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Santorini & Italy – Which archaeological sites to visit - Akrotiri, Pompeii & Osti Antica?

Not sure if I should post this in the Greece or Italy forum? We are trying to determine the best use of precious travel time. Our family of four (two teenage girls) will be in Santorini next June. Initially we plan on visiting Akrotiri then after visiting the usual sites in Athens, our next stop is Rome. In Italy is it worth the time to visit Pompeii and/or Osti Antica as well?

Are Pompeii & Osti Antica too similar “scavi” sites, and will we be bored after visiting Akrotiri - too much of the same thing?
How about skipping Akrotiri and just visiting Pompeii? I know the teenage girls would enjoy more time shopping or at a Santorini beach.

My wife and I have been to Pompeii many years ago and found it very interesting. Seeing Pompeii has really helped to visualize at other archaeological sites. Will Akrotiri offer a similar experience?

Initial plans are to be in Rome, our only stop in Italy, for only 3-5 nights. Pompeii is two+ hours by train from Rome and would use a full day roundtrip.

One thought - coming from Greece we could take a morning flight to Naples – (store luggage at train station) visit Pompeii – then train to Rome late in the day.

Just saw a RS show where he travels to Osti Antica (less than 30 minutes from Rome). This seems more realistic.

Any advice is welcomed. Thanks!

Posted by
828 posts

You are probably going to get more responses on the Italy forum because most of the sites you are interested in are in Italy.
I can say this though. Akrotiri has only been excavated at about 10% of what is the whole area. It is very small compared to Ostia and Pompeii. Akroteri is also several thousand years older than any Roman ruins so other than they are all excavated ruins, there isn't much in common.
Akroteri will probably take you about an hour. If you have a car then it is just a short hop to Perissia and Kamri beaches. Keep in mind that Santorini beaches are just gritty pumice not sand. They are extremely hot so beach shoes are a must. It was on our first trip to Santorini in 1996 on Kamri beach that we discovered our first Greek Gyros and beer. Boy do the Greeks ever do take out food well. Its worth a trip to the beach just for that.
Unfortunately my Akroteri pictures have all disappeared but this is what Santorini is like.
Santorini http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632154800782/

For Italy you certainly have lots of options. If you choose to fly to Naples then logistics certainly allow you to do Pompeii. But since you have already been there you could consider Herculaneum. It is on the same train line but a bit closer to Naples. It is a much smaller site than Pompeii but in my opinion is better preserved. Time saved by being closer and smaller will get you into Rome more quickly.
While this album is from our stay in Sorrento we did visit both Pompeii and Herculaneum on that trip. Pompeii is images 57 through 75 and Herculaneum is 76 through 95.

If you decide to go to Rome then Ostia is a good choice. It takes about an hour by metro and then transfer south on the commuter train. The site is quite large and the deeper one walks into the site the more intact the building are. It also has a nice museum on site with finds from the city.
Ostia is images 47-74
https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157661593187885

Frankly with so little time in Rome you may not want to spend a full day on a big Scavi site there is just so much stuff in Rome.

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks for such a quick response Stanbr. I enjoy all your comments.

Good to know the Italian sites are not repeats of Akrotiri. I did not know it was such a small site and could be done in about an hour. My girls have already watched youtube videos of people swimming at Perissa & Kamari (I like the water/beach shoes idea). We will look into the Herculaneum suggestion as well. Thanks for the picture links.

I will create a similar post along with your Herculaneum idea in the Italy forum as well.

I sure appreciate the insights from others who have traveled before. It is so nice to learn from other's experiences versus just reading a sales brochure or top ten "to do" list from a website.

Thanks,
Bret

Posted by
2568 posts

stanbr's advices is always constructive... and based on many trips. Too many people make suggestions on the basis of ONE trip -- and sometimes on a far different budget (i.e., hire a driver & car for your stay... why not??!!!).

You are right, tips from personal experience are better than "Top 10" brochures. Another source not to trust blindly is just googling the Internet. Many people today are book-averse (not you, I am sure), but think if it's on the INternet it must be true. NOT. Too often web sites are just designed to draw traffic and sell ads, so they just have beautiful pictures and gushing prose, and do not include the drawbacks with the advantages, for a more balanced perspective. They never say "such-and-such is beautiful but if you only have half a day, the travel challenges can be stressful" or "this place is so over-promoted it is jammed with tour busses from 9 - 4 pm". You may still decide to do something, but at least you'll know the full story.

SInce you have the gift of time, you have a wonderful resource; at your local library, check out a few Guidebooks. For continuing success they need to be more reliable than promotional websites, so the best ones ARE Candid, about the lowlights as well as the highlights. Rick Steves is good on Athens, but doesn't do the islands. Try the ROUGH GUIDE to Greece, AND ROUGH Guide to Italy. Very detailed on ancient sites, with maps, if you want to do D-I-Y, and also good on logistics (which bus/train to take). In fact, why not send your Teens on this research assignment? Get them involved in the planning! Best wishes for your trip prep!

Posted by
17 posts

Thanks Janet - I was hoping you’d comment.

Speaking for everyone, I sure enjoy reading and appreciate all the posts by you, stanbr & lee.

I like your approach and the way you think about things. Example – you and I are on the same wavelength with your suggestion to send my teen daughters on a research assignment for the ancient sites. Heck I was even thinking to have each girl do a quick oral presentation to the family discussing the different sites. We all will get so much more out of our trip by learning & preparing ahead of time. It is far too easy to be lazy and just show up uniformed see a decaying statue or mound of marble then reading a sign claiming it used to be something.

