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Corfu in Greece

Corfu in Greece, known locally as Kerkyra, is the most northerly of the Ionian Islands and is situated off the northwest coast of Greece in the Adriatic Sea. It is relatively close to Italy in the east and Albania in the southwest. It has a rich history with many former rulers leaving their mark here particularly the rich Venetians who left a legacy of beautiful, tall houses lining narrow alleyways. Corfu’s climate is Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and mild winters. Its impressive mountain ranges add to its scenic charm as does its wonderful beaches.

Geting There

Ioannis Kapodistrias Airport is well served by both scheduled and charter airlines like Aegean and Olympic who fly from Athens. There are also several sea plane operators like Airsea Lines, which fly to and from other islands and to Brindisi in Italy. There are numerous ferry services from several Italian ports including Venice and Bari as well as from Patra and Igoumenitsa on the Greek mainland. On the island itself, there is a public bus service that connects with Athens, Patra and Thessaloniki on the mainland.  Corfu’s yacht marina, Marina Gouvia is close to Corfu town and offers excellent berths for yacht owners. It is also possible to dock at Benitses Marina.

A Dip Back in Time

The Phaeacians are said to have been the first settlers on the island; following this came emigrants from Eretria and later the Corinthians. The island was known as Corcyra and its perfect location made it an ideal place for trade and commerce. It retained much of its independence despite Corinthian rule and in the 7th century BC, a naval battle took place between the two opposing sides and ended with a victory for Corinthians. Nevertheless, Corfu soon recovered its independence and built up its trading links. In 480 BC the Persians invaded and by 435 BC it was at war again with the Corinthians. This time Corfu asked for assistance from Athens. This new union resulted in the Peloponnesian War. Athens used Corfu to its advantage but almost lost the island twice. The island was finally occupied in 303 BC by the Lacedaemonian general called Cleonymos, however his reign was brief and the island regained independence only to lose it to Agathocles. He gave Corfu to his daughter as part of her dowry when she married the King of Epirus. This gift meant that the island became part of the Epirotic alliance. After the death of the last king of Epirus, Alexander the island was once again granted independence but in 229 BC it became a Roman naval station.

By 1401 Corfu was under Venetian rule and this remained until 1797. The Ottoman Turks attempted to conquer the island many times but their attempts were thwarted by the strong Venetian fortification. Thus Corfu remained the last stronghold of free Greek Christian civilisation. It was the only part of Greece never conquered by the Ottoman army.
At the treaty of Campo Formio Corfu was given to France but their rule ended when a joint Russian-Ottoman army expelled them from the island. After more turbulent year is was given along with the other Ionian Islands to the UK to look after on 5 November 1815. They were finally ceded to Greece in 1864 under the Treaty of London.

Must See

Corfu is a beautiful island with magnificent beaches, crystal clear sea and lots of lush, green vegetation. In addition to leisurely holidays on the beach or trekking across the countryside, it offers much in the way of art and culture. Corfu town has a wonderful old city with a maze of narrow, cobblestone alleys known as kantounia and a long promenade down by the Garitsa Bay, which runs the length of beach. There are plenty of good places to eat and drink, but the best are found around Spianada, the biggest square in south-eastern Europe, which runs from the citadel to the town.

Within the old city there are some amazing examples of Venetian architecture with many buildings carrying the Venetian signature arches. There are 37 Greek churches in this area with the cathedral and the Church Dedicated to Our Lady of the Cave being the most important. St Spyridon Church contains the body of the island’s patron saint.

The old citadel known as Palaio Frourio meaning Old Fortress is part of the old Venetian fortifications. There is some degree of erosion now, but inside everything has been painstakingly restored and is now used to stage concerts and other cultural events. St. George's Church is attached to the citadel; it was built during British rule as an Anglican church but its architecture reflects that of the Dorians.   
The new citadel or Neo Frourio dominates the north eastern section of Corfu town with its enormous fortifications. It is well worth taking one of the guided tours through the labyrinth of medieval passages and ramparts, which are adorned with the Venetian winged Lion of St Mark.

The Spianada is a fantastic place to sit and watch the world go by. It has some verdant, green areas and is surrounded by interesting architecture like the Romanesque rotunda known as the Maitland Monument built during the British occupation. There is also an elaborate music pavilion, where the local Philharmonic Orchestras stage classical concerts. To the north, there is a collection of interesting buildings built in a Roman architectural style, which used to house the King of Greece. Today they house some wonderful art including some rare opportunities to see Chinese and Asian art exhibits. The palace gardens are truly splendid in all of their Venetian glory; don’t miss the old stone aquariums as well as the many striking species of trees and flowers. The palaces provide the perfect location for a view of the fortifications and the sea beyond.

If your stay permits, then take a boat over to nearby Mouse Island, known as Pontikonisi in Greek. It is a tiny island full of greenery and a lovely monastery known as Monastery of Pantokrator. This delightful and peaceful structure has a long, white, stone stairway, reminiscent of a mouse tail. Othoni Island is also close by and is the most westerly part of Greek territory. Two nautical miles off the coast of Corfu lies Lazaretto Island. This island is also home to a quaint 16th century monastery as well as a remnant of the Second World War – a former concentration camp set up to house prisoners belonging to the Greek National Resistance Movement.The building, used as the Italian Army headquarters and a small church can still be seen along with the church wall where prisoners were shot. The Achilleion Palace built under the orders of Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria is a building that reflects this woman’s love of beauty. The palace is located 10 km from Corfu town in Gastouri. What makes it particularly unique is the fact that it was designed around the legend of Achilles. Wherever you choose to stay on Corfu in Greece, you will find that this wondrous island holds something for everyone including the most demanding of tourists who enjoy culture over relaxation.