Corfu is an Ionian Sea Greek island. It is the second biggest of the Ionian Islands and, along with its minor subsidiary islands, comprises Greece’s northernmost region. The island is part of the Corfu regional unit and is governed as a single municipality, together with the smaller islands of Ereikoussa, Mathraki, and Othonoi. The municipality has an area of 610.936 km2, whereas the island itself covers 592.877 km2. Corfu is also the name of the island’s capital and the seat of the municipality (population 32,095). The Ionian University is located in Corfu.
From the origins of Greek mythology, the island has been intertwined with Greek history. Its past is littered with conflicts and conquests. Castles dotted over the island at strategic spots are a relic of these conflicts. Two of these castles round the capital, which is the only city in Greece to be thus encircled. As a consequence, the Greek government has formally designated Corfu’s capital as a Kastropolis (“castle city”). From the Middle Ages through the 17th Century, the island was recognized as a bastion of European States against the Ottoman Empire, and it became one of Europe’s most defended strongholds. The Venetians utilized the island’s defenses to protect against Ottoman incursions into the Adriatic. Corfu withstood many Ottoman sieges until coming under British control after the Napoleonic Wars. The British Empire finally relinquished Corfu, along with the other islands of the United States of the Ionian Islands, and union with modern Greece was completed in 1864 by the Treaty of London.
Following an ICOMOS proposal, the city’s old quarter was inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2007.
Corfu is a well-known tourist destination. The island hosted the European Union summit in 1994.
Tourism in Corfu
The adequate infrastructure and the many options for diverse activities make Corfu and the adjacent islands ideal for group vacations. Every year, motivational excursions, convention tourism, school visits, Ferrari or vintage vehicle clubs, and Harley Davidson groups gather here.
Corfu’s landscape, water, and history all entice visitors. In a place with a tourism tradition dating back at least 130 years, with Greek education and the influence of “nobility” from England, France, and Venice, in a place that has been welcoming the international jet-set for decades, the possibilities for sports and entertainment are certainly impressive.
That being said, Corfu is not the place to go if you want to get a true Greek experience. There is little left of Greece due to the tremendous effect of tourists. Even the tiniest beaches are spoiled by costly “traditional tavernas” that serve burgers and English breakfast, have dessert on the menu, and touts to attempt to lure you in. There are just a few mountain settlements where you may get away from the visitors and be among the Greeks.
Corfu is an excellent choice for a family vacation. Corfu may not have a Disneyland, children’s museums, zoos, or other attractions for children, but the whole island is welcome and safe for them. There are no tropical illnesses in Corfu, and there is minimal risk from criminals, violence, hazardous waters, and so forth. Children may play securely in the streets, parks, playgrounds, and on the beach.
Kerkyra or Korkyra derives from two great water deities: Poseidon, god of the sea, and Asopos, a major Greek mainland river. Poseidon, according to legend, fell in love with the lovely nymph Korkyra, daughter of Asopos and river nymph Metope, and kidnapped her. Poseidon transported Korkyra to the previously unidentified island and, in marital happiness, gave the island her name: Korkyra, which later grew into Kerkyra (Doric). They had a kid named Phaiax, after whom the island’s people were termed Phaiakes, in Latin Phaeaciani. The island of the Phaeacians is Corfu’s nickname.
Corfù, an Italianized variant of the Byzantine o (Koryph), means “city of the peaks,” and stems from the Byzantine Greek (Koryphai) (crests or peaks), which refers to the two summits of Palaio Frourio.
Corfu is located on the wide end of a peninsula, whose conclusion in the Venetian fortress is separated from it by an artificial fosse created in a natural ravine, with a saltwater moat at the bottom, which currently serves as a marina and is known as the Contrafossa. The ancient town, which grew behind fortifications, is a maze of small alleys covered with cobblestones, sometimes tortuous but always colorful and tidy. Kantonia are these streets, and the older ones occasionally follow the gentle irregularities of the earth, while many are too small for automobile traffic. A promenade grows along the coastline towards the bay of Garitsa, as does an esplanade connecting the city and the castle known as Spianada, with the Liston arcade on its west side, where cafés and bistros thrive.
The ancient citadel is a historic Venetian castle erected on an artificial islet with defenses around its whole perimeter, however certain parts, notably on the east side, are gradually eroding and sinking into the sea. Nonetheless, the interior has been repaired and is now used for cultural events such as concerts and Sound and Light Productions, which recreate historical events with sound and light special effects. These activities take place against the backdrop of the ancient defenses and the Ionian Sea. The citadel’s central high point rises like a giant natural obelisk, complete with a military observation post at the top and a giant cross at its apex; at the foot of the observatory is St. George’s church, built in a classical style punctuated by six Doric columns, as opposed to the Byzantine architectural style of most Greek Orthodox churches.
