A spur-of -the-moment decision to visit the romantic Venetian port of Chania in western Crete ended up being one of the highlights of the trip
The old “Venetian Quarter” or Old Town is a web of charming, narrow little streets running between magnificent pastel-coloured Venetian houses which sit on a semi circular Venetian Harbour
…. some have been restored to their former architectural glory, some simply run down, aged and creaking with weeds and vines tenderly vying for space in the cracks in of their walls ….
….with a Venetian door here
….a Venetian door knocker there
….and elegant Venetian taps
I had last visited Chania in 1989 and stayed in an ancient hotel right on the harbour – it was very run down and desperately in need of love – but the memories still stop me in my tracks today
….the golden light which greeted me every morning as I opened the broken shutters overlooking the Port
….the wheeling of the swallows as they skimmed the surface of the water and then looped high overhead in the silence of the morning
….the mouth-watering smell of freshly baked bread from the antiquated baker and his wife below
….the empty chairs and empty tables beneath my balcony, patiently waiting for the first customers of the day
I couldn’t wait to go back
It was in the back streets of the Old Town that we literally stumbled upon the “House of Lion” – Casa Leone – a magnificently restored 600-year old Venetian boutique hotel
We were awe struck as we walked through an old iron gate and began climbing the stairs around a charming little courtyard….
…. bursting with succulents, Argaves and a tumble of pots
It didn’t matter that this wasn’t on the waterfront….if there was room – we were staying!
When we walked through the front door we were speechless
Charming Beautiful Breathtaking
Inspiring Glorious Opulent
Luxurious Classic Romantic
Oh so romantic
No words did it justice
The Turkish Mosque, perfectly reflected in the harbour formed a focal point at the end of the room – the iron doors onto the little balcony forming a proscenium archThe April sun shone though the double doors, bouncing off wooden glass-polished floors, sending splinters of light high up to the ceiling
More importantly, the building faced the harbour and had THE view – the same one I recalled so vividly from all those years ago.
I was ecstatic!
Classic period furniture and rich, elegant decor and antiques fill the five exclusive, spacious suites
Each is different and maintains the delicious luxury of the Venetian era whilst offering all mod cons surreptitiously hidden from view
The original owners were Venetians, descendants of a well-known family of musicians named Leone – hence Casa Leone
During Turkish occupation, the home became the residence of a wealthy pasha until Crete became an autonomous state in 1898 and Casa Leone was occupied by a Greek family
During World War II the building was requisitioned by the Germans and turned into their headquarters. The Greek owners of Casa Leone returned at the end of the war until 1951 when they sold it to the family that owns it today
In the late nineties, the building was carefully and painstakingly restored to its former glory under the watchful eye of the Archaeological Service and opened for business as a boutique hotel in 1999
Twenty years on and I am not disappointed. Many of the surrounding buildings have been carefully restored, retaining their old charm but now house chic art galleries, shops, restaurants, cafes and boutique hotels
Renovated, restored or left alone, the architecture along the harbour front reeks of a tortured history as it stands proudly framed by the snow-covered Lefka Ori – White Mountain Range
The Cretan morning sun still rises golden and the spring swallows still silently reel and the smell of freshly baked bread still lingers at the break of day,
but now there is a great sense of grandeur ….
…. the perfect synergy of the Past and the Present
…. and more importantly, it lives up to all its memories, plus some!Thank you to Janny who took this photo of Alexandra and me on our little Casa Leone balcony