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Ithaca island news and views

The Greek holiday island of Ithaca lies just off the coast of Kefalonia in the Ionian island chain on Greece's west coast . Ithaca is a sleepy little island, popular with day trippers and with yacht flotillas and has a trio of attractive ports at Vathi, Kioni and Frikes. Beaches of pebble are hidden in deeply carved and picturesque inlets. Those looking for a Greek island holiday of peace and tranquillity need look no further.

Ithaka luxury resort
Luxury resort for Ithaka

A luxury holiday complex on the island of Ithaka is one of five major projects waiting for the green light from the incoming Greek government. The multi-million-euro tourism scheme are for the islands of Ithaka, Chios and Crete with two more on the Greek mainland. Developers hope to get the go-ahead this year under the Greek 'Fast Track' law, which can speed up licensing procedures for private-public investments. But it is not certain that the new left-wing Greek government will look favourably on the projects after ministers recently called a halt to plans to privatise around a dozen Greek Island airports. Investors behind the latest schemes say they are 'concerned' at delays over a final decision on the projects from the Greek Ministerial Committee for Strategic Investments (DESE). Among the tourism projects under review are multi-million-euro plans to build a tourist resort and golf course on the small island of Ithaka, which lies off the east coast of Kefalonia in the Ionian Sea. A popular haunt for Greek Island holiday visitors, Ithaka could be in line for a mega luxury resort off its southern shore that could include six five-star hotels, more than a thousand apartments, a marina to hold 200 yachts, a golf course and even a waterfront village. Around 525 hectares of land have already been acquired for the Ithaka holiday complex, making it one of the largest private island land holdings in the whole of Greece. The proposed site takes in 7.5 kilometres of pristine coastline and several natural deep water coves that could be developed as yacht harbours. The Australian company Interportfolio wants to build ten exclusive boutique resorts and residential villages with an 18-hole golf course designed by golfer Greg Norman. The scheme also includes luxury spas, a yacht marina and marina village, a soccer academy and a retail and conference centre. As well as several remote beaches and bays that lie along the Ithaka island coast, the company has also acquired an offshore islet. Developers are even considering plans to build an airport nearby to take private jets. If permission is granted it will be the first privately run, jet airport in the whole of Greece and could open up access to the huge global private jet owner market. Currently, private jet owners are not allowed to land on Greek Island airports and pilots must 'park up' at Athens International and make their way to the islands by boat. The company's prospectus says of the Ithaka project: "The Ionian Islands have the reputation for luxury tourism, and are home to mega and super yachts, and sailing boats, for the summer season." "The area's climate is Mediterranean in character and ideal for outdoor recreation. Close to Italy, and serviced by an international airport on the adjacent island of Kefalonia, the site enjoys easy access to all European markets." It is not the only mega million tourist scheme to await the green light from the Greek government. With a budget of €123 million, Sportsland SA want the go-ahead to build a holiday village, hotels, golf course, sports centre and conference facilities in Viotia, some 75 kilometres from km from Athens. Property giant Kerameia SA is also planning to invest €150 million euros on the island of Chios in the north-east Aegean with a luxury five-star 700-room holiday hotel. Other major investment schemes awaiting approval are a € 384 million solar power plant in central Greece and a €500 million oil storage terminal in southern Crete.

strintzis ferries
Ithaca ferry plea

Fears over loss of vital ferry link. Residents on the holiday island of Ithaca are pleading for help to restore a vital ferry service to Kefalonia and the mainland. Ferry services from the mainland port of Patras to Ithaca, via the port of Sami on Kefalonia, have been put on hold as the ferry "Seven Islands" undergoes a refit and is unlikely to be restored until next year and maybe not at all. But the move by ferry firm Strintzis Ferries has left Ithaca island without vital supplies and services as links with both ports at Sami and Patras are broken and are unlikely to be restored until the new year The Ionian Ferries.12(Ionian Ferries) company has offered an alternative service but the boat will not use the ports at either Sami on Kefalonia or Patras on the mainland. Ithaca authorities say the alternative is unacceptable as established ferry links are lost. A letter to island authorities on neighbouring Kefalonia warns: "Ithacans will be denied the opportunity to go through Sami Argostoli, and should go through the port of Poros, which is about an hour's drive from Argostoli." "Ithaca is essentially severed from Patras which is very frequent destination for medical emergencies and for company obligations. It will bring a significant financial burden for residents of Ithaca at a time when the economic crisis and decline in income makes them unable to meet their basic needs." In recent years Ithaca islanders have complained at the steady decline in ferry schedules, large increases in ticket prices and the failure of the Greek government to respond to calls from both residents of Ithaca and ferry operators to serve the interests and needs of local citizens. Ithaca islanders have proposed the creation of a publicly controlled ferry service with residents in control of routes, fares, licenses, and shipbuilding but with no success so far. They have urged the Greek government yet again to restore full ferry services to both Sami and Patras. A letter to authorities on Kefalonia calling for their support says: "Due to the many and varied problems created - servicing problems in health or administrative matters, serious problems in the supply of goods etc., we ask for your support in our struggle for immediate shipping reconnecting with Patras which is a lifeline for Ithaca." "The port of Patras, as a main trading port in western Greece, has served fully and was always helping our island in the commercial development and tourist character of Homer's Ithaca."

