Chris Carter finds refuge from Europe’s tourist hordes in these peaceful holiday destinations.
Enjoying ancient architecture, rich histories, or picturesque beaches doesn’t have to mean sailing into overcrowded ports such as Venice, says Emma Featherstone in The Daily Telegraph. There are “quieter European beauties” to visit on a cruise.
Take Karpathos in Greece, for example. “Small ship cruises (which make up the majority that dock here) tend to anchor off the coast and tender into Pigadia, the island’s capital and main port, which has a variety of pastel-coloured, Venetian-era buildings surrounding its shore.”
Cruise operator Voyages to Antiquity (voyagestoantiquity.com) offers a 13-day Classical Greece and Islands of the Aegean itinerary from £2,495, which includes a day spent on Karpathos. The island is the second-biggest in the Dodecanese island chain. It is midway between Rhodes and Crete and offers a wealth of beaches and coves to explore. Or you can make a day trip to the mountain village of Olympos to admire its cube houses, windmills and churches. “Even the pickiest of beachgoers should find their perfect spot.” Head to the east coast for small, gravelly beaches sheltered from the wind; to the south for fine, white sand; to the west for sandy, sheltered spots; and to the north for quiet beaches mostly reached by boat.
Treviso: home of the tiramisù
“Treviso, and kindred cities across Europe, offer an alternative” to the overcrowded tourist hot spots on the continent, says Jason Horowitz in The New York Times. The city is located just a half-hour train ride from Venice – “a place to replenish on the culture and modern manners of an Italian-speaking Italian city before rejoining the madding crowd”. Such gems exist all over Europe. “You just need to look.” Canals flow in Treviso, just like in Venice. But here, trout actually swim in them. You can still see the water mills that once provided the “fearsome” Venetian navy with bread. Joggers and cyclists set out from the confluence of rivers marked in Dante’s Paradiso, and the faithful still observe vespers in the packed church of St Francis, where Dante’s son is buried across from Petrarch’s daughter.
Around the corner from Fishmarket Island, “the beautiful people gather around the tables outside Osteria al Corder… The bohemian crowd prefers Osteria Muscoli, where old men spend the mornings, and soak up the spirits with salted pork sandwiches”. Beneath Horowitz’s room at Il Focolare (£85, ilfocolarehotel.com), a wine bar draws “a night-time crowd that spills onto the narrow piazza”. Opposite is the restaurant where, according to legend, the tiramisù was born.
Santander: a neglected but charming city in northern Spain
The northern Spanish province of Cantabria has quiet beaches – at least, quiet in terms of the number of people. The noise comes from the waves, which are some of the best in Spain, “harnessing the powerful rollers of the Atlantic”, says Jessica Cole in Lonely Planet magazine. “Surfing rules here.” Yet the region of Somo “can feel gloriously empty”. This is “the tragedy of the place”, Damian Freeman, who runs the local La Curva surf school, tells Cole. “People arrive in Santander on the ferry and immediately leave for Madrid without discovering these gems.” A tragedy, perhaps, but also one of its greatest charms.
It’s a similar story in Santander itself. This city suffered a devastating fire in 1941, spawning a number of mid-century low-rise buildings. Yet “freed from the burden of its own beauty, the city exudes a reckless authenticity”. Make no mistake, “it is unapologetically Spanish”. And not all of the original city was laid to waste. El Sardinero is a once-outlying district that was patronised by Alfonso XIII in the early part of the last century, when it became a “Belle Epoque hot spot”. At its centre, Hotel Chiqui (£50, hotelchiqui.com) is an Art Deco-fronted hotel with rooms whose sea views overlook the “long, silken sands” of Sardinero Beach. Santander has retained its “cloak of relative obscurity”. But not for long perhaps. The city is “on a mission to evolve – and there’s precious little holding it back”.