The Cretan home of John and Joanne Chidgey, from Watford, is revered not just by their guests, but the whole village of Kounali. The old olive press — which they have renovated into a fourbedroom, holiday home — has always been a communal site for the villagers, whose ancestors built it 200 years ago by dragging stones up the mountain.
“We keep finding out new stories about it from locals who just pass by,“ says John, a 49-year-old management consultant. “The shepherd stops by every few days for a glass of raki.” The warm, laid-back nature of the people is something the Chidgeys love about Crete, where they fell in love 30 years ago, honeymooned and now bring their three teenage girls for holidays.
They have investment properties in Spain, but a village house in Crete was always their dream and they bought the barn-like olive press for €55,000 (£36,666) five years ago. After an 18-month purchase process, the same time spent renovating it and a £80,000£100,000 builders’ bill, the house is now valued at about €600,000 (£317,400).
“We built a pool over the old stone water-tank and a guest suite beneath it,” says John. “And we put a mezzanine floor above the main living area for another bedroom. But the setting is the real selling point. Surrounded by olive-grove covered hills with only the sound of cowbells to interrupt the stillness, it‘s the sort of place where you lose all sense of time.”