fish restaurant by the sea situated in the modest village of Kitries. Its effortless beauty lies on its authentic greek simplicity.The moment you arrive there you feel like someone has thrown you into an undiscovered postcard where clock stops ticking and life starts embracing its truthful meaning; gratitude for the moment, for the setting, and for the endless blue.


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