Nafplio: A Little-Known Venetian Escape in Greece

With a coffee in hand, I walk onto my sprawling terrace, where I can see the castle of Pelamidi on top of the cliffs. It imparts a mystical ambience over the romantic Venetian old town of Nafplio, the coastal Greek city I call home when I’m in Europe from spring to fall.

It’s the beginning of May, the temperature is already in the 70s F, and the birds are chirping! It’s like a mini retreat, and I’m excited to start my morning routine of meditation, writing my morning pages, and maybe even playing my ukulele or piano for some creativity.

I love to walk and swim. Every day I complete between three and 10 miles, depending on which routes I want to take and any errands that I need to make. I absolutely love walking from the cliffside pathway.

There is a five-and-a-half-mile walk through nature with panoramic views of the seaside. Not only can you walk from the sandy bay beach all the way to the next beach, which is nestled between the cliffs (and under the castle), it leads you all the way into the old downtown!

Video: Life in Nafplio, Greece

Everything is connected. I usually stop in one of the smaller secluded beaches to go for a dip and to lay in the sunshine and take in the glorious sites.

Nafplio is not too touristy, but most locals speak some English and while enjoying my beach time or walks, I’m surrounded by expats and visitors from around the world, as well as locals.

You can totally get by without speaking Greek. I only know a few phrases at the moment, and feel at ease within most of my daily communication. The people are as warm as the sunshine here.

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Once I make my way downtown, I stroll through the picturesque Venetian streets—an architectural holdover from the medieval occupation—pop into my favorite stores, and join a friend for lunch at a local taverna. The fresh fish is scrumptious and melts in your mouth.

The streets of Nafplio’s old town
The streets of Nafplio’s old town are pleasant to stroll through and feature a selection of stores, bars, and restaurants. ©Jacelyn Holmes

I like Aropaki, Tsakiris, or Tabernaki tavernas and sometimes opt for the lamb (this region is known for that)—and of course, their wines. We’re neighbors with Namea, the largest wine producing region in all of Greece.

I usually spend under €15 ($16) to €20 ($21) for an entire meal and that can include the wine too! After-all, I’m living a vacation life, so wine is more than acceptable in the afternoon.

If I’m in a hurry, I go to Tasty Grill and grab a souvlaki or gyro pita for €3.50 ($3.80).

After lunch, I head to the street market. We have a local market twice a week and I love coming on Saturdays. I’ll usually walk away with many bags packed full, for around €10 ($10.70)! Local tip: If you go near the end of the day (around 2 p.m.) the prices are half of what they were when the day started.

I return home to work for a few hours. The internet is reliable here. I usually spend time on my retreat company, Our Song Retreats, write a wedding song, write a magazine article, coach one of my online clients, or practice my own material for an upcoming jazz show.

Today, I’m hosting two best friends from Canada on a private retreat. They’re glowing and refreshed, since they climbed the 999 steps from the old town to the castle to take in the majestic views from up top and all the historical sites.

It’s truly stunning from the top of the castle… There are no words to describe it. Some decide to drive or take a five-minute taxi up, others make the climb! There are many historical spots throughout the town to learn about the history of Nafplio.

Interesting fact: it used to be the capital of Greece before Athens took on this title.

Sunset is best viewed from my terrace while sipping traditional Tsipouro or Ouzo liquor. The colors that blast through the sky and over the mountain peaks are breathtaking.

Sometimes I go take a stroll on the promenade and look at all the yachts and catamarans in port. It’s easy to book a boating trip and also very affordable for a day out on the sea, the sunset cruises are particularly special.

Last week we hosted the International Yacht Week. It was such a lively experience, with many super yachts and parties galore.

Tonight, I’m singing at the Arts center, a jazz club and bistro that offers amazing jazz concerts for free. They also have a beautiful art gallery in the same vicinity. Nafplio is the home for the largest arts university in the country, so the town has a strong artistic community.

There are many shop owners that make all of their clothing and trinkets. There is live music on the streets, people painting, dancing and cool bars for socializing or clubbing even.

As a single woman, I appreciate the arts and culture and the buzzing nightlife. I really look forward to the seaside clubs and bars where DJs play all night. Best of all, I feel very safe and often walk home.

Nafplio has the vibe and slow pace of a paradise island. But it’s only an hour-and-a-half from Athens and its international airport, so I still feel connected to the world.

I’m also a 20-minute drive to the largest and oldest theater in the world (Epidavros), which still puts on theatrical productions… 30 minutes from amazing wineries reminiscent ofItaly’s Tuscany… Only an hour to beautiful islands like Spetes, and Hydra… And of course right here, within walking distance, are beautiful beaches, huge mountains, nature, water activities and a charming old town that wraps you in its romantic streets.

I’m so happy I took a leap of faith to make Nafplio my part-time home.

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