Corfu stands at a crossroads, at the centre of trade routes across the Mediterranean Sea. Since the island is also blessed with a hospitable climate, it has over the centuries been a prize for conquerors. In mythology, it was the island of the Phaeceans, where Odysseus met Nausica.
In historical times, it belonged to the civilization of Ancient Greece, and subsequently it was occupied by Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Angelinos, Venetians, French, Russians and the British, but never by the Turks who held the rest of Greece. In 1864 the island took its place in the modern Greek nation. Corfu’s history has moulded an island like no other, an island where everyone feels at home, where everyone can discover the holiday which most appeals. In Corfu Town, a new scene is revealed at every turn.
Imposing monuments and the two Venetian fortresses contrast with the maze of tiny streets of the Old Town and with the bustle of the busy port. Gardens shaded by palms and bright with bougainvillea form a counterpoint to elegant mansions from Venetian times. The innumerable shops offer a mixture of the sophisticated and the practical, from jewellery to ships chandlery.
More than a dozen museums and art galleries as well as a number of picturesque old churches offer plenty to see and do, while the town’s three brass bands, symphony orchestra, opera company and choir, as well as several folkloric and contemporary dance groups, guarantee a full programme of theatrical and musical events.
Corfu Town is a living city, home to over 40,000 people, and its international airport, busy port and modern road network contribute to the excellent infrastructure.
The Corfiots are cultured people with a great heritage of music and arts. The island boasts no less than thirtytwo philharmonic bands, and the three which are established in the town give regular outdoor concerts during the summer months.
Opera became a favorites musical form in Venetian times, and performances are greatly appreciated. As a proverb of the last century went, “to be applauded in Corfu is to be sure of international success”. The many art galleries have permanent and changing exhibitions by artists of international as well as local fame. Today, the modern theatre and various romantic outdoor locations serve as venues for a great variety of events, from rock concerts to displays of contemporary dance, from performances by the island’s symphony orchestra to theatrical works of tragedy and comedy.
In Corfu the past lives in the present. Events which have been celebrated for hundreds of years are still enjoyed, in the traditional way. For centuries, the year has been defined by the passage of significant days and celebrations. The four annual processions of the island’s patron saint, Spiridon, are wellloved occasions, and the two which occur at Easter are part of an extensive calendar of religious and cultural activities, including traditions such as the Easter Saturday morning ‘potthrowing’ ceremony.
Summer sees many festivals, with traditional music and dances, while succulent lambs roasting on a spit scent the warm night air. The Corfiots love festivities, but they also take their Greek Orthodox religion seriously. Almost two thousand years of religious tradition is manifest in the richly endowed ecclesiastical buildings with their stunning icons, in tiny, inaccessible chapels where a candle always burns, and in the pristine, whitewashed of monasteries where blackclad monks reside.
The encircling sea defines the island, bestows on it a unique character. The sea ensures a temperate climate, and breezes to cool the hottest day. The sea’s unceasing motion has formed the shoreline, where the emerald of treecloaked hills merges with the azure and turquoise water. The sea also provides a focus for leisure activities.
Safe swimming from beaches of fine golden sand or pure white pebbles, diving in the crystalclear depths. Sailing from anchorages in modern marinas or tiny coves, across waters where the wind is almost always favorable. Windsurfing through the shimmering waves. And at every hour the harmony of sea and shoreline is a spectacle, everpresent for the visitor to admire.
The silver foam of waves as they break on rocky headlands, the brightly painted fishing boats bobbing in little harbors, and at night the sheen of moonlight on the clear, still water. Sail south, past the white cliffs of Asprokavos, and head across the Ionian Sea, where Paxos and Antipaxos await. Paxos is olive trees, concealing stonebuilt villages linked with cobbled footpaths, ancient rights of way. They say that Paxos hides twenty secrets.
You may not find them all, but you will certainly discover the charm of this idyllic island. Further south, Antipaxos is vineyards and turquoise water, with beaches of pristine white sand a haven for those seeking real tranquillity. Sail northwest, leaving the coast of Corfu behind, and your next landfall is not Italy. Three little islands must first be passed before you reach the open sea, three little islands whose beauty defies you to continue the Diapontian islands.
