Growing Up Greek: Interview with Stellene Volandes

Stellene Volandes, the editor-in-chief of Town & Country, has been visiting Greece annually since childhood. Here, she shares what she treasures most about Greek culture and which islands she recommends for an off-the-beaten-path escape.What are your earliest memories of Greece? I went with my family almost every summer growing up. My first memories are of being in the back of a car driving to my father’s birthplace in a mountain village called Arna, in the Peloponnese. I came to really love Greece, and Athens especially, when I went back as a reporter. I did a story on shopping for jewelry in the city and got connected to some great people who showed me a secret Athens that went well beyond the Acropolis, a city filled with creative energy and hidden gems.What makes Greece such a special destination for you? It’s so connected to my family history and to my life. I grew up in a very tight Greek community in Brooklyn, so parts of Greece were present in my whole New York life. But there is something wonderful about a place that feels so familiar yet still offers so much to discover. Despite how familiar I am with Greece (I know the language, the best place to get coffee in the Athens airport and the newest spot to shop for evil-eye necklaces), I could still go every summer and visit a different island if I wanted to.Related: Best of Greece

What is your favorite aspect of Greek culture? There is a word for it—philoxenia—which is about warmth and kindness to strangers. This translates to a shop owner offering you coffee and cookies from the moment you enter their store, to friends of friends of friends taking you under their wing and hosting you with a generosity that is surprising to most but utterly expected in Greek culture.Which islands are your favorite and why? I have a soft spot for Santorini, but that’s because of the beautiful Perivolas Hotel—I spent some of the favorite vacations in that paradise. But what I love most is pairing an island like Santorini, Mykonos or Paros with a less developed, smaller island like Folegandros or Milos. I visited Milos last summer, and it was a revelation. I expect it to become more and more packed with people, so go soon!Related: Insider SantoriniWhat is your ideal weeklong Greece itinerary? My most recent trip included a few days on Milos and on Spetses at the Poseidonion Hotel

( We then took a boat to Amanzoe for a few days of Greek heaven and spent a few final days in Athens. That itinerary gave me the best Greece has to offer: the dramatic beach landscapes and rustic charm of Milos, the more refined international vibe of Spetses and then pure authentic Greek luxury at Amanzoe. In Athens, dinner at Papadakis is a must.

What are your favorite hotels in Greece? Grande Bretagne in Athens, Perivolas in Santorini, Amanzoe in Porto Heli.

Pool at dusk at Amanzoe in Porto Heli Greece

What is your favorite book or movie about Greece? The film Zorba the Greek. The freedom and joy the character finds in the simple pleasure of dance says so much about Greek culture.What is your favorite souvenir from Greece? An evil-eye necklace.What is your favorite Greek saying? Currently it’s epatha sok, which means “I am shocked.” I love when Greek and English get smashed together.What is your favorite Greek dish? Youvetsi, a meat stew with tomato, orzo and feta.What is your favorite Greek myth? My niece is currently reading The Odyssey, and reliving those tales has been pretty great.Contact Indagare for assistance planning a customized trip to Greece.

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