Every day, while well into his nineties, Patrick Leigh Fermor would swim about half a mile from the private beach below his rambling Mani retreat to a ruined fortress on the nearest islet of Meropi. Emboldened by wine and the company of friends, he was known to leap from a boulder he dubbed “Geronimo” on the cliff face at the bottom of his garden.

I’ve been standing on Geronimo for ten minutes, trying to summon the nerve to follow his example. On this steamy day in Kardamili, in the central southern Peloponnese, a lusty breeze whips up the sea. It’s only the ego blow of being bested by a nonagenarian that eventually propels me into the swell.

Start your free trial to read the full story

Subscribe to Air Mail to access every article
and search our entire Arts Intel Report.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here.