Pam and I arrived on the ferry from Athens, an hours-long journey that left me ill-prepared for the beauty I’d discover on the island. We shared a taxi from the port up to Oia, a ride that left me terrified. The car hugged the edge of the road, and the drop down was deadly. But once we arrived at our villa carved into the hillside, the terror was forgotten.
Our terrace overlooked the caldera, and we spent lingering hours there, reading or writing in our journals. We sipped wine and tea, and fed scraps of leftover meals to our adopted cat. I named him Sammy Davis Kitty. He was a runt of a feline, all black and blind in one eye.
We befriended one of the local shop owners, a young woman named Maria, who offered tips on where to go and what to do. On Maria’s suggestion, Pam and I hiked down the hill—hundreds of steps—down to Ammoudi, where we followed the locals along a rough path edging the base of the cliff, finding a rocky outcropping to spread out and bask in the sun. The water was impossibly clear and calm, and Pam dove right in as I soaked it all in.
The walk back up the 300-plus steps to the village was painful, but one we repeated several times during our stay.
It’s been more than a dozen years since our visit to Thira (as the locals call it). Pam has since gotten married and had a son. I haven’t. But in all the years since, and in all my travels to places where the remnants of ancient empires lure tourists, Santorini is the only place where I truly felt as if I was walking in the footsteps of the ancients.