We’ll forgive you if the only Kalamata you’ve heard of is the large, meaty, black olive, which you’ll probably have snarfed in that gap between arriving at a restaurant and ordering a starter. They hail from the eponymous city in the Greek Peloponnese, and are deemed important enough to carry the same status as champagne or Cornish pasties: only olives grown in Kalamata can be called Kalamata olives.
Welcome to the Peloponnese, the historic heart of Greece, a little-visited corner of Europe and bestower of near-perfect temperatures (especially for growing olives). Home to Olympia, a dramatic coastline and, of course, the Kalamata olive, the peninsula is not even part of mainland Greece: cut off by the Corinth canal. Although, unlike its more famous counterparts, the Peloponnese is rarely referred to as an island.
Previously only accessible by driving 300km from Athens over the Corinth Canal – dreamed up by Roman Emperor Nero in 67 AD – the Peloponnese has opened up thanks to budget airline easyJet, which kicked off its new route to Kalamata last month. Deep waters, jagged coastlines, lush green valleys and sweeping mountainous landscapes characterise the region, with the Mani Peninsula being the most stunning of the lot. Relatively untouched by the tourism boom that has swamped otherwise-idyllic islands in the Greek peninsula, the villages along the cliff-hugging Mani coastline (the second prong out of three along the southern Peloponnese coastline) are picture-perfect and buffeted by the breeze of the meeting point between the Mediterranean and the Ionian seas.
Despite being the setting for the Greek War of Independence in the 1820s, life among the cypress and walnut trees is quiet. It’s hard to believe that the party island of Crete is only a short boat ride away, or that an easyJet plane full of tourists keen to explore is about to touch down, at any rate.
WHERE TO STAY
The Westin Resort – clusters of stone villas – is a peaceful retreat overlooking the Med. Oh, and there are private infinity pools. Tour operator Carrier offers seven nights from £790 per person, including breakfast, private transfers and return flights from London Gatwick to Kalamata. To book call 0161 492 1357 or for further details visit carrier.co.uk