Corfu island (Central)

Exploring central Corfu

Corfu is one of the most important islands of Greece in the Ionian Sea, one of the first Greek islands that accommodated mass tourism.   The city of Corfu is characterized by a strong Venetian element, but also by many English and French influences. It is a cosmopolitan city that spreads a sense of nobility. 
In Corfu many Venetian mansions and buildings are painted with the traditional earthy color of the ochre. 

The "Liston" building of the homonymous square

The “Liston” building of the homonymous square

 

Typical "Architecture" in the Corfu Town

Typical “Architecture”  in the Corfu Town

 

 

Typical "Architecture" in the Corfu Town

Typical “Architecture” in the Corfu Town

 

View of the gulf from Corfu Town

View of the gulf from Corfu Town

 

 

 

Sightseeing – Places of Interest

Corfu is named the “Queen of the Ionian”.  No matter how many times you visit, you will always have something new to see at the noble Corfu.

 

1.   Achilleion Palace and Museum

A visit to Achilleion Palace with the blossomed gardens around it enchants the visitor. The Achilleion Palace was built during the years 1889-1891 on the top of a wooded hill in the village of Gastouri by the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary Elisabeth also known as Sisi.

 

Bottom center: The statue of Sissy- The gardens. Bottom left: “Hermes resting and thoughtful.  It is comprised of  sculptures that Elisabeth commissioned from European studios to decorate Achilleion. 

The Achilleion was built following the instructions of the Italian architect Raffaele Caritto in Pompeian style. The name of Achilleion was given by the Empress herself because of her great admiration for the hero of Greek mythology Achilles, whom she considered to combine Greek divine beauty and valour but also tragic fate.

The Achillion. The palace’s central entrance

Elisabeth used to visit the Achilleion twice a year until 1898. After her death, the Achilleion remained closed for nine years.  In 1907 was sold to the German Emperor Kaiser Wilheim II who made several additions and changes to the gardens.

During World War I, the French and the Serbian troops used the Achilleion as a military hospital.  In 1983 the Greek Tourism Organization undertook the management of the palace.

“Wrestlers about to pounce”. Copy of a famous composition to be found in the Naples Museum.

 

The visitor will see the statues and sculptures that adorn the yard and the exterior of the palace, the extensive terraced gardens, the lush vegetation that surrounds it,  and the breathtaking views.

The entrance to the Achilleion’s gardens. Garden stairs decorated with statues.

 

The Peristyle of the Achilleion is dominated by the nine marble status of the muses together with the status of Apollo and the three Graces.

A view of the peristyle colonnade. The nine Muses.

In the Peristyle Arcade, known as “Arcade of the Wise men” thirteen busts of ancient philosophers and of Shakespeare are saved.  Through successive wooden doors the visitor can see the large hall which used to house the Casino.

Inside the Palace

Entering the palace, the visitor faces the staircase a priceless work of art, which celebrates Greek mythology, with the status of Zeus and Hera, statuettes and plaster sculptures. 

Magnificent views of the ceiling decorations as the visitor goes up the staircases.

Magnificent views of the ceiling decorations as the visitor goes up the staircases.

The statue of Achilles

The statue of “Dying Achilles” is the work of the German sculptor Ernst Gustav Herter, Professor of Sculpture at the Berlin Academy, which represents Achilles dying trying to pull the arrow out of his heel.

Statue of the” Dying Achilles” by the renowned Berlin sculptor Herter (1846-1917)

The statue of “Victorious Achilles” which was placed in the Achilleion at the Kaiser’s wish is the largest statue of the Achilleion, representing Achillies at the moment of his victory.

Victorious Achilles, the statue placed on the main terrace substituting the Dying Achilles. Wilhelm had a dedication inscribed on the pedestal.

 

Sissy  the Empress

The owner of the Achillion Empress Elisabeth (Sissy) 1837-1898

 

The Chapel of the palace

Empress Elisabeth’s Catholic chapel is a work of art in its entirety. Its most impressive part is the mural on the dome-shaped ceiling depicting the Trial of Jesus.

 

The palace’s chapel. The statue of the Virgin Notre-Dame de la Garde, patron of Marseille’s sailors.

 

The Entrance to the palace (4 seasons)

The painted composition on the ceiling of the hall of the interior entrance to the patio representing the four seasons.

 

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On the second floor, there is a grand oil painting by the Austrian artist Franz Matsch, depicting the Triumph of Achilles in his fight with Hector.