The new citadel, or Neo Frourio (“New Fortress”), is a massive defensive structure that dominates the city’s northern outskirts. As one goes from Neo Limani (“New Port”) to the city along the road that passes past the fishmarket, the massive walls of the castle tower over the landscape. The new citadel was formerly limited owing to the presence of a naval garrison, but ancient limitations have been relaxed, and excursions through the labyrinth of medieval tunnels and walls are now available. The winged Lion of St Mark, Venice’s emblem, may be seen embellishing the defenses at regular intervals.
Ano and Kato Plateia and the music pavilion
A big plaza named Spianada can also be located near the ancient Venetian Citadel, which is separated into two halves by a street: “Ano Plateia” (literally: “Upper square”) and “Kato Plateia” (literally: “Lower square”),. This is the largest plaza in South-Eastern Europe and one of the largest in Europe, and it is filled with green areas and noteworthy buildings, such as the Maitland monument, a Roman-style rotunda constructed under the British government to honour Sir Thomas Maitland. There is also an opulent music pavilion where the local “Philharmonikes” (Philharmonic Orchestras) organize classical concerts in the aesthetic and musical heritage for which the island is highly renowned. “Kato Plateia” also acts as a location for cricket matches on occasion. Cricket is peculiar to Corfu in Greece since it was formerly a British colony.
Palaia Anaktora and its gardens
Just to the north of “Kato Plateia” lies the “Palaia Anaktora” (literally “Old Palaces”), a huge complex of structures in Roman architectural style that formerly housed the Kings of Greece and, before that, the British Governors of the island. It was once known as the Palace of Saints Michael and George. The Order of St. Michael and St. George, with the motto auspicium melioris aevi, was created here in 1818 and is currently granted by the United Kingdom. The palace is now available to the public and consists of a complex of halls and buildings hosting art exhibits, including a Museum of Asian Art, which is unique in Southern Europe in its extent and the richness of its Chinese and Asian displays. The Palace gardens, replete with ancient Venetian stone aquariums, exotic plants and flowers, overlook the bay via historic Venetian defenses and turrets, and the local sea baths sit at the foot of the fortifications encircling the grounds. The Art Café, a café on the grounds that features its own art gallery with exhibits of both local and foreign artists, is recognized locally. From the same vantage point, the observer may see ships passing through the narrow channel of the old Vido island to the north, on their way to Corfu port, as well as high-speed retractable aerofoil ferries from Igoumenitsa. Closed to guests, a wrought-iron aerial stairway descends from the gardens to the sea; the Greek royal family used it as a shortcut to the baths. Locals now refer to the ancient Royal Gardens as the “Garden of the People” in an attempt to rewrite history.
The Old Town and Pontikonisi
Corfu’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Buildings from the Venetian period may be seen in numerous locations of the ancient city. Because it was under Venetian administration for a long time, the old city’s architectural character is heavily affected by Venetian architecture; its narrow and historic side lanes, as well as the old buildings’ signature arches, are especially evocative of Venice. The most important of the thirty-seven Greek churches are the city’s cathedral, the church dedicated to Our Lady of the Cave, Saint Spyridon church, wherein lies the preserved body of the island’s patron saint; and finally the suburban church of St Jason and St Sosipater, reputedly the oldest in the island, and named after the two saints probably the first to preach Christianity.
The adjoining island, known as Pontikonisi (Greek for “mouse island”), is quite green and densely forested, and its maximum natural height (excluding trees and man-made constructions like as the monastery) is roughly 2 m. (6 ft 6.74 in). Pontikonisi is home to the Pantokrator monastery; when seen from afar, the white stone stairway of the monastery gives the appearance of a (mouse) tail, which gave the island its name.
Archaeology and architecture
From the classical to the contemporary
Corfu has a few significant ancient relics. The ancient city of Corcyra (Kerkyra) was located approximately 1.5 miles (2 kilometers) south-east of Corfu, on a short spit of land between the sea-lake of Halikiopoulo and the Bay of Castrades, in both of which it had a port. Menekrates’ circular tomb, with its well-known inscription, is located on the Bay of Castrades. Under the hill of Ascension are the ruins of a temple, usually known as the Temple of Poseidon, a relatively modest dome construction that nonetheless exhibits certain architectural features in its damaged form. The name of Cassiope, the only other ancient city of prominence, is still maintained by the settlement of Cassiopi, and there are some crude ruins of buildings on the site; however, the temple of Zeus Cassius, for which it was famed, has completely vanished. Throughout the island, there are various monasteries and other Venetian-era structures, the most well-known of which are Paleokastritsa, San Salvador, and Peleka. The Achilleion is a palace that was commissioned by Elisabeth of Austria and acquired by Wilhelm II of Germany in 1907; it is now a renowned tourist attraction.
