Santorini


The isle shaped from lava is one of infinite beauty, «the daughter of a great fury» as described by the Nobel laureate poet Odysseas Elytis. Santorini owes its topography to a volcanic eruption around 1500 B.C. the angry volcano spewed hot lava, submerging the center of the island and extinguising two civilizations. Thira is the island’s ancient name; Santorini is the name it was given during Venetian rule. Santorini mesmerizes visitors with its architecture—the hyposkafa, homes dug into the ash, and the stately two-story sea captains’ mansions built with black volcanic rock that form the settlements balancing at edge of sheer drops. The island has a natural proclivity for surprises such as finds pointing to the dietary habits of this ancient culture found recently during excavations at Akrotiri. Islanders’ traditional diets comprised of pomegranates, figs, almonds, olives, olive oil, legumes, cockles, sea urchins, scallops, limpets, and souvlaki! Every home in ancient Akrotiri had a four-sided stone platform for its hearth. The ceramic vessel used to cook food was placed on this hearth, which was also used to roast meat on a spit, like a souvlaki, as suggested by the special supports found during recent excavations. Santorini cuisine is as flavorful and varied today—the famed fava (puree of yellow split peas), fluffy tomato patties and courgette balls, a spicy eggplant dip, juicy sun-dried cherry tomatoes, flavorful tomato paste, white eggplant, fried seafood, cured pork in sweet Visanto wine and fennel seed. The island has produced wine since the second millennium B.C. with its marvelous local grapes—assyrtiko, athiri, aidani. Visanto is the famed local wine used for communion by Orthodox churches in the Russian empire. Old endemic vines grow in sandy soil composed of lava and volcanic ash. Because of the fierce meltemi winds that sweep the islands, vines are twisted into a small protective basket called ampelia or kouloura around the grapes. Additional shelter from the winds is provided by the walls of the stone terraces built from hardened lava.

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