The entrance to the property is marked by an exuberant vermilion bougainvillea, ten feet tall. Just beyond it is a terrace with a klimateria (pergola) where pretty wisteria entwines with two vines (one red, one white) that produce bumper crops of grapes in September. On either side of the terrace, flower beds display blue plumbago, miniature pomegranate bushes, lilies, gladioli, daisies, lavender, mint and all sorts of ornamental succulents that attract a large variety of butterflies. It’s a perfect shady place to recline on day-beds and enjoy the spectacular view of the Ionian Sea and the mountains of Albania, or to simply doze away an afternoon.
Below the klimateria, the land slopes gently down* beneath a tranquil olive grove: there are eleven olives, as well as cypress, oak and some young almonds. The grass is a carpet of wildflowers in March and wild oregano in June, with pink cyclamen later in the year. Tall purple and white irises grow wild in various corners. There is a small grove of damson trees at the bottom of the property that yields enough fruit to make an annual batch of intensely flavourful jam – a plum summer treat.
In front of the old monastery stands a large camelia, its dark glossy leaves smothered in white flowers in springtime. Nearby, a lush rosemary hedge separates our property from the wild lots of the derelict houses in the row – when there is a breeze, the fragrance wafts across the property. There’s a path here that winds through the olive groves to Loutses, so pretty with its dappled light and old stone terraced walls.
And there is wildlife. Two pine martens live close to the cypress trees and we have a small but rowdy population of wild tortoises. Birdlife thrives - mourning doves, house martins and an abundance of other small songbirds, even the elusive hoopoe. Owls have nested in the ruins next door for generations; they provide a silent cabaret at twilight when it is time for them to hunt for field mice and lizards.
The property has five patios. In the evening, we like to sit on the spacious upper patio of the old monastery. The view from here underscores the unique location and special privacy of the property. The entire row of terraced houses – ours and the three derelict properties next to us – commands a 180-degree panorama that moves from a view of the sea and Albania, over our land and the olive-covered slopes across the valley, to the old ruins beside us and finally upwards to the inland vista of mountains above the olive groves. Only a handful of houses can be seen in the far distance, otherwise the property is completely on its own.
At night, in May, the darkness beneath the olive grove glitters with fireflies. With no light pollution, the sky is perfect for star-gazing through the excellent house telescope. At dawn, the sky slowly shifts through every colour of the spectrum until the huge orange sun rises over the distant ridge on the other side of the valley, filling the world with dazzling light.
*Please note: the slope of the land provides an ideal opportunity for an above-ground swimming pool, easier and less expensive than having to excavate. The property is zoned for a pool.