Corfu is something of a tale of two worlds. On the one hand there’s the Corfu of wipe-down tablecloths, package holidays and all-you-can-stomach (and then some) bars – the Corfu associated with package holidays and stag dos. The north-east of the island, however, veers as far from this as conceivably possible, and has now become home to lavish villas, swish restaurants and stretches of neatly polished yachts. It’s this not unsubstantial pocket of prosperity that has earned the nickname Kensington-on-Sea – to the chagrin of many who summer there.
Villa Apasa, a sprawling six-suite property draped down the side of a timeworn cliff face, sits firmly in this territory. Part of The Villa Collective, a curated group of private retreats, it has a discreet roadside entrance that belies the sheer scale of the place. Even once through the gates, the single-storey entryway in cream coloured stone and dazzling white plaster hints at well-kept but not atypical digs; fleeting glimpses of the vast infinity pool offer the only hint that something more remarkable lies beyond.
Once you’re inside, Villa Apasa stems off in all directions like one of the ancient olive trees for which Corfu is famed. An immense 20 metre wide living room, complete with grand piano, gives way to a 12-seat dining room, book-lined study, bedroom and terrace – with uninterrupted views across the Ionian Sea to the coastal hills of Albania. Owner Francis Fowler took inspiration from famous set designer Oliver Messel on the interiors, with colonial ceiling fans, prime oak floors and splashes of bold colour to break up the otherwise rampant white on white.
Ornate Indian doors are a distinctive touch, evoking a sense of the palatial, and are fairly fitting for a villa that is among Corfu’s largest. Downstairs lie more spacious suites and the kind of slick touches that coax guests to hole away, such as a comfortable cinema room and hammam. There’s also a gym, of course, with the panoramic views making a turn on the treadmill that little less arduous.
For all of the rarefied grandeur of inside, however, it’s perhaps outside that Villa Apasa most impresses. From its high perch, guests can enjoy cinematic sunrises or, as the day meanders on, relax with a cocktail and watch as distant boats ebb on still Greek waters. The property boats a dual-level freshwater pool, which drains from one terrace to the next via a planted waterfall. A well stocked alfresco bar invites guests to loiter, while a covered dining area and cushion-lined cabana will have you throwing off your indoor self and committing to a life outdoors: a kind of Bear Grylls adventure without the physical exertion and questionable sources of sustenance.
Beyond the villa itself, the grounds are made up of a series of loosely manicured, lawned terraces that eventually dip to sea level. Slender trees provide shade for smart rows of loungers and, with almost as many terraces as bedrooms, there’s thankfully more than enough space to find occasional solace with a decent holiday read, company depending. Though Villa Apasa is still relatively fledgling, the ultimate goal is to pay homage to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, as the greenery takes hold and flows from elevation to elevation, towards the water.
At sea level, a private, decked platform is ideal for boat hopping and also means easy access for a dip. Luckily, for the weary of leg, or those who just don’t fancy the steep stroll villa-wards, a glass fronted lift connects to the upper terraces. Even for an area synonymous with good living, Villa Apasa delivers the exceptional. While the restful stateliness of the property itself is enough to entice, there’s also outstanding cuisine, with UK-based Chef Veronica Drysdale brought in to deliver immense breakfast spreads and stellar, restaurant-worthy suppers.
Likewise, a seasonally resident team of industrious staff are on hand to keep your flutes filled and loungers towelled. So while the region at large may garner its tongue-in-cheek sobriquet from the flocks of West Londoners who descend every year, there’s little doubt that this stronghold on the sea holds something for all – an escape in the truest sense of the word.
Villa Apasa follow the link villacollective.com, The Melissonia Estate, Nissaki, Corfu 49083, Greece. From £40,000 a week, fully staffed