Painting depicting Achilles triumphant dragging the dead Hector round the walls of Troy

 

 

 

 2.     Asian Art Museum of Corfu  (Palace of St. Michael and St. George or Old Palace)

It is one of the most beautiful palaces left behind from the British occupation. The Palace of Saints Michael and George is a palace in the city of Corfu.  The palace was built for Sir Thomas Maitland, the British High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands. It was used as the residence of the High Commissioner but was also used as the seat of the Ionian Senate of the Order of Saints Michael and George.

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The foundation stone was laid on the ground on St. George’s Day in 1819. The location that the Palace was built is between the old town hall of Corfu and the Venetian castle. After the union of the Ionian Islands with the  Kingdom of Greece in 1864 the palace served as a royal residence until the Second World War.

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Today the palace houses the Asian Art Museum of Corfu. The collection of the museum began to gather in 1927 and consists mainly of donations, with the largest of Grigorios Manos with 10,500 pieces. It is the only museum in Greece devoted to the art and antiquities of  Far East and India.   The palace is designed in Regency style by British architect George Whitmore, who was a Colonel and later Major to Royal Engineers. It was mainly built with white stone of Malta. The two gates that surround the palace are St. Michael’s Gate and the St. George Gate. 

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The Official Rooms consist of a majestic staircase, a rotonda in the center leading to two large halls, the Throne Hall and the official dining room. The palace was renovated for the European Union Summit in 1994.

The Rotonda in the center leading to two large halls

 

3.  Ioannis Capodistrias Museum

The museum is housed in the country house of the family, in the area Koukouritsa of Evropouli in Corfu, in a beautiful garden with great views.        The Capodistrias Museum is the only museum dedicated to the life, work and depot of John Capodistrias, the great diplomat, and politician, the first Governor of Greece.

The Museum offers visitors the unique opportunity to explore the history of Corfu, 19th century Europe and modern Greece. The visitor can see in the Capodistrias Museum the country house of the Capodistrias family, personal items of Ioannis Capodistrias, as well as books, maps, etc. Moreover, honorary gifts are given to the Governor, such as medals, religious icons as well as objects from his time in the Court of Czar Alexander I ‘. Also, artwork, furniture and household items of the Governor and his family.

4. Others Museums and Archeological sites 

Others Museums and Archeological sites which also deserves a visit are:

  • Archeological museum
  • Nomismatic museum
  • Solomos museum 
  • Mon Repos
  • Palaeopolis museum 
  • Folkloric museum of Central Corfu 
  • Olive tree museum 
  • National Gallery 
  • Acharavi Folklore museum
  • etc.

Moreover there are historical buildings such as :

  • the Liston building
  • the Mansion of the Reading Society of Corfu
  • the Palace of the Old Ionian Bank
  • the Ionian Parliament Palace
  • the Palace of the Ionian Academy
  • Theater of San Giacomo, or St. Jacob’s Theater and today’s Town Hall 

*in the city of Corfu, the Theater of Saint Giacomo was the first theater that had been built and operated in Greek-speaking areas during recent years. It was inaugurated in 1733 and until 1893 it became a focal point for the opera and musical theater. It attracted Italian musicians and composers, many of whom became permanent residents of Corfu and contributed to the development of the local music scene.

 

 

Religious Monuments and events

1.  Church of the Antivouniotissa  – Byzantine Museum

The Antivouniotissa Museum is a museum of post-Byzantine religious art of the Cretan and early Heptanese schools in Corfu, Greece. It is located in the former church of the Holy Mother of God Antivouniotissa. The church, dedicated to the Holy Mother of God Antivouniotissa, one of the oldest and richest religious monuments on Corfu, was probably built at the end of the 15th century. Since 1984 it displays  a rich collection of heirlooms and portable icons.

 

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The church of the Antivouniotissa is an aisleless, timber-roofed basilica in which the particular characteristic of the Corfiote churches of the period are preserved. The interior of the nave is impressive and imposing, and retains a number of features of the so-called Heptanesian Basilica type.  The stone iconostasis is a later structure.

The collection includes some important items, by both known and anonymous artists, dating from the 15th to the 19th century, and thus gives a full picture of the religious and artistic output during this period on Corfu, as well as the intellectual movement more generally. Like the Ionian Islands, Corfu became a stopping point and place of residence for artists, mainly from the Cretan School, en route from Crete to Venice, particularly after Crete fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1669.

