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Places

Ionian Islands

Interview: Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou
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Location: Kefalonia
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Words: Jack Moss
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Shot by: Paul Wetherell for SMR Days

Some places stay with you forever. As we capture SMR Days in its element – on the sun-drenched shorelines and open seas of Greece – our favourite fashion insiders share why it’s the one country they will never forget. From Athens to the Ionian islands, it’s an ode to brighter days ahead, and the places we’ll spend them – whether we have to wait a little longer to get away or not. When that day comes, Greece is top of our travel list. We promise you it will be worth the wait. 

Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou is the effervescent force behind 10 and 10 Men magazines, the glossy style bibles she first founded in 2001 and remains editor-in-chief to this day. On a usual summer when the magazines wrap, you’ll find Sophia on her beloved ‘Kefi’, the Ionian Greek island of Kefalonia she has been visiting for two decades.

» Do you remember the first time you visited Kefalonia?

Zac, my son, was tiny – he was like three, so it must be 20 years that I’ve been going. It became a home from home. It was love at first experience…

» What is it that you loved – and still love – about it?

The simplicity of the way of life there. How uncommercialised it is – it still feels authentically Grecian. It has that real sense of island life. As time’s gone on we’ve travelled there out of season: we’ve been there in spring, in winter, when there’s hardly any tourists. You fall in love with it for longer and longer, deeper and deeper.

» What's the best way to spend a day on the island?

My ideal day is basically spending three, four hours having lunch in a café right on the beach. It’s so lo-fi. It’s squid, it’s octopus, it’s seafood. The restaurants are all right on the beach so you leave your stuff there – there’s no sun loungers or anything like that, it’s just your towel on the beach, under an olive tree. You sit in the shade and read – that’s an ideal day.

» You talk about the beaches – are there any you can recommend?

There’s one called Emblisi – it’s a tiny little cove with beautiful white stones. They are all pebble beaches on the north side of the island which is where I love to go. The water is like bathing in bottled water, you can see your hands, your feet. It’s like bathwater. But my favourite beach – a tiny, tiny beach – is called Alaties. There, I have my favourite sunset. It’s a magical place.

» What's the best way to see the island?

Rent a car and drive. Drive and stop at any random little hole in the wall and eat whatever the mum who is cooking in the kitchen more than likely has made that day – always have the dish of the day. Stop at the least commercial-looking places. My experiences always revolve around food, and I think you get a real authentic feel from these types of places – they’ve woken up that morning, made their bread, made their five dishes.

» Do you have a favourite place to eat on Kefalonia?

My favourite places tend to be places run by families – there’s an amazing restaurant in Fiskardo called Vasso’s which has the most delicious food. The owner and her brother have run this restaurant for more than 30 years.

Mike wears: our Circle-Motif Embroidered Bowling Shirt exclusive to Mr Porter

» Where do you stay when you're there?

I have a house in the far north of the island – it’s a big glass box nestled in the cypress trees, the smell of pines is everywhere. All you hear are the cicadas. And you have the sea breeze, even up there. It’s my favourite place.

» You visit Ithaca as well – which is another Ionian island across the water. Tell me about that...

Before the pandemic we spent a few months of the year in Kefalonia, and what we tended to do was spend a month, or a few weeks, on Ithaca. During the summer although Kefalonia isn’t a super tourist-y place, it is a lot busier, and I prefer it when it isn’t. Ithaca is even quieter, and a bit more rugged – you can only get there by boat. It’s much more wild as an environment. It’s beautiful, we love it there.

» Are there any other places you like to visit in Greece?

There’s an amazing island called Tinos which is almost like Lourdes – people go there as a pilgrimage. It’s really rugged, it’s not green like Kefi. Kefi’s really green – Tinos is volcanic, the sand is almost black. It’s amazing, it’s super quiet and really remote. I adore it. I try to steer clear of – although they are really beautiful – places like Santorini, which are too touristy for me. I’m always trying to find the most deserted, remote place.

» What do you like about the Greek way of life?

They take time for each other. Our lives run at such a speed – maybe not so much right now, but in the past – that we neglect to spend time with the people we care about. The Greeks have such an amazing quality of life, where they don’t experience the guilt we have – or I have – about just whiling away the day away reading, or swimming, or spending hours having lunch.

» Is there a holiday memory that particularly stands out?

There are so many amazing memories – I’ve basically found a place that reminds me of the holidays I had with my mum and dad when I was a kid. It’s this time with family which I treasure more than anything. Every single holiday I feel like I’m making memories. There’s something so reassuring for me that it is a home from home. It’s a place of solace and peace for me.

» What's your favourite thing about summer?

The long days, and the warm nights. Honestly, that’s what I love – the endless days. It feels like nothing is ever going to finish, and that everything is going to be amazing.

A special thank you to Mike Vasilakis for modelling our launch collection in Greece.

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