Italianate style architecture
Corfu is known for its Italianate architecture, particularly the Liston, an arched colonnade lined with cafés on the edge of the Spianada (Esplanade), the enormous main plaza and park that includes a cricket field and numerous pavilions. The Venetian-Roman City Hall, the Old and New castles, the recently restored Palace of Sts. Michael and George, formerly the residence of the British governor and the seat of the Ionian Senate, and the summer Palace of Mon Repos, formerly the property of the Greek royal family and birthplace of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, are also noteworthy. The Mon Repos Park is next to the Kerkyra Palaiopolis, where excavations were carried out by the Greek Archaeological Service in partnership with the University of Louvain-la-Neuve in Belgium and Brown University in the United States.
Examples of the discoveries may be seen at the Mon Repos Palace Museum.
Destruction of architecture during World War II
During World War II, the Luftwaffe attacked the island, destroying most of the city’s structures, including the market and Hotel Bella Venezia. The magnificent structures of the Ionian Academy and the Municipal Theatre were the heaviest architectural casualties of the Luftwaffe bombing (which in 1901 had replaced the Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo). The city’s Roman-style Theatre was eventually replaced with a drab, contemporary box-style edifice. At the local government level, discussions have taken place regarding removing this contemporary structure and replacing it with a copy of the historic theatre. The Ionian University, on the other hand, rebuilt the Ionian Academy in its original architecture.
Empress Elizabeth of Austria erected a vacation residence in the Gastouri () district to the south of the city in 1889, named it Achlleion after the Homeric hero Achilles. The edifice is adorned with paintings and sculptures of Achilles showing episodes from the Trojan War, both in the main hall and in the gardens. The palace, surrounded by neoclassical Greek sculptures, is a testament to platonic idealism as well as escapism.
The Imperial Gardens atop the hill provide a panoramic view of the surrounding lush hills and valleys, as well as the Ionian Sea. The gardens’ centerpiece is a marble statue on a high pedestal portraying a gravely wounded Achilles without arrogance and wearing just a modest robe and an antique Greek hoplite helmet. Ernst Gustav Herter, a German sculptor, created this statue.
The hero is shown without rank or authority, and he seems to be both human and heroic, since he is constantly attempting to take Paris’s arrow from his heel. His traditionally drawn visage is filled with agony. He raises his eyes to the heavens, as though seeking assistance from Olympus. His mother, Thetis, was a deity in Greek mythology.
Empress Sissi was slain in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1898, at the age of 60, by an Italian anarchist named Luigi Lucheni. Following her death, the mansion was sold to German Kaiser Wilhelm II. In contrast, at the top of the main hall’s grand staircase is a massive picture of a victorious Achilles brimming with pride. He drags the dead corpse of Hector of Troy in front of the astonished audience watching helplessly from inside the walls of the Trojan fortress, dressed in full royal military attire and upright atop his racing chariot.
Following the acquisition of the Achilleion, the Kaiser brought archaeologist Reinhard Kekulé von Stradonitz, a friend and adviser, to Corfu to advise him on the placement of the massive Achilles monument that he had commissioned. Kekulé also designed the renowned Kaiser salute to Achilles, which is etched at the statue’s base.
The Kaiser’s Bridge
Corfu was also a favorite vacation spot for German Kaiser Wilhelm II. After purchasing the Achilleion after Sissi’s death in 1907, he appointed Carl Ludwig Sprenger as the Palace’s botanical architect, and also built a bridge later named after him—the “Kaiser’s bridge” —to access the beach without traversing the road forming the island’s main artery to the south. The bridge, spanning over the road, connected Achilleion’s lower gardens to the neighboring shore; its ruins, a testament to imperial pride, are a significant landmark on the route. During the German occupation during World War II, the Wehrmacht dismantled the bridge’s middle portion in 1944 to facilitate passage of a huge gun, which was part of the Nazi defenses on Corfu’s southern shore.
Climate of Corfu
The Corfu archipelago has a pleasant Mediterranean climate. The summer here is warm and reasonably dry, with a blue sky, and is often cooled by seasonal breezes, providing great conditions for surfing. Rains are unusual. Cooler temperatures may be seen in hilly places. The winters are moderate here. Rainfall is most common from November through March. There are 3000 hours of sun each year on average, with an average daily sunlight length of 8.5 hours.
Spring in this region is spectacular, and tourists have the opportunity to experience the abundance of greenery and colors, as well as high-taste tourism.
Easter becomes a once-in-a-lifetime event here.
Summer is Corfu’s most popular season, with stunning beaches and crystal clear water for carefree hours on the beach.
Autumn is the season of vintage, when the whole island smells like grapes; it may be the finest time to get to know the island’s routine.
Christmas and New Year’s Day in Corfu are filled with music, hymns, and carols in a peaceful, decorated setting with a pleasant atmosphere and a magnificent refinement.
