Look up “epicurean” in any modern dictionary and you’ll find the following definition (or something like it): “Adj. Devoted to the pursuit of luxury and sensual pleasure, especially that of eating and drinking. Hedonistic, self-indulgent.” The word’s meaning has wandered considerably from its source during the past 2,300 years. To Epicurus—the Athenian philosopher who frowned upon bacchanalia while championing wholesome pleasures, fellowship, and temperance—sharing a meal and lively conversation with friends in his garden was the most reliable path to happiness, and then to virtue. He insisted it really was that simple. Let’s test it, shall we?
Old-school Epicureanism eschews pleasure (too difficult to maintain) in favor of rustic contentment. In that spirit we recommend Hotel Familia. The traditional stone building housed a steam-powered olive oil press in the late 19th century; recently it was granted protected status by the Greek Ministry of Culture and converted into a lovely, quiet, family-run inn. The décor is modern but elements of the olive oil press remain: An immense drum of gorgeous hammered bronze has been burnished and repurposed as a reception counter. Hotel Familia is a bed and breakfast—there are no resort restaurants, no infinity pools, no menus of en-suite spa treatments—but the crucial comforts remain: seven elegant-yet-comfy guest rooms, serene interiors, and breakfasts in the sunny courtyard garden each morning. Sit under branches of bougainvillea and enjoy freshly baked breads, homemade jams and marmalades, and then borrow a Hotel Familia bicycle. The island of Ithaca—its paths, ancient stone, and beaches—awaits. Rooms begin at $110; visit www.hotel-familia.com for more information. Note: The Greek islands are scattered across the Ionian Sea (to the west) and Aegean (to the east). The Aegean islands, those that lie between mainland Greece and Turkey, continue to receive and shelter the thousands of Syrians fleeing civil war. The Ionian Islands—including sleepy Ithaca—lie far to the west between mainland Greece and Italy, and remain relatively unaffected by the migrant crisis.