After doing some research online on local beaches I discovered that Antisamos beach was renowned for its beauty and not too far away. It was situated about 10 mins by car along a windy road to the north-east of Sami but could also be accessed by a hiking trail through the surrounding hills.
Antisamos beach, and indeed the town of Sami itself, is famed for being the set for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, a 2001 film starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz. The film, which I haven’t seen, nor plan to see (rated 5.9 on IMDB), is often mentioned in articles on the area and is perhaps still a source of attraction for visitors. Based on the book with the same name by British author, Louis de Bernières, it fictionalises the occupation and subsequent conflict between German and Italian forces on the island during World War II.
At one time during the 1800’s Kefalonia was even a British protectorate, and before that, was occupied for a long time by the Venetians, and later the French, Ottomans and others. It has changed hands many times and in 1953 an earthquake destroyed most of the island’s homes and structures and most of the original inhabitants left and emigrated elsewhere.
I was thinking about these things on our second day in Sami as we planned to walk to Antisamos beach via the trail through the hills. I had found a previous hiker’s instructions online for how to locate the starting point for the the trail.
“From the Post Office, look across the road and you’ll see a small supermarket. To the left of this is a narrow road. Walk up this and it will open up into a small square with a large tree in it. Behind the tree is another small road which takes you past a small chapel on your left and leads to a tee junction. Turn left and about 50 yards on your right you’ll see the sign board of the path entrance with a map…”
As it turned out the instructions were entirely accurate and at the signboard with the map, a narrow stony path disappeared into the vegetation and snaked its way up the hill side. It was a hot day but the trail was mostly in shade and wonderfully unspoilt and natural. It was like we had entered a secret world, quite distinct from the bustling port below. The trail wound its way up into the hills, through a forest of olive trees and Italian cypress.
At one point we heard the distinctive tinker-tink of bells worn by goats and a few moments later we saw a small herd heading towards us along the trail, completely oblivious to the intruders on their path. When they spotted us though they quickly darted off the track, hopping this way and that in an effort to get out of our way. Their bells were clanking loudly now, seeming to match the intensity of their panic. When they realised there was no threat, the goats soon quietened down and their bells became more musical, emanating tones more in harmony with their surroundings.
The walk provided numerous vantage points for views to the sea, the island of Ithaca and the lively mixture of greens in the surrounding hills. After reaching a high point in the trail, we descended to Antisamos beach. Music entirely different from that of the goat bells emanated from several bars positioned along the beach; a rather bland but seemingly popular blend of beach-party hits from the 80’s. Each bar featured a large array of straw umbrellas with recliners. We walked past all of them, found a spot in the shade amongst the white pebbles at the other end of the beach, and went for a swim. The water was amazing. After only a metre or two from shore it became quite deep but visibility remained incredibly clear. It was like swimming in a giant aquarium. The hills around the beach were completely devoid of development and their magnificent greenery extended virtually all the way to the waters edge.
By the time we’d finished swimming and lazing about in the sun, it was late in the day so we decided to try hitching a ride back to Sami. Within a few minutes an older English couple kindly offered us a lift. They had bought a house near Sami many years ago and regularly drove from England to Kefalonia via whatever scenic route through Europe they fancied. It might take them a few days or it might take them a week or two. Before dropping us off they told us they were leaving tomorrow to spend a few days in what sounded like a fairly luxurious hotel on Ithaca.
The walk to Antisamos through the hills and forests, the encounter with the goats and the swim at the beach had made me appreciate Sami in a whole new way. When I’d first arrived it was a bit of a shock to see so many British people and the touristic side of the port, so the walk had helped alter my perspective on the place.