Almost like a film set, the tiny harbour of Assos on the west coast of Kefalonia, is improbably picturesque, with pastel coloured houses encrusting the small isthmus from which sprouts a pine-covered headland, crowned with a Venetian fortress. The village enfolds in its plump and pretty arms a small beach and a perfectly limpid bay with waterfront tavernas and cafes. Tables and chairs are set under the shade of giant oleanders and jacarandas.
The striking thing about Assos is not this perfect postcard scene, but the crumbling village mansion facades with stone lintels that line the narrow lanes, all romantically overgrown with morning glory and jasmine. They testify to Assos’ past as home to wealthy captains and times of rural prosperity. Now, these crumbling mansions are all for sale, with telephone numbers sprayed over walls, speaking of spread-out emigration and cousinage from New York to Australia.
To restore one of these beauties, and then be adopted by Assos as a summer resident would be a dream. For me, it has the ultimate luxury, of being able to walk from your house down through the village in a swimsuit and bare feet, along the little coastal boardwalk for 10 metres, and then dive into clear warm water, swim alone with a Venetian fortress on one side, and the magnificent cliff-backed beaches of the Kefalonia’s west coast on the other, and then back for breakfast under the oleander trees.
Perhaps Greece’s crumbling financial state at the moment is an opportunity for a Prince Charming to wake up one of these sleeping beauties with a good, firm kiss. If he isn’t quite ready for marriage, we can always find him something to rent while he thinks about it.