It is very likely for the visitor of Monemvasia to be tempted to get the big decision and give up everything up to that moment and make a new beginning in his life at this magical place. After wandering in the mystical streets of Castle Town or “being lost” in any scenic route, beach or village in this unique “corner” of Laconia this decision comes naturally!
This has already happened. Not once but many times…
“I was travelling with my motorbike from Mani to Chalkidiki in the summer of 2004 when I met an Italian guy who had a house in Mesochori. He suggested me to visit Neapoli, and so I did. I will never forget that day when I woke up for the first time in Mesochori. I sat on the balcony of my friend’s house, drinking my coffee… and I realized that I wished this view to last forever. In 2006 I bought a house, which I started to fix during my vacation. However, I started to spend more time here in 2012” says Paolo Triggiani from Milan, Italy.
Although Paolo spends most of his time in Mesochori, he does not live permanently there. Owing to the fact that his family and his income are in Italy, he is forced to return to his homeland three to four times a year. Sometimes he stays there for long periods of time.
It seems that Paolo travels between Milan – Mesochori during the year at the same time that Isabelle Sonnard – Giannou, from Switzerland has “rooted” in the “Stone Boat” of Ritsos, the rock of Monemvasia, since 2004.
It was then that she and her husband, Christos Giannou, met for the first time in Monemvasia.
“Perhaps I was destined to live under the blue Greek sky once I inherited a name by marriage: Γιάννου. My husband and I fell head over heels when we first encountered Monemvasia: dinner on a magnificent terrace overlooking the sea, a pregnant full moon bursting forth on the horizon, and a beautiful property for sale ...”
“I don’t think that Christos and I chose Monemvasia, it’s the Kastro that chose us! We fell in love with the place and did everything possible, once we returned to Geneva, Switzerland, to realise our dream to live here, without searching for anywhere else. We knew that this is where we wanted to sink our anchor” says Isabelle, one of the permanent residents of Castle Town of Monemvasia and owner of the hotel “Monopati”.
As Isabelle says, although they have lived in Monemvasia for 11 years, she and her husband are still under the charm of Castle Town.
We stay … Monemvasia
“Why in Monemvasia? Above all for its silence: a place free from the maddening thunder of cars and motorcycles is a precious gift these days, especially for Christos who has lived in war zones as a surgeon for so many years. For the wealth of its history, for the song of the birds in the early morning air. For the beauty that inspires us, for the people who surround us: our fellow residents and those who are just passing through” points out Isabelle.
To the very same calm and beauty Paolo refers when he says,
“As I was growing up I started wondering if I was wasting my life rushing everyday to the office looking forward to the week-ends and dreaming of just 20 days per year to spend in Greece. The answer I gave to myself was yes....I was wasting little by little my life. I also realized that most of the things I was spending money for, were things I actually didn’t need. Mostly it had to do with things that TV and media told us we should buy. I realized I needed few things to be happy (or not to be unhappy)… and I could have them here. I could rent my house in Italy and it would give me enough money to survive in Neapoli thanks to the lower life style and the availability of so many beautiful things to be for free (the sky, the sun, the stars, the sea, the animals...all things you should pay for where I come from)”.
As he says, the big cities offer you many opportunities for fun and anything you may want, but you should be able to pay for all these.
“But if you need money probably you will need to sell the time you need to enjoy it” points out Paolo, who delighted says that Mesochori is just 10 minutes from Neapoli, while it takes one hour to reach your office in big cities.
A different, simple daily routine
Paolo has taken up fishing and snorkelling.
“My main hobby is fishing, mainly for getting something to eat. I take care of my house and sometimes I help friends with some works (collecting olives for example). This keeps me busy enough. I never get bored apart from February and March. These two months are quite boring...but believe me when I say that you cannot understand how sad and long winter can be in Milan” says Paolo, who underlines that with the income of his rent, he is trying to survive and live day by day.
Daily life for Isabelle is a bit different as she tries to tend her clients.
“I love beginning my day with a dip in the water at the Portello. Then, I take care of my guests, clean and arrange the houses so that everything is in tip-top shape. Shopping in Gefyra allows me to share a coffee and exchange local news with friends. I love to read. It’s a way to travel, to learn about other lands and cultures. Sometimes, however, I feel stuck on the rock, immobile in a strange way but, once at home in the Kastro, everything else falls away” says Isabelle, who does not miss out to suggest to her clients what to do in the wider region of Monemvasia.
“I know the region well, and never miss out on telling my guests about things to do, for example, visiting the water mill in Talanta on a Sunday morning, or going to Limani Geraka for a meal of fresh fish, or seeing the Kastania caves” says Isabelle who makes jams, marmalades and soaps in her free time while she collects capers and oregano as well as other wild goods as she rushes out to discover the region.
The place, the people and… το φιλότιμο
Paolo and Isabelle make a special mention to people of Monemvasia for their warmth and hospitality, while Isabelle feels the desire “to thank everyone for their patience during my apprenticeship in learning this beautiful, but very complicated, Greek language”.
“In conclusion, Monemvasia is for me a jewel that requires a great deal of care. It is a place full of history where the aesthetic dominates, where the star-filled nights are unforgettable, and the peacefulness makes it a unique spot. Its people are warm and welcoming. I hope that we will do everything possible to keep our authenticity and not try to resemble other places in Greece, because Monemvasia is unique and its soul must be saved. This charm, outside of time, is its principal advantage. I consider myself privileged to be able to live in the Kastro” says Isabelle, while Paolo gives his own description for Monemvasia and its people.
“There is something that, as far as I know, the “Republic of Neapoli” can offer: the people. Nowhere in Greece had I found so much “filotimia” as here. Since the first time I came here, even if I didn’t know anybody here...I felt I was not alone. In Milano I knew so many but I was always alone. When my house was still a ruin...no windows, no doors...every day somebody was giving me something: a heating machine, blankets, food...anything. When I left Milano the only thing that people around me had asked me it was: “what are you going to do with your TV and your clothes? can I have them?”… You know that there is no Italian translation for “filotimi”'? Guess why!” says Paolo.