Until the 1950s, Mykonos was nothing more than a stop-over for archaeologists, academics, and spiritual pilgrims en route to Delos. Barren, windswept, isolated Mykonos was a backwater. There were no roads, only dirt tracks; there was no electricity, apart from a single generator that often sputtered to a halt; running water was a rare luxury. But early visitors — from Roland Barthes to Le Corbusier, Durrell to Camus — instantly fell for the island’s raw natural beauty, sublime organic architecture, and open-hearted locals. Greek society columnists Zachos Hatzifotiou and Eleni Vlachou eulogized the island, unleashing a wave of Athenian socialites and shipowners, musicians and movie stars, who made Mykonos their summer playground.

“What set Mykonos apart were the Mykonians,” Eleni Vlachou wrote. “They do not suffer from any kind of inferiority complex. They look after you with pleasure, let you dress and undress as you please, but that tolerance has nothing to do with coldness or indifference. On the contrary, even the poorest villagers know how to make you feel welcome, with their simple, natural graciousness.” As well as being instinctively hospitable, the Mykonians were innately entrepreneurial. The first bars on the harbor appeared because the night boat never showed up on time. Local fishermen, farmers and builders, endowed with superhuman strength and supercharged charisma, became pioneers of the tourist industry: building the first villas and hotels, taking visitors to far-flung beaches on their fishing boats, or transporting them to church festivals on their donkeys — wild festivities that lasted for three days and nights, whipped up by local musicians on violins and bagpipes.