Geography of Corfu
Corfu’s northeastern tip is located off the coast of Sarand, Albania, separated by straits ranging in width from 3 to 23 kilometers (2 to 14 miles). The island’s southeast shore is located off the coast of Thesprotia, Greece. Its form is similar to that of a sickle (drepan, ), to which the ancients referred it: the concave side, with the city and harbor of Corfu in the center, faces the Albanian shore. The island’s size is estimated to be 592.9 square kilometers (146,500 acres), and it is around 64 kilometers (40 miles) long, with the maximum width at around 32 kilometers (20 mi).
Two steep and well-defined mountains separate the island into three districts: hilly in the north, undulating in the center, and low-lying in the south. The most notable of the two ranges, Pantokrator (o – the Almighty), spans east and west from Cape Falacro to Cape Psaromita and reaches its highest height at the same name’s top.
The second range culminates at the summit of Santi Jeca, sometimes known as Santa Decca due to a misreading of the Greek designation (Hagioi Deka), or the Ten Saints. The whole island, which is made up of numerous limestone formations, has a very diverse surface, and the views from higher elevations are spectacular. Agios Gordis, the Korission lagoon, Agios Georgios, Marathia, Kassiopi, Sidari, Palaiokastritsa, and many more places have beaches. Corfu is situated near the Kefalonia geological fault structure, which has resulted in earthquakes.
Corfu’s coastline is 217 kilometers (135 miles) long, including capes; its highest peak is Mount Pantokrator (911 meters (2,989 feet)); and the second Stravoskiadi, at 849 meters (2,785 ft). The whole range of capes and promontories encompasses Agia Aikaterini to the north, Drastis to the southeast, Lefkimmi and Asprokavos to the southwest, and Megachoro to the south. Lazareto and Ptychia are two islands located in the midst of Gouvia and Corfu Bay, which stretches over majority of the island’s eastern border (or Vido). There are camping spots in Palaiokastritsa, Agrillia, including four in the northern portion, Pyrgi, Roda, Gouvia, and Messonghi.
The islands of Diapontia
The Diapontia Islands are situated 6 kilometers northwest of Corfu and around 40 kilometers from the Italian beaches. Othonoi, Ereikoussa, and Mathraki are the three major islands.
The island of Lazaretto
Lazaretto Island, previously known as Aghios Dimitrios, lies two nautical miles northeast of Corfu; it has an area of 17.5 acres and is administered by the Greek National Tourist Organization. During Venetian administration in the early 16th century, a monastery was erected on the islet, and later in the century, a leprosarium was created, after which the island was called. During the French conquest in 1798, the islet was captured by the Russian-Turkish navy, who used it as a military hospital. During the British occupation, in 1814, the leprosarium was reopened after restorations, and after Enosis in 1864, the leprosarium was used on occasion again. During World War II, the Axis Occupation of Greece established a Nazi concentration camp there for prisoners of the Greek Resistance movement,while the two-story building that served as the Italian army’s Headquarters, a small church, and the wall against which those sentenced to death were shot remain today.
Homer names seven plants that grow in Alcinous’ garden: wild olive, pear, pomegranate, apple, fig, and grape vine. The apple and pear are extremely poor in Corfu (as of 2011); the others flourish, together with all the fruit trees known in southern Europe, with the addition of the kumquat, loquat, prickly pear, and, in certain locations, the banana. Myrtle, arbutus, bay, and holm oak, coupled with fir and Turkey oak on the hills, make a rich brushwood when left alone by agriculture. The island’s minor flora is diverse.
Economy of Corfu
Corfu is largely covered with olive trees and vineyards, and the island has been producing olive oil and wine since antiquity. Corfu’s major wine grape varieties include indigenous white Kakotrgs and red Petrokóritho, Cefalonian white Robóla, Aegean Moscháto (white muscat), Achaean Mavrodáphn, and others.
Modern times have seen the advent of specialized crops, such as kumquat and bergamot oranges, which are widely utilized in the production of spoon sweets and liqueurs. Corfu also produces local animal products such as Corfiote graviéra (a gruyere variant) and “Corfu” cheese (a Grana variant); “Corfu butter” (Botyro Kerkras), an intensely flavored cooking and baking butter made of ewe’s milk; and nomboulo salami, which is made of pork and lard and flavored with orange peel, oregano, thyme and other aromatic
Sofrito (a Venetian-style veal rump roast), pastitsáda (bucatini pasta with diced veal cooked in a tomato sauce), bourdétto (cod cooked in a peppery sauce), mándoles (caramelized almonds), pastéli (honey bars made with sesame, almonds, or pistacchios), mandoláto (a “pastél
The island has re-established itself as an important port of call, with a significant trade in olive oil. Previously, there was a significant export of citron, which was grown here, notably for ceremonial usage in the Jewish community during the Sukkot festival.