The view of Nafplio from the fort.
I have two words for you – Before Midnight.
It’s no secret I’m a fan of the movie series. I love all the filming locations as much as the script themselves. The final movie of the trilogy took place in Greece, but more specifically, the filming location was in Peloponnese, a region in Greece. And when I got there, I knew exactly why this place was chosen as the spot to conclude the story of Jesse and Celine. The emerald green waters against the beautiful white coasts, the portside town with a maze of cobbled, narrow old streets, ancient Greek monuments up on the hill where you can climb up to see the sweeping views, and of course, the food. If ever there is a place to go to for someone to walk aimlessly and reflect on their life, Nafplio must be one of those.
It’s always the history that makes a place beautiful. Nafplio was no exception. Once ruled by the Byzantines, Franks, and even the Ottoman Empire, you can look around and see the marks of these conquers by the different styles of building around town. The ones with domes are Ottoman. The ancient walls of the forts are from the Venetians and Franks. Everything else? Unmistakably Roman.
This was the last leg of my Greece travels, and after so many days of driving around the country, I was ready to spend my last remaining days just eating, walking around and doing nothing. Nafplio was the perfect choice. You can almost walk everywhere you need to go to, and it’s such a popular weekend town for the Greeks that the streets are filled with beautiful restaurants, gelato stands, bookshops, cafes and hangout spots. In the morning you can visit the fresh food market, something I always make a point of doing whenever I’m some place new. It’s how I get a feel of what the people and the energy is really like, what they eat, how they interact, and what’s in season.
Some of the fresh produce at the morning market - artichokes, greek honey, oranges, sardines
After grazing your way through the market (be friendly, and lots people will let you try lots of things they sell), perhaps a great idea is to venture into the old town square. You’ll get lost in the turns and corners, but don't worry. To get lost is a great way to explore something new. The streets are small and narrow, but the locals seem to maximise this by putting up tables for people to eat, and stalls for you to rummage through old books, postcards and souvenirs. Before noon is also the best time, weather-wise, to climb up the old fort, the Acronauplia, on the hill to check out the scenery. Nothing says Greece quite like a full sunny day with sweeping views of old rooftops, white pebbly beaches and sparkling green sea. And unapologetic locals in the skimpiest bathing suits imaginable, even that old 80 year-old uncle with super tight speedos one could fully visualise his Grecian glory, if you know what I mean.
View of the Agean sea - plentiful in the Pelopponese region
Lunch must not be taken lightly. This is a portside region, so do yourself a favour and indulge in the local produce. During one of the afternoons I had a lunch I’ll never forget – fresh sardines filleted and grilled with some local oregano. You’ll find oregano in almost all of the dishes in this country. And with it I had a bowl of blanched chard drenched in glossy, green extra virgin Greek olive oil, with a squeeze of lemon. Speaking of which, it was the orange season at the time, and I had some of the best oranges I’ve ever had here.
Grilled sardines, de-boned, with oregano
Blanched chards in extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice
As advertised, you won’t have an actual goal in Nafplio. You sit around the cafes and write postcards. You chat with some other people sitting at the table next to you. You check out the old railroads that have been there since 1886. You try out some gelatos which are great to compliment the balmy weather. If you have a car, you can drive up to Corinth Canal and watch the boats pass by the 6km long waterway. The canal opens up to the Aegean Sea (which is also the sea Achilles once sailed in to travel to Troy). It sounds blah, but it’s rather interesting to see actually.
The Corinth Canal
At night the main town changes its façade and becomes a beautiful glittery place with music, candlelight and even more delicious food. Sometimes the main town square, called the Plateia Syntagmatos, would have fun events to watch. I managed to catch a school choir competition, which turned out to be rather fitting, listening to beautiful gospel singing echoing through the streets of this beautiful town.
You sit in the middle of the crowd of happy people, eating a scoop of pistachio gelato, in the air that smells of the sea and the sounds of guitar and Greek music that you can’t understand. You feel like dancing. You cheer on with the crowd even when you have no idea what the commotion is all about. You feel like you’ve seen Greece the way you really want to see it – offbeat, local, and with a full stomach.
That’s why you come to Nafplio.