White-washed houses, bright blue skies, sun sparkling on the sea, and brilliant sunsets. Some of Greece’s most iconic images are of Santorini. Santorini is an island in the southern Aegean Sea and a regular stop for cruise ships wending their way through the Greek isles. Although it’s jam-packed with tourists during the summer months, visitors to Santorini, dazzled by its dramatic beauty, write glowingly about their time on the island.Modern Santorini was shaped by a violent volcanic eruption that occurred around 1500 BC. The volcano blew away the center of the island, forming a huge caldera. Some have theorized that Santorini is the site of mythical Atlantis, and the eruption is what caused Atlantis to be swallowed by the sea. Santorini’s volcano is still active.
Two years ago, we visited Santorini in early April. Because the season had not yet begun, we often had Santorini’s narrow village streets to ourselves. Many of the shops were closed. We had a great time.
The shopkeepers and restaurant owners were happy to see us, not yet jaded by a full season of tending tourists. Over glasses of Santorini’s crisp Assyrtiko white wine, our hotel’s owner told us about the island’s bone-dry volcanic soil and the crops that thrive in it. “Waterless” tomatoes, capers, yellow split peas (called fava in Greece), and wine grapes are Santorini’s most important agricultural products. When we left, my bags were packed with jars of sun-dried Santorini tomatoes, dried capers, pickled caper leaves, and a kilo of fava.
One of the best things I ate on Santorini was locally-caught Shrimp in Tomato and Caper Sauce. The intense taste of Santorini’s sun-dried tomatoes boosted the sauce’s tomato flavor, and tangy capers made the dish truly special.