Few people inhabit Erikoussa, Othoni and Mathraki, and they remain almost completely undeveloped. Unspoilt interiors are a paradise for lovers of nature, while their coasts, sometimes rocky and sometimes boasting extensive stretches of fine sand, offer some of the best swimming – and fishing – in the Ionian.
Landscapes of voluptuous curves, clothed in olive and cypress groves; grassy plains interspersed with vineyards and orchards; rocks jewelled with spring flowers in the northern mountains; lakes and sand dunes, sandy pinewoods, shady forest and patchwork fields planted with melons, beans and corn.
Corfu is Greece’s greenest island, but that does not spell monotony. While silverygreen olive trees blanketing rolling hills is the main characteristic of central regions, Corfu’s countryside has many other landscapes.
In the north, the sea has sculpted the coastline into convoluted forms, eroding the soft stone into fine, golden sand. Inland, there are wide, cultivated valleys, then the Pantokrator mountain range rises abruptly to the island’s highest peak, an area of barren rock and little patches of cultivation, falling in deep ravines to reach the picturesque east coast.
Towards the south, the land levels out, with olive groves continuing on the low hills. Here, the sweeping shorelines with their vast, empty beaches are open to the horizon.
Here, too, is Lake Korission, designated as a nature reserve, with its expanse of juniper- and cedar-covered sanddunes and its teeming birdlife, and further south, the cliffs of Asprokavos, where the romantic ruin of Arkoudillas Monastery nestles silent forest.
There is so much to see in Corfu that even the regular visitor always finds something new. For a start, there are the ‘musts’, those sights which have become Corfu’s trademark The eccentric elegance of the Achillion Palace, surely a monument unique in Europe as regards its aesthetic impact and its historical connections. The view of Mouse Island from Kanoni, where nature and man have conspired to create a perfect scene.
Bella Vista, above Paleokastritsa, described as the best view in Europe. Corfu Town’s Historic Centre, where residents live and work amongst the monuments and museums. The visitor will always return to these sights, while finding new attractions to please the eye.
He will discover Old Perithia and Old Sinies, their abandoned stonebuilt cottages and mansions hidden in secret folds in the northern mountains. He will come across the castles of Angelocastro, Gardiki and Kassiopi, the islet of Vidos with its historical Serbian connections, the Folk Museum of Central Corfu, the Lefkimmi River with its fishing boats, and all over the island villages displaying characteristic architectural features. And there are many more sights, which exist to charm the visitor with their beauty.
Corfu is an island where you can choose your own holiday place, choose to relax on a beach or become active. With an 18 hole golf course which is numbered among the best in the world, a number of riding schools, several tennis clubs, among them the oldest in Greece.
A tradition of cricket dating from the early 18th century (the six local clubs hold regular games on the town centre pitch), and a longdistance footpath and a mountainbike trail, not to mention seabased sports such as diving, sailing and windsurfing, Corfu offers plenty for the active visitor.
For the Corfiots, hospitality is a way of life. The table, spread with food for a guest, the waves of greeting always bestowed on passing visitors, the generous welcome given to those who stop, are all manifestations of this tradition.
The Corfiots are genial and love entertaining, they are gregarious and always ready to turn the smallest gathering into a party. In every location, at every event, the Corfiots make the visitor feel at home. The Corfiot table is an essential expression of local hospitality.
The local cuisine is based on the bounty of nature, which provides the freshest fruit and vegetables, and a sea rich in marine life. While it is Greek in nature, the influence of Italy is evident in many favourite dishes, such as “bourdetto” and “pastitsada”. A taste for ginger beer is a legacy of the British.
In restaurants, bustling or intimate, simple or sophisticated, Greek or international, hospitality comes with a smile. Nights in Corfu can be as exciting or as tranquil as you choose. At night, the island comes alive along the strips.
In the smartest resorts in various spots all over the island, as well as at the New Port Entertainment Centre, the most chic bars and avantgarde discotecques are found, and the party continues into the small hours.
For those who prefer something a little more peaceful, seek out the seaside tavernas, where the only sound is the lap of waves and the clink of glasses, as the last rays of the sun stir the sea to a cocktail of pink and gold. Corfu nights are starlit. The stars and the planets seem brighter here, and the moonlight is strong enough to cast shadows. In this atmosphere, romance flourishes. And that’s the beauty of nights in Corfu.