The ferry arrived at eleven o’clock and we were surprised to find the port of Livadi unusually quiet and without the normal reception committee of dozens of noisy apartment owners trying to find a customer. It was all very lethargic as we left the windy ferry port and set about locating our hotel.
This didn’t take long and we found the Hotel Naias one street back from the main port road and it turned out to be a traditional little place, basic and clean but without any frills but a nice balcony with a good view over the port and its crescent shaped beach with caramel brown sand the colour of a lion’s mane and fringed with cafés and tavernas.
Outside it seemed to be becoming rather windy and shutters were rattling, furniture was being rearranged and the taverna umbrellas were flapping madly as though going through some pre-take-off routine. We left our bags, closed the room and went immediately to the harbour to get acquainted with the place.
Whilst these string of Cycladic islands are all the same they are all completely different at the same time and Livadi had a unique quality that set it aside from other places we have visited. Serifos is not a popular holiday destination for overseas visitors and a bit like Amorgos (in my opinion) a place that the Greek people have sensibly kept back for themselves because close to Athens it is convenient to reach and it doesn’t suffer from the excesses of, say, Santorini or Mykonos.
Later we were planning to visit the chora about three miles and a twenty minute bus ride away and by the time we pitched up for the local bus the wind had dropped, there were no more clouds rushing in and the sky was an uninterrupted blue. The little green Mercedes bus was at least thirty years old (probably even more) and the driver took the fares, blew his horn to indicate departure and set off on the only bus route on the island.
So we travelled to the top of the mountain through several hairpin turns and going back and forth across the face of the mountain until we came to a spot where the bus was able to turn around and leave the passengers at the entrance to the lower square of the village. There was an alternative way of reaching the chora but that involved an arduous climb along a mule path which interlaced several times with the road but it looked like severely hard work and so definitely worth the €1.40 fare on the bus to ride in relative comfort to the top.
After visiting the redundant windmills, now being converted into holiday accommodation, we followed the signs to the Kastro and passed through pretty streets where the walls of the buildings squeezed in close to the narrow lanes and tracks but then opened out into the delightful main square of St. Athanasios about halfway to the top that was a complete contrast to the agoraphobic streets that led to it from all directions.
Here was the immaculately whitewashed church, the neoclassical town hall, which was in need of a bit of attention, a traditional taverna called Zorba’s with blue doors and windows and Café Stou Stratou a trendy ouzerie across the square selling coffee and traditional Greek snacks to a handful of customers.
We passed through without stopping and continued towards the top and the little church of Church of Agios Konstantinos from where there was a terrific view in all directions and especially down and over the port of Livadi stretched out below as the island dozed in the midday sun.
The chora of Serifos is one of the most spectacular and attractive in the Cyclades, it is how I imagine Ios might have been if it hadn’t been discovered and turned into a Euro pleasure zone because here there are no bars or nightclubs and best of all no shops either.
On the way back down we passed by renovated houses which shared the streets with various abandoned properties where a glance inside revealed the truth of a hard life without utilities from only a relatively short time ago. In the spaces between the buildings there were great views over the barren rust coloured land and the now calm blue sea in the bay of the harbour that looked like a giant inkwell full of Quink.
It was pleasant to sit at the top completely undisturbed and enjoy the spectacular view and to the south we could see the island of Sifnos and we looked forward to travelling there on the following day. We dawdled about the lanes and enjoyed getting lost now and again before we emerged back in the attractive main square where we stopped for a while before going back to the bus stop and the return to Livadi.
When we arrived back the place seemed practically deserted and it was too hot for almost any activity. The sea was still and the boats were relaxing on water that had no energy at all even to break into a tiny ripple and the reflections of the gaily coloured boats remained almost completely undisturbed.
Even the normally reliably raucous donkey in the field next to the hotel was silenced this afternoon. I walked down to the harbour to check the ferry times for the next day but there was nothing going on, the booking office was closed and just a sign in Greek that I couldn’t read but wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it said ‘Serifos is closed for the afternoon, do not disturb’.