Sotiris’ quarter century of experience in the Mediterranean gave him the knowledge to deal with the raging sea – and the wisdom to know when to not even try. Sails were unfurled, ropes coiled, booms swung and we became insignificant dots on a vast naval chart, disappearing between islands and islets, following the instantly erased paths of seafarers past.
A vast circle of yellow ochre, ringed in red, burns beneath the Andalucian sunshine. As the brass band begins to play, a black ball of fury rages across the yellow earth, a dark comet crossing the sun, a solar storm. Photograph by Chema Concellón
As Britain’s favourite holiday destination, Spain, now reports more private rentals than hotel accommodation, it’s an excellent time to think about stepping away from the Costa resorts, and into… well, what, exactly? That’s the difficulty with Airbnb, there are just so many options. Room or whole apartment? Rural farmhouse or urban studio? Quirky or mainstream?
The history of Hagia Sophia seems significant right now, as it is a symbol of the different cultures, religions and governments that have ruled this country. Even its names tell stories of its multicultural past – Hagia Sophia is Greek, while Aya Sofya is Turkish – and the city where it stands straddles two continents.
After three days in Florence, I’d visited none of the museums and ventured into just one small church. I’d done no shopping and seen none of the world-class galleries. I’d stepped inside the cathedral, but not made it up the famed Duomo. Yet as the high-speed train pulled out of Santa Maria Novella station, I felt content, knowing that I had, truly, experienced Florence.
The vibe was urban, the music modern, but the setting was not. I was in the centre of the historic city of Florence, surrounded by Renaissance architecture, fine marble statues and magnificent churches, and around 200 Florentine hipsters, having a blast on a Friday night. In a destination famed for its 14th century roots, I was a enjoying a particularly 21st century night out.