You can eat like a king and then walk it off along some of the most heavenly pathways in all of Greece.
The island, one of the triumphs of the Cyclades, has for years been a refuge for pleasure-seekers. My sister is one of them. She bought a 300-year-old peasant house ten years ago in the little village of Exambela, and I’ve visited ever since.
Only nine miles long and five miles wide, the island is a craggy outcrop with hilltop churches looking out over whitewashed villages and sandy beaches tucked away in exquisite coves.
The Greek island of Sifnos, which has become a foodie haven — appropriate given that Nikolaos Tselementes, who wrote the first proper Greek cookbook, was born here in 1878
Gold and silver mines made Sifnos one of the wealthiest Greek islands in ancient times, and today it retains an elite aura.
Upper-crust Athenians and French tourists stroll the boutique-lined capital, Apollonia, yet the island remains relatively off the map to the British.
Partly because it’s tricky to get to: you need to take a boat via Athens or Santorini and Sifnians like it that way — a proposed airport a few years ago nearly caused a riot.
But word is getting out. Recently it’s become a foodie haven — appropriate given that Nikolaos Tselementes, who wrote the first proper Greek cookbook, was born here in 1878.
Actress Scarlett Johansson who was spotted last summer at one of the more experimental restaurants on Sifnos
And Scarlett Johansson was spotted last summer at one of the more experimental restaurants, Omega3, a culinary flagship for the island. One dish, whitefish roe mousse, tastes like the light-as-air idea of what the gods had in mind for taramasalata before it became earth-bound in all-you-can-eat tavernas.
One of a handful of Sifnos specialities, revithia, the island’s equivalent of a roast, is a lemony chickpea soup cooked overnight before being scoffed on Sundays.
Or there’s thimarisio, a herby lamb stew so tender it feels like you could nudge it off the bone by the power of thought. Taverna Chrysopigi, on a sapphire-blue bay, offers a possibly unrivalled version.
When not ascending culinary heights, there are plenty of real ones to climb. The island has extensive walking networks — one route might take you to a mysterious Mycenaean acropolis atop a hill, another to a lonely swimming spot by an ancient silver mine, or yet another to the former capital, coastal Kastro.
The authorities have recently waymarked all the paths so you can mosey onwards enjoying the landscape.
Anna Graikou is my expert guide. A former chef, she swapped her fag habit at the stove for blue skies and less stress. We pass a peaceful little countryside chapel, and then a stand of wild carrot interspersed, Anna points out, with hemlock. ‘Socrates’ poison,’ she remarks, deadpan.
Along with striding the hills and cooking like angels, dropping casual references to ancient history is, you discover, a Sifnos habit.