I fell in love with Vuno a month ago during our family trip to the south of Albania. A small village up in the rocky arid mountains with its beautiful white houses facing the deep blue Ionian sea. Charming, authentic, desolate, enchanting.
I was invited again by the village. I returned last Saturday, July 11th 2020, ready to experience the village, know its secrets, walk its streets and meet the people.
The first local from Vuno that we met was Filip, the owner of the Villa Filip, where we booked our room. His house offered a splendid view on the sea and was a few kilometers from the village.
We spent the afternoon amid chirping of cicadas. Their music lulled us. We could not resist their songs. We were watching the sea from the Villa’s terrace. An invitation to laziness. I liked it.
Filip prepared us a simple dinner. At the same time, he would tell about his time when he left Albania to go to Greece for a living, with his young children on the shoulders. The old regime was falling apart. He decided to come back thirty years later and construct with his wife the house he called a villa, a simple building where he offers bed and breakfast and a beautiful hospitality without fuss and glitter.
The little chapel in his yard intrigued us. My children entered and rushed to the candles to lighten them in the middle of the wooden icons. I was observing the momentum. A small demi arched window offered the blue of the sea which in combination with the whiteness of the small church’s interior reminded us Greece. For indeed Vuno has a flavour of Greece. It is not far from it and the island of Corfu can be seen from the village.
On Sunday morning, we went to the centre of the village. A small coffee place in the middle of the village aside the main road that leads you to the south of Albania invites you necessarily and you can’t resist. The tourists were already there mixing with old people of Vuno who were drinking “raki”, the Albanian fruit flavored alcoholic drink, early in the morning.
The coffee place offered a view on the slope of the hill where white houses were standing out from the greenery. It was idyllic. We felt extremely happy. It was peaceful.
The waiter and owner of the coffee bar was suggesting us to see a church in the vicinity telling us proudly that the prime minister’s mother was from the village. He invited us inside the coffee bar handing us the key of the church. I had never had a church key before! I was puzzled!
We headed towards the church of Saint Mary. I had its key in my hand. I felt baffled but also like a child about to open a treasury. I was moved to open a church built in 1783 turned into a cinema during communism. The iconostasis displayed in front of us. My children would rush again to the candles playing with some coins left aside as charity. We were alone in the church serving guides to ourselves. I turned the key back to the owner. It happened in Albania, beautiful and exotic Albania.
It was time to go for a swim. We left the village and discovered some beaches nearby. The beach of Jale, Gjipe, Dhermi, Palasa are the most visited and are said to be some of the best beaches of Albania. But they are not the only ones in the area. There are many that are off the main roads and one needs to get off the beaten track to reach them.
We finished the day on the beach of Palasa swimming in its crystal blue-green water with white stones. The sharp mountain was behind us. We knew that we had to climb the narrow serpentine road again for a 4-hour trip back to Tirana knowing that those mountains and sea would be there forever for new invitations.