When Kalia and Antonis Eliopoulos first met at a shipping event, little did they know how differently their career paths and lives would turn out. Antonis was in the family shipping business at the time and Kalia in PR for a think tank. On one of Antonis' countless trips to Santorini, he decided to buy a rustic vineyard, which turned into their first hotel—Vedema, a unique village-like setting loved by locals and guests alike.
Known for their unusual hotels on the volcanic island, the duo knew their third hotel, Istoria, had to be on the magical black sand beach here. And then, for their fourth property, Parīlio, the duo journeyed to the nearby island of Paros, where they crafted an artful statement amid a world of pine-fringed coves and white-washed historical villages. Kalia tells us about their fascinating journey and the stories that lead to the creation of their spellbinding properties…
Kalia Eliopoulos: As Istoria is our third hotel, it’s actually like our third child (we have three children as well). We initially wanted to have a beach house and to buy this big abandoned property on the water. The islanders called it the “Italian lady’s house” but we didn’t know anything about her, how to reach her, or if she even existed. At some point, we forgot about it. And then, it was like she found us. Someone got in touch with us to let us know that the Italian lady, who did indeed exist and lived in Italy, wanted to sell her house. We had a house at that point and didn’t want to buy another, but it was big enough to become a hotel. So, we said yes. After we got the house, we actually met this Italian lady, who in fact was Greek but had moved to Italy almost 50 years ago. She’s had a very interesting life and has many stories to tell.
KE: One important element is horses because the house came with stables and she loved horses. We kept the entrance to the stable and also the stirrup. Istoria is actually a house of stories where we expect guests to create their own experiences, making it an ongoing story.
KE: When she was 16, the King of Greece had organized a big ball in the palace. She could attend it because her father worked for the king. He was in charge of the horses. The King of Jordan, who was 50 years old at the time, fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. Of course, he had many wives but that wasn’t an issue. Her mother wanted to let her marry him but her father did not accept it. The pushy king was chasing her, so her father arranged a passport for her to enable her to travel around the Mediterranean. For four years she traveled to Turkey, Israel, Morocco, and Italy so that the king could not find her and that’s how she ended up in Italy and she stayed there. She left Greece at 15 because she was chased by a king. She became really strong and whatever she created after that was all her.
Antonis Eliopoulos: We wanted guests to feel like they’ve moved into an elegant house with a very high aesthetic. The hotel is located in a part of Santorini that doesn’t have any luxury or boutique hotels, so we took the risk and it’s paid off.
AE: True, Santorini is our first and eternal love, but Paros boasts exquisite natural beauty and a rich culture. It’s one of the best destinations in Greece. History and archaeology buffs come to explore its classical heritage, Byzantine churches, and Venetian fortresses. The younger crowd comes looking for a laidback holiday that combines pristine sandy beaches with a lively nightlife. Surfers come for its inviting waves, while families enjoy its many shallow, sheltered bays. Couples relish the picturesque villages and bougainvillea-lined alleyways. And nature lovers come to explore the island’s wildlife and stunning geological formations.
KE: For us, it is a celebration of Cycladic simplicity—of brightness, calmness, warmth, and the island’s carefree spirit. And that is the exact state of mind that Antonis and I are in this stage of our lives!