English breakfasts, scrumptious homemade desserts (plum and nectarine crumble included) and jugs of homemade lemonade. More: symivisitor.com.
A ALMOST ITALY: Between 1912 and 1943, the island was ruled from Rome and a short walk from the port past the Venetian tower is Harani Bay, known as Little Italy because of its fine neoclassical buildings and waterside cafes, especially the one at the Aliki Hotel, where, thanks to an Italian espresso machine, it serves some of the best coffee on the island. Note the Vespas parked nearby and the locals who feed the fish that rise from the luminous depths of the harbour just beyond their tables. It could be a scene from La Dolce Vita, Fellini’s 1960 paean to Rome. More: symi-hotel-aliki.gr.
S SEAFOOD UNDER THE STARS: At the end of Harani Bay past the little boatbuilding yard on an elbow of land with 270-degree water views is Restaurant Tholos, a taverna that specialises in seafood. If you happen to pass the place in the early morning, you’ll find the owner unloading the day’s catch straight off his boat, across the cobbled quay into his kitchen. Locals often gather around to pick their fish for dinner. On hot evenings, Tholos is cooled by gentle breezes, thanks to the shape of the bay, and as dusk falls it’s the perfect spot to watch the lights of the town rise up the mountain and meet the stars. On the west bank of the main harbour, the ever-popular Mythos serves “Modern Greek” dishes such as calamari with cappuccino foam and sea bream with ouzo and fennel. More: symivisitor.com.
V VILLAGE PEOPLE: On a rugged cove at the remote southern tip of the island is the imposing Panormitis Monastery, dedicated to the Archangel Michael, allegedly built on the ruins of an ancient temple in the 15th century. The monks are welcoming, as are the locals who live in the tiny village nearby. Inside the monastery grounds are white colonnaded courtyards, Byzantine mosaics and frescoes, flickering beeswax candles, swaying silver lanterns, incense and chanting monks. It makes a great day trip on a boat from the port.
IN THE SWIM: Symi’s beaches are short on sand butb big on drama and all of them are accessible byb boat. Agios Georgios, a smooth-pebbled bay backed by a sheer 300m cliff, served as a film location for the war film The Guns of Navarone. Take your own provisions as there’s no taverna. Closer to the harbour is Agia Marina, a small crescent of sand with sunbeds, umbrellas and a whitewashed taverna and bar opposite a small blue-and-white church on an islet, an easy swim across the lagoon. Then there are the castaway coves further along the coast, Nanou and Marathounta, where the smooth pebbled beaches back on to aromatic pine-clad valleys from which stealthy goats arrive to raid the picnics of swimmers foolish enough to leave them unattended. Not all is lost if you lose your lunch as both beaches have tavernas, where you could take bittersweet revenge by ordering goat casserole.
TURKISHT DELIGHTS: Search for bargains galore and sharpen your bargaining skills in the Grand Bazaar of Marmaris, a Turkish port less than 15 nautical miles east of Symi. Marmaris is an easy day trip during peak summer months (stroll down to Pavlou Quay to ask when the next boat goes), otherwise it’s a twice-hourly scheduled ferry journey via Rhodes. No visa is required for visits of less than 72 hours but don’t forget your passport (and check to see if visa access has changed before you depart). Families should make a post-bazaar visit to the Marmaris Aqua Dream Water Park, where dozens of impressive water slides, rides and pools make it the perfect place to cool down after a morning of heated bargaining. More: marmarisferry.com; aquadreammarmaris.com. ROOMS WITH A VIEW: On Harani Bay is the charming 15-room Aliki Hotel, a three-storey Italianate mansion awash with glamour, where guests are lulled to sleep by the sound of lapping waves metres below their guestroom windows. Inside this former sea captain’s house is a pale green lobby with polished timber floors, antiques, vintage padded leather armchairs and historic prints of Symi Harbour. The hotel restaurant and terrace is next door and the three harbour-facing suites on the second floor have balconies. On the heights of Chorio is Hotel Fiona (pictured), an elegant establishment owned by Fiona and Michaelis Halkritis, where the 14 guestrooms, decorated in blues and greens, have sensational views of the harbour and over the Aegean all the way to Turkey. More: symi-hotel-aliki.gr; fionahotel.com.