This area of Peloponnese I’ve been visiting since I was in diapers. My father used to bring us here every August for the family holidays. His birthplace is up on the mountains of the area and at least three times a week we took the car and drove south, to the sea. So, to me, for many years, south meant the land of Messenia, a place blooming with olive trees, fig trees, and flowers of all kinds. A blessed area of Greece where every kind of seed found a fertile spot to grow. A place surrounded by the sea and filled with ancient history and antiquities. As a grown up I had stopped visiting as I was discovering the rest of Greece and the rest of the planet for that matter. So many places to see so little time to return to the old ones. Four years ago though, we visited the area again, to play golf in the new hot spot for golfing in the Mediterranean, the Costa Navarino resort , which lies on the smooth hills of Pylos, overlooking the Ionian sea. And the discovery was breath taking. The place had changed without changing a bit. One gem of a resort hotel plus two amazing golf courses gave a boost to the area, keeping the landscape intact. Now we visit a few times a year and this time it was for the Aegean airlines PGA tournament. Since I like golf but I am not in a position to play at a tournament, I started touring the area one more time and visited all my favorite places, plus one new one for me but very old for Greece, which is Messene.
The ancient city lies on a mountain some 20 km away from the sea and it is one of the most important ancient sites discovered. The amazing ancient theater was open for public visits a year ago, and the whole experience is mindblowing. A must see at any cost (of time that is). Of course there is always the beautiful town of Pylos which is lovely to walk around, do some shopping and eating at the great fish tavernas overlooking the historical island of Sfaktiria ( Navarino battle? Google it!) The Venetian castle of Methoni is a 15 km visit from Costa Navarino and I strongly recommend it , along with a visit to the castle of Palaiokastro in the feet of which you can dive in one of the most beautiful lagoons of the Mediterranean, Voidokilia .
Don’t forget to go visit the Mycenaean city of Pylos, the kingdom of the wise king Nestor whom we meet in Homer’s Odyssey. Costa Navarino resort though has a sweet tooth for contemporary art, thus for the last two years, they host a permanent exhibition titled Engaging Art curated by artist Dimitris Antonitsis. Not something to be missed. Finally, in case you are exhausted with sightseeing, golfing, swimming, hiking, art-seing, shopping, bicycling, dancing and having to bear all that fun, then you should try the hotel’s l luxurious spa facilities, or if you stay at one of the many other hotels of the area, try the new, easy going and excellent spa in Gialova Bay. If you visit Gialova you can’t avoid but see it. When you are ready to return home don’t forget to take some of the local tasty and powerful products with you. Pasteli bars are a must and Kalamata olives for your Greek salad days!