This movement of both artists and artistic trends, combined with a dedication to the Orthodox doctrine, Byzantine survivals, and direct contact with the West, led to the creation over the centuries of a high-quality artistic aesthetic and models, not only amongst the locals.The Antivouniotissa Museum, through works by artists from Nicholas Tzafouris, Michael Damaskinos and Emmanuel Lambardos to Emmanuel Tzanes, Victor and Michael Avramis, and others, is fully representative of five centuries of religious artistic expression.

 

2.  Litany of the Saint Spyridon “the Patron Saint of the Corfu Island”

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The locals devote the of St. Spyridon’s pilgrimage in Corfu with the salvation of the island by many misfortunes. On 11 August every year takes place the litany of Saint Spyridon’s pilgrimage on the streets of the town thus to remind of the redemption of the island since the siege of the Turks in 1716, a siege that had lasted for a month.

According to the religious tradition, Saint Spyridon, in 1716, saved the island from the Ottomans, when they disembarked on the island and after seizing the fortifications of Mantoukis and Garitsa and the Fortresses Avramis and Sotiros, continued their devastating attacks on the island for a whole month.

Ecclesiastical history says, on August 9, 1716, a terrible storm broke out on the island, hitting the ships of Turkish troops scattering panic in their camp and holding the Corfu Fortress impregnable. Many Ottoman soldiers fled, saying that they saw Saint Spyridon in the form of a monk coming out of the homonymous church and expelling them with a lit torch. That is why the departure of the Ottomans from the island on 11 August was then attributed to the miraculous intervention of Saint Spyridon.

 

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The litany, flanked by the sounds of the Philharmonic of the Corfu, accompanies of a large crowd of people, all the priestly clergy of the island with archbishops and bishops.  

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The Philharmonics of Corfu are worldwide known. There are 18  philharmonics on the island, four of which are located and operate within city limits. The names of the four largest philharmonic bands are:

  • FILARMONIKI ETAIREIA KERKYRAS (old )
  • MANTZAROS
  • KAPODISTRIAS
  • KONTOKALIOY

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Palaiokastritsa monastery

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Beaches

Palaiokastritsa beach

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Myrtiotissa Beach

It is located on the western coast of the Korfu between the villages Pelekas and Vatos. The beach is approached by car up to a point and then you have to go down a few stairs to a fairly steep downhill.  Attention on the road is narrow and downhill with turns. If you do not mind walking, park as high as you can.

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It is one of the cleanest beaches in Corfu there are no hotels, appartments or restaurants on the beach so it still remains natural and unspoiled by progress. Beautiful green-green waters when you see them from above and enjoy them just as you descend.

 

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Νorth of the beach, on the hill, you will find the monastery of the Blessed Vorgin of Myrtiotissa, 14th century which also deserves a visit.

 

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The spectacle compensates you once you reach the beautiful beach with clear, crystal clear waters, soft sand, wild scenery with rocks and absolute tranquility.

 

Ermones beach

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Ermones is one of the most enchanting places in Corfu. It is a bay between high cliffs and sea, just as steep and wild, with deep and cold waters.

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The beach combines pebbles with a little sandy beach.

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There are two taverns in the area where you can eat and taste the traditional local dishes of Corfu.

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GASTRONOMY

Tasting the local, tradiotional dishes of Corfu cusine such as pastitsada (Greek: Παστιτσάδα). It is a traditional Sunday dinner and sometimes called pastitsada Korfiatiki. The main ingredients  are meat and  thick spaghetti. In the villages of Corfu, the housewives use cinnamon to their cooking.

Sofrito is a traditional food of Corfu and is one of the most famous and classic dishes of the island, along with the pastitsada and the bourdeto. The name of the dish comes from the Italian Sofritto, which means a mild, word that existed during the Venetian domination. The locals use beef  sliced, fried in oil and simmering with three ingredients that create a balance of tension between them (vinegar, garlic, parsley), often together with white wine. They serve it hot with rice or fries and frozen dry white wine.

The bourdeto or bourgeto or bourieto is a rather thick, fishy soup, which is mainly found in the Ionian Islands, while it is considered the traditional and most characteristic dish of Corfu. Its origin and name comes from Italy – brodetto in Italian means broth. The locals make Bourdeto with various species of fish (cod, octopus, scorpions, galleys, cephalopods, paraglides etc.)

MAP- LOCAL SWEETS

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Wikimedia featured image Atribution   Creator: Marc Ryckaert (MJJR)


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