The gal loves Costa Navarino, the Peloponnese way-of-life that the much-missed Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos, 1935-2011, spent decades planning and compiling. Now, with his son Achilles Constantakopoulos at its helm, Costa Navarino is a 2,500-acre lifestyle dream. Only ten percent of the land has been landscaped or built on. This is nature, plus fresh air, great sunsets – see above – and superb quality lodging. Westin Costa Navarino is possibly the more family-friendly of the two luxury resorts: Romanos, a Luxury Collection hotel at about 30 percent premium, is for those who want more space, and the joy of having, in some cases, a big private pool and beach – see the video below for a panorama of villa 1304 (1,500 sq ft interior plus 500 sq ft pool). There are over 1,200 looking after all this space that is Costa Navarino and the ones I spoke to, including a former cab driver back in Chicago, are passionate, empowered and really enthusiastic about wanting to share the quality of real life that you find here.
Any hotel guest, anywhere, can dine in the 22 restaurants, which offer everything from steak-on-a-board to finest French, and Middle Eastern and Italian and more. Of course there is a traditional taverna, appropriately in the cobblestoned village square, and we ate there, outdoors next to a hedge of sweetest-perfumed night flower. I was with my Costa Navarino friends Achilleas Dorotheou, GM of both hotels, and Marina Papatsoni, and we went really local, which included Talagani cheese with grilled mushrooms from Taygetos Mountain, with wild rocket, balsamic-citrus vinegar and Siglino from Gargaliani, and absolutely superb Messinian pork Gourounopoula with crispy skin, roasted in wood-fired oven for eight hours until it melts, with home-made mustard of honey, lemon, and herbs from Taygetos Mountains. All this went beautifully with organic wine from the vineyards right here, labelled 1827 for the historic Battle of Messinia, not so far from here actually.
This was perfect fodder for the morrow, when both Achilleas Dorotheou, doing the 10-k, and I, at a mere five-k, were among the thousand-plus taking part in the fourth annual Navarino Challenge. This offered 18 different events to challenge entrants, of all sizes and ages, against themselves rather than each other. The big-name leader was Dean Kamazes, who specialises in ultra marathons but since the whole programme is aimed at all age groups – last year’s entrants ranged from three to 101 years – he is obviously just a bit too professional for this happy event. Other Olympians supporting the event this year were Spyros Gianniotis and Alexandros Nikolaidis. Main sponsors were Allianz (see my shirt) and Qatar Airways, and it was terrifically well organised, with much-needed water stations along the route. The five-K run-walk started at eight and it was hot, at least 30° – I cooled off later in my lovely pool, and wished I were staying longer, to do justice to the spa, or the bikes, or the fitness classes that imaginatively also include learning traditional dancing.
It is partly because these luxury resorts have so many activities on offer – from two serious golf courses to walking with a professor of Philosophy – that the average stay here, depending on the time of year, ranges from seven to ten nights. And on top of ongoing activities there are always special days coming up: the next was Costa Navarino’s annual support of Architecture and Democracy day, a tribute to International Day of Democracy, always September 15th. This runs as part of The New York Times’ Athens Democracy Forum, run in cooperation ith the City of Athens and UNDEF. This year, September 14-18 2016, Zaha Hadid was to have been among the visitors but her business partner, Patrik Schumacher is coming instead, alongside writer Paul Klugman and other notables. After starting in Athens, last Friday, September 16th, participants were driven from Athens’ glorious Grande Bretagne to arrive at Costa Navarino in time for dinner, followed by an astronomy viewing. Saturday they had a tour of the luxury resorts’ art, an archaeological tour of the nearby Palace of Nestor, and then a discussion on Architecture and Democracy. After a Sunday morning Philosophy walk, presumably with the on-site Professor talking while walking for the full two hours, there was an archaeological tour of Ancient Messene, olive-oil tasting, and if they still had energy, a traditional Messinian cooking experience. I just hope they enjoyed their Talagani and Gourounopoula pork as much as I did!
BY THE WAY, SEE WHAT VILLA 1304 AT COSTA NAVARINOS’ LOS ROMANOS LOOKS LIKE, AT THE TOP OF THIS STORY, AND IN THE VIDEO BELOW