You are spot on with you comments about destinations being over-promoted without realistic downside considerations. Sales & promotional sites are everywhere. That is why these candid forums are so beneficial. Often times us newbies don’t know what we don’t know until we bounce ideas around. I hope others learn from my posts and queries and perhaps gain a new perspective or at least a tiny nugget of information that will benefit their travels as well.

Janet, quick side note – I read in other posts where you recommend Villa Fotini in Firostefani and Sun Beach Hotel on Naxos. Would these be good choices for our family of four? Do you have any other suggestions we should consider/compare? Because we are four, we are more budget minded than looking for expensive flashy dwellings. Finally, assuming we have our transatlantic flights set, how far in advance should one book the hotel?

P.S. Although my questions were addressed to Janet, I encourage anyone to comment and add their opinion/experiences.

Posted by
2568 posts

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.

Posted by
17 posts

Janet - so sorry - my bad, I thought you had seen my original post last week where I gave all the preliminary details.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/greece/santorini-naxos-athens-timing-itinerary posted 7/22/16

Nice thoughts about the hotels, thanks. So just to compare, may I ask, what are some of the alternative places you like?

Piraeus ferry arrival - I like the "ready to jump off' tip to catch a taxi. Curious, why not take the metro or bus into Athens. Cheaper, but I suppose at midnight after a long day for the few dollars more, a taxi straight to the hotel is a no brainer.

Posted by
2568 posts

Bret when you post a new thread, it's thoughtful to restate briefly your original stats. Anyway, just read your first thread, it was so full of undecided-upon scenarios, that I couldn't untangle anyway how many Greece days you finally have ended up with. So as a favor could you say we are now set to arriva ATH on JUNE XX at (hour) and Depart JUnE XX at (hour). This may sound silly but it very much affects your incoming options to transit to an isle, and your Last-night situation in Athens (i.e., if you have a 6 AM flight, you need to be in line at 4 AM, which is pretty much of a buzzkill for that final-evening celebration).

ACCOMS - NAXOS In June, the best beach to stay at with teenagers is St. George - because they can wander around & into town on their own, safely & you don't have to be forever driving or chaperoning, you can relax & read a trashy novel.
BUDGET LEVEL - I'm mostly Budget category & you may be much more upscale -- who knows? Well, all beach places have fridges, so you can make your own lunches & snacks. "Studio Units"have kitchenette corner or ell, so u can do breakfasts also. I never do more, since dining out is so fun & cheap! Sun Beach is a "Studio unit" or "apartment" place, very close by is Villa Naxia, is a bit upscale, also serves breakfasts. These are at far end of beach from town. Nearer to Town end, directly on sand are Studios Thomais & Studios Kalergis, both 3 stories, all front balconies, latter a bit more upscale of the 2. In either I'd book the top floor or next down, since young families favor the beach-level w. patios. A nice moderate hotel with BEST location right at center of the beach is Hotel Asteria; all front balcony rooms looking right on water, front terrace for breakfasts & lunches. If booking well in advance u could get adjoining rooms on upper floor. None of these have pools, if that's important.
UPSCALE - Most Naxos upscale hotels came late in the game when the beachfront was already filled with moderate hostelries. There are just 3 or 4; My choice would be Naxos Resort Beach Hotel -- over by Sun Beach, back from sands about 200 yards, nicely landscaped pool area, with shade & grass. Farther from beach, behind it, is Galaxy Hotel, frontage on a busy road, lots of concrete walks, uniformed staff, not my thing. Another is Astir Naxos, also farther away. With very good location is NIssaki Beach hotel, at very end of beach toward town... however, its "beach area" is a fraud, can sun but not really swim, must walk down the beach quite a way; also its pool is jammed between 2 wings, all concrete, no view. Reviewers say only a few top rooms have good sea view. A good-value hotel with Pool is Hotel Spiro, in from the beach somewhat, but not far, lots of family units, books up early. NOTE: if sea water is cold, so will pools be, they're not heated in Greece.

FERRY NOTE -- You wonder why I say taxi on arrival?? Well on Fri & Sat the ferries run later (1 am) but otherwise last Metro is at Midnight, and any ferry delay or they add a stop at Syros & you're out of luck. The KTEL express busses go to Airport, NOT to central Athens. There are local busses but where? and what? knows God. Taxis at midnight are double the usual fare, so could be up to €60; if u are in taxi line, they have est. rates posted, so no funny business, DON'T flag at taxi on the street. Look at it this way there are 4 of u = €15 each. When I advise couples taking the late ferry I recommend they find another pair going to a hotel near theirs & they pretend they are 1 party & get out at same destination, for 1 fare. If they say 2 destinations then it's 2 fares.

Posted by
828 posts

With respect to the discussion of budget hotels at St George beach, I have just updated my photos of St George beach hotels. These are all hotels we have stayed in or have visited and spoken to the owners.
I would add Hotel Diogenes to your list of studio apartments. In the same building there are 5 rooms that are sold by Sigma studios. These are inexpensive units small but all have sea view. You would need to rent two as they can only take two people each. Thats how we did it with our teen kids.
St George Beach Hotels Naxos http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanbr54/sets/72157632162394787/

Posted by
17 posts

Wow! This is great info about Naxos accommodations Janet & stanbr. I love the details and insights - very informative.

Janet – I just re-read my original travel scenarios post. Yikes! I can see how the options are confusing. That said – we most likely will fly from London direct to Santorini arriving at 17:45 Sunday June 25th, 2017 then head out to Rome Monday evening July 4th or Tuesday morning July 5th. As discussed the plans are to stay for 3 nights in Santorini, then ferry to Naxos for three nights, then ferry to Piraeus Saturday July 1 at 18:00 for 2-3 nights in Athens.

Apologies for the confusion with posting a new thread, my side note query was just trying to tap into your accommodations expertise.

Thanks again everyone!