Nia Magoulianiti-McGregor recalls her visit to Greece on her own where an Italian family take her under their wing
I’m so in need of a holiday I book a ticket to Mykonos for two weeks. Just for me, myself and I.
‘Are you mad?’ people say. ‘Who will you talk to?’
Oh no, I begin to worry. Who will I talk to?
And oh, the last time I went on holiday to Mykonos was with my ex-husband and son when we were a happy, nuclear family. Would I start hankering for a past life?
A few friends consider coming along. Nothing works out. Dates clash. Planes fill up. I start panicking about being lonely. But somewhere in the back of my mind I want to try this.
I pack my suitcase carefully. Plenty of books, white dresses, tops, ankle chains, kikois and enough homeopathic medicine to start an alternative pharmacy and, yeah baby, a pack of condoms.
A week before I’m due to leave, I break out in a rash. I think it’s stress. The tests come back positive for glandular fever, aka the ‘teenage kissing disease’. I am exhausted and can’t remember kissing anyone. The rash clears up by Wednesday. I get pink eye on Thursday. I’m flying out Friday night.
I push into the long queue at the airport. The Greek man behind winks at me and says, ‘Endaxi, we go through together.’
I wave my bag goodbye and, at Athens airport, wave Yiannis a relieved goodbye too. It’s hard to be chatted up at 4 am.
I wait and wait to be reunited with my suitcase. I am the last, lonely person at the conveyer belt at Mykonos Airport. I report it missing, defeated. I have nothing but the clothes on my back and the contents of my handbag (toothbrush, toothpaste and, thank heavens, a bottle of Rescue Remedy).
Still, I love my room at the sweet self-catering place that’s a 10-minute walk from nudist Paradise Beach. But now it’s 35 degrees and I need a swim. With no luggage – no bikini, no hat, no nothing – a nude beach is really the only place to go. I grab a bath towel, buy some suntan lotion en route and head for Paradise.
Few people are actually completely naked. I am pale, on the wrong side of 49 and alone. My cellulite has seen better days. But the water is wonderful, and I’m not swimming in my panties, doll!
It’s the moment of truth. I am as nekkid as the day I was born. I walk to the warm blue sea. I know my bum is wiggling and my breasts are jiggling. I am relieved I didn’t have time for a Brazilian wax before I left. Someone actually talks to me. Claudio, an Italian attorney invites me to dinner.
I start to relax. I get a tan. My pink eye has gone. My hair looks good. I don’t miss my ex, just my face creams. My suitcase arrives two days later. I am embarrassed at how full it is. I have a Zen moment when I realise how little I really need on this holiday.
The next day, four young Italians move in next door. They’ve brought pasta and wine. One (Rosario) has even brought his mama. They adopt me and flirt with me at the same time. Charming Alessandro is a family counsellor and offers me a Shiatsu massage. No, grazie! Gorgeous Ramundo is a train driver and offers me something more interesting. Er, no, grazie (but I’m tempted.) Enrico drinks my whiskey but makes me pasta.
They buy me dinner. They call me ‘eeenteresting’. Already in my head, I’m Sophia Loren. She once said: ‘Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful.’
And suddenly I believe.