Ithaka Ithaca taverna
Ithaca luxury holidays

'complex designed to attract celebrities'. The island of Ithaca in the Ionian islands could become a playground of the rich and famous if plans for a luxury resort get under way. Developers hope to build a huge luxury holiday complex that will attract Hollywood stars and pop celebrities such as Madonna, who is known to love Ithaca and often takes her holidays there. According to Greek news magazine, espresso, the pop icon has expressed an interest in buying a luxury villa in the proposed glamorous resort complex. Developers say the luxury holiday retreat will house six luxury resorts, 1,020 suites, a marina for 200 yachts, waterfront villas with their own marina, pools, tennis courts, gardens and a golf course designed by renowned golfer Greg Norman. More than 1,600 acres of land has already been purchased by investors from Qatar but work has been delayed by paperwork. Construction will be in three phases with the first phase costing more than €600 million. The area is completely undeveloped land around Kaminia and Marathia and its isolation will allow VIP guests and owners to enjoy holidays free from prying eyes and paparazzi. Prospective customers have already visited Ithaca by boat and helicopter and they include pop and movie celebrities as well as mega-rich magnates. Many international celebrities have stayed on Ithaca over the years including Sophia Loren, Nicholas Cage, Tom Hanks, Sade and Jamie Lee Curtis. The small island of Ithaca, also spelled Ithaka, is located just four kilometres off the coast of Kefalonia in the Ionian island group. Ithaca has is a sleepy little island and a popular destination for independent travellers and for day trippers from Kefalonia. Apart from a small annual arrival of independent tourists and day trippers there is little to disturb the island as most visitors head for the main port at Vathi. The north has the best resorts while the south, apart from Vathi, has little else but wild countryside and dramatic cliffs. Byron thought Ithaca so beautiful that he wanted to buy it but the Greek poet Homer famously dismissed Ithaca as 'overrun with barren rocks and cliffs ' and only 'fit for goats.'

Attractive harbour at Kioni ithaca
Tranquil times on Ithaca

Travel along the east coast of Kefalonia and the holiday visitor cannot fail to spot the island of Ithaca just a few kilometres offshore. Ithaca, also called Ithaki, is a small, rocky island with just one port on the west coast - the tiny hamlet at Piso Aetos - and three ports on the east coast, at Vathy, Kioni and Frikes. Ithaca holidays are much more relaxed than those on neighbouring Kefalonia and popular with upmarket holiday firms such as Ionian Villas, which has an extensive range of holiday villas and apartments throughout the Ionian islands Ithaca claims to be the legendary home of Odyseus, who according to Homer's epic The Odyssey, joined the Greek expedition to attack the city of Troy. A holiday on Ithaca is for those looking for natural beauty, simple surroundings and an escape from busy Greek island resorts. The island is split by a a narrow strip of land joining the north and south. In the south are the island capital port at Vathy,with a large harbour set at the end of a very deep inlet. Shops and tavernas are located around the town square. On the approach to the port boats pass the islet of Lazaretto which was developed during the British occupation of Ithaca. It has served as a hospital quarantine area and later as a prison. The buildings were destroyed in a 1953 earthquake and a small chapel built there. The northern part of Ithaca is even quieter than the south. The largest village is Stavros, once quite a busy settlement, but now having fewer than 250 inhabitants. The red domed Byzantine-style church which dominates the village square was actually built in 1922. A village park hast a bust of Odysseus and a map detailing his voyage from the Trojan wars. The homeward journey is said to have taken 10 years during which Odysseus faced many dangers including the Cyclops, the witch Circe, and the seductive charms of the goddess Calypso. Northern ithaca is noted for its two beautiful ports at Frikes and Kioni. Frikes has a few hotels and rooms to let but the main source of income in the bars and tavernas that line the harbour is the the many yachts that call here. It's near neighbour, the picturesque village of Kioni, avoided the worst of the 1953 earthquake and has several traditional buildings on show. Kioni is also a popular port of call for yachts and has rather more holiday villas and apartments. The atmosphere here, like the rest of the island, is very peaceful and laid back. There are no banks, just a few shops and a sprinkling of bars and tavernas Getting around on Ithaca involves hiring some transport or simply walking, although there are a few taxis about. Another option is to hire a small motor boat for the day to explore the coast. There are beaches on Ithaca, but they are small strips of pebble and stone. None have any facilities but most are backed by pine trees which offer natural shade during the hottest part of the day. Many former donkey tracks have been cleared of recently and opened up the island of Ithaca for walkers. Many walkers like to visit the derelict windmills - there are more than 30 on Ithaca. Three windmills are visible on the hillside at Kioni. From Frikes a narrow, twisting road leads through olive groves and vineyards to the almost deserted hamlet of Exoghi and passes the natural spring of Kalamos, whose waters irrigate terraced groves of tangerines, melons. At Kalamos there are spectacular views across the bay of Afales.

Kioni on Ithaca
Pricey Ithaca

Tourist snub for pricey Ithaca. High prices are putting off tourists on the Greek island of Ithaca, near Kefalonia. Locals have been warned to charge less as the number of visitors arriving by ferry dropped dramatically. Ithaca has seen a big fall in tourist arrivals to the island by ferry this year. Figures from the Port Authority of Kefalonia in June alone show a fall of 1,650 passengers and 644 vehicles arriving by ferry compared to the previous year. Locals have been warned that high transport costs and the prices of hotels and restaurants is to blame. The warning follows a meeting between the Kefalonia mayor and visiting political figures. Ithaca hoteliers and restaurant owners were told that they must improve quality and lower prices if they are to attract more tourists. New Democracy political candidate Paul Papadatos said : 'To be able to make realistic proposals to attract tourists we should look to the quality of our tourist product, the services we offer and the relationship of price and quality service.' He  called on Ithaca to extend the tourist season, to bank more on the Ithaca name as a brand and to fund marketing campaigns in order to boost visitor numbers. 'The decline in arrivals has nothing to do with the economic crisis. There are falls in Kefalonia andIthaca while in other areas are recording increases of up to 25%,' said Mr Papadatos. There are now plans to organise a conference on holidays in Ithaca in October to address issues of tourism development on Ithaca. They may include talks on promoting local products such as the white cheese produced from the rare goats that breed on the island.