DON'T pooh-pooh Corfu!” a wise woman recently said.
That woman? Fabulous’ Editor in Chief Sinead.
Because I’ll admit, I’ve never been that interested in visiting.
Mostly because I didn’t really know much about the island, apart from the fact that it’s been a hot spot for us Brits for decades.
I soon discover that Corfu lies north-west of mainland Greece, in the Ionian Sea, and is all rugged mountains and spectacular coves.
Its lush vegetation, thanks to its more northerly location, makes it stand out from those islands scattered in the Aegean on the other side of Greece – the likes of Crete, Rhodes and Mykonos.
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On Google searches, I’d never stumbled across Vintage Travel before, but luckily I find the company specialise in handpicked
villas with pools across Europe and have stunning properties for decent prices, plus local reps on hand offering a host of tips.
Built just two years ago, our find is Villa Aronia, near the village of Pirgi on Corfu’s north-east coast.
It’s a real beauty that could easily double up as the film set for a slick holiday drama.
Set amid mountains and ancient olive groves, its centrepiece is the infinity pool, surrounded by fragrant pine trees, rosemary and lavender.
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Inside is just as pretty. Three chic ensuite bedrooms lie downstairs, so each morning you climb the stone stairs to panoramic views of the bay below, before kicking back in the spacious living area with its sleek, sage-green kitchen.
There’s a rooftop terrace, plus a secluded annexe should you need to sleep nine.
The pool is unheated, so a dip is invigorating, but this pad makes for a stylish getaway – just as long as you have a confident driver for the steep, hairpin turns leading up to it.
Under the sea
If our children were older, we’d be hiring a boat from nearby Barbati beach to sail around the coast and pop into the many waterside tavernas.
But our favourite day trip comes on a visit to the pretty village of Paleokastritsa, a 35-minute drive through the luscious mountains to the west coast.
Here you’ll find the small but brilliant Corfu Aquarium.
London Aquarium it is not, but the 40-minute tours are packed with fascinating facts and delightful species.
We find out about the superpower of cuttlefish, that the giant Pacific octopus (with its nine brains and three hearts) can lay more than 50,000 eggs, that lobsters pee in each other’s faces as a greeting and that there are frogs the size of chickens!
Poppy, four, and Raffy, 21 months, also get to stroke a royal python, and we all leave with smiles on our faces.
Entry costs £7 for adults and £4.50 for children aged four to 12 (Corfuaquarium.com).
Nearby is Vrachos restaurant, with a prime view of the turquoise sea and dramatic rocks.
Here, staff serve up ramekins of delicious moussaka, £9, and big bowls of cuttlefish pasta, £14, alongside clumsy negronis, £8 – a moreish mix of gin, vermouth, pepper and geranium (Vrachosp.gr).
Paleokastritsa’s two sandy coves make for great sandcastle building and wave-chasing afterwards, too.
Go to town
The island is bursting with local produce, so as a treat we book private chef Claire Dawkins, an expat who used to run a B&B in the Malverns, to cook dinner at our villa.
She whips up dishes with market-fresh local ingredients – the veg alone is glorious! – and we dig into treats such as fresh sardine bruschetta, courgette keftedes (think fritters), salmon with red pepper coulis and chocolate olive oil mousse topped with strawberries.
There’s enough left over for two more meals and, best of all, she’s great with the kids, taking pretend calls from Peppa Pig too many times to count.
Menus cost from £33 per person (Takeachef.com).
Everyone we meet tells us a visit to the Old Town, half an hour’s drive away, is a must.
And it manages to sparkle even on a wet day. We grab a coffee on the Liston, the promenade famous for people-watching, before hitting the winding alleyways stuffed with shops.
Whether it’s olive oil, trinkets or stylish linen shirts you’re after, you’ll find it.
Poppy and I pick handmade metallic leather sandals, from £25 (Corfusandals.com), before we all indulge in ice cream from Solo Gelato (Facebook.com/sologelatocorfu).
The crème brûlée, £3, is our favourite, and they fill the bottom of our cones with molten chocolate, much to the kids’ delight.
I also pick up Monica-Vinader-esque gemstone earrings for half the price a few doors down.
It’s yet another surprise, just like Corfu itself.
A week at Villa Aronia, a 35-minute drive from the airport, costs from £1,198 for up to seven people (Vintagetravel.co.uk).
Flights from nine UK airports to Corfu start from £85 per person each way, plus you can bag 22kg hold luggage. Book now at Jet2.com.
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