Thanks Bret for kind words! Lee is truly THE Santorini expert (specially Oia), then Stanbr. The latter and I tend to play "tag Team" since we like and visit many of the same places, tops being Naxos & Nafplio. I'm happy you recognize the shortcomings of internet promo sites, and really do feel that Guide BOOKS (gasp! what a concept) are a needed balance. Have girls bring home an armful, you all can browse, photocopy interesting parts. If you want to buy, you can get used copies cheep-cheep on Amazon (it's not necesary to get newest edition, you're not using it for hotel price, but for background & highlight info). One thing I like about Rough Guide -- u can (carefully) pull sections ("Athens" "Cyclades" "Language" etc) off the backing, put in a staple & make a duct-tape spine and Voila! little pocket "guide-ettes." no need to lug a big heavy book.
Bret, tsk tsk,you have never said how many days in total, beyond 3-5 in Italy. So I thought it was just Santorini, Athens then home. But now you mention Naxos, som I'm guessing maybe about 8-9 days in Greece? C'mon, don't be secretive; give us arrival/dep dates so we can help you strategize to make the most of it. In Greece Old Hands tend to advise islands first, then Athens, to avoid having to book into Athens 2x -- you can fly direct from Rome to Santorini. If it were me, I'd say 3 days 2 nights thre, then Naxos on the 3:30pm Blue star, for LEAST 3 days (4 is better), then back to ATH at the last. From Naxos to ATH, flying is 50 mins vs 5 hr on ferry - however, its costly & if you figure the time of getting to airport (30 mins) security & Boarding (45 min) (getting out of airport, getting taxi, riding from Airport to Hotel (1.5 hrs), the difference shrinks. I favor taking the 6pm Blue Star from Naxos - arrive Piraeus about 11:45, (be ready to JUMP off ferry & be first in taxi line) taxi to hotel (20 mins). A strategy that gives extra beach time!
SANTORINI -- Personally, you can go see the black beaches but wouldn't lie on them or swim... I tried that, the grit gets to me -- save beach time for Naxos' golden sands. And YES, I would recommend Villa Fotini, and reserve early!! Since I started singing its praises, they're filling up earlier. Only 12 rooms, so cute, clean & white, crisp linens, balconies, nice contl breakfast PLUS they take u to the Ferry pier, Divinely handy; only yards from the rimside view, and you can walk to heart of Fira town in 15 minutes, either on the rim path or (less crowded) on a "secret" flagstone path that parallels the island's main road. ALSo, when you want to take the bus to OIA, the bus stop is only 50 yards away -- no need to go to Fira Town's crowded "bus yard." Oh yes, nearly forgot -- you can cool off with a dip in a neighboring hotel's pool 100 yards away.
NAXOS - Sun Beach would be perfect for you... just yards off the sand, and near the Flisvos (sp??) Sports club, where the girls can get "Sailboards" (or whatever) or kayaks etc for water sports. Also v. close to Stanbr's favorite late-day Observation Post, the Paradise, where he & spouse supervise water sports from behind flagons of adult beverages.
BOOKING -- no harm in booking early -- in Greece you can usually cancel without penalty given adequate advance notice... you can look on Booking.com, but book direct, price will be as good or better, & you'll save these small hoteliers from the % fee. Also, when you book you can request such things as pickup at ferry pier, adjoining rooms, 2nd floor, etc etc. You can book in Fall & get response... and then during the winter there's a kind of "dead time" -- when small hotel owners are away. Sometimes an automated response seems to indicate no rooms available, but that's not it , some just don't respond in Dec-Jan.