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From the end of the 19th century until 1956, the economy of Santorini was very diverse: there were many and various agricultural products produced, there were several factories and pumice mining (until 1986) was important for the island. Tourism was not at all important until 1935, unlike today, when Santorini is totally dependent on tourism.
From 1935 the first cruise ships docked in Santorini's port, mostly Germans. However, there was hardly any tourist infrastructure, only after the 1956 earthquake tourism slowly but surely started. Santorini is now visited annually by more than one million tourists.
Due to the many volcanic eruptions, the soil of Santorini is very fertile and the excellent quality of its agricultural produce is world-famous, although it is grown in small quantities.
The volcanic soil, the lack of rain and the wind that blows across the island throughout the year make Santorini's vineyards very special. The vines stay low to the ground in order to protect themselves from the wind. Santorini is known for its strong, aromatic wines. The most interesting wines are the white nikteri (from grapes picked before dawn!), the sweet red vissanto ('vino santo') and the powerful tsikoudia. Most vineyards are found around the village of Megalochori.
Santorini's sweet sherry tomatoes with a firm skin are a special agricultural product with a long history. This variety originated in Egypt and found on Santorini the ideal growing conditions for its typical taste.
Santorini's fava, a very small legume even smaller than peas, has been cultivated on Santorini for centuries and is, after grapes and sherry tomatoes, the island's most important agricultural product. The total area under cultivation is not very large and the yield of this special product, also for export, is only about 200 kilos per year.
Another Santorini speciality is white aubergines, which by the way taste just like the purple variety.
Furthermore, there is a strange kind of cucumber, the "katsouni". The katsouni is much sweeter than the normal cucumber and if it is not harvested in time, this cucumber turns a yellow colour and tastes just as sweet as a melon.
Sheehan, S. / Santorini
Oswin, T. / A-Z guide to Santorini
CIA - World Factbook
BBC - Country ProfilesLast updated November 2023
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