Greek Islands: Corfu

February 01, 2008
by findingDulcinea Staff
Over on the opposite side of mainland Greece, the most northwestern Greek island is Corfu: (Kerkyra in Greek) in the Ionian Island chain, and so close to Albania, you almost think you could swim there.

Geographical & Historical Influences

Also not far away is the heel of Italy’s boot, which accounts for the decidedly Italian flavor of this verdant Greek island (In fact, it’s actually easier to get to the seahorse-shaped island from there than it is from Athens). The San Giacomo theatre, built in the latter half of the 17th century and constructed of stone in Italian Renaissance style, is a testament to the Venetian influence that held sway over the island for centuries, as are the imposing Venetian fortresses.

But Italy is not the only European country to dominate the island’s history: The French king Charles of Anjou arrived in the 13th century, leaving Catholicism and scores of beautiful churches in his wake; a later French occupation brought the garden architecture of organized trees and parterres of flowers. The English came in the 19th century, contributing a legacy of monuments and a love of the game of cricket.

Architecture: Man-made and Geological

The architecture on Corfu is a draw to be sure, from the mosaic floor of the Roman baths, the 13th-century Aggelokastro (Angel Castle), to the Temple of Artemis Gorgous and the splendor of Achillion Palace. Corfu Town is a distinctive blend of the Italian and Greek styles that is at once formal and casual. The villages of Gouvia and Dassia, to the north of Corfu Town, have a bustling cosmopolitan flair, with elegant restaurants and a harbor welcoming modern luxury yachts.

But the exquisite natural beauty of the island may top even the archeological remnants, gorgeous palaces, and monasteries. The greenest of all the Greek islands, with pine covered mountains and a flower-strewn countryside, Corfu also boasts three million olive trees! It has some of the most magnificent coastal scenery, especially on the eastern side where the calm azure sea has almost mirrorlike surface. Some of the beaches have a sculptural quality, as if Nature is trying its hand at Michelangelo’s art .

Mystical Spawns Mythical

If Corfu possesses an almost mythological beauty, that might explain why it plays host to a number of famous myths involving Hercules; Jason and the Argonauts after their theft of the Golden Fleece; and Homer’s Odyssey, but a visit there is sure to inspire some myth-making of your own. 

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