When Catriona Rowntree visited the island of Corfu she felt she could just as easily have been somewhere in Paris or Rome and loved it. She's not the only one to be fascinated by Corfu, which is known to the Greeks as Kerkyra. It is smack dab in the middle of the Mediterranean and is the greenest and second-largest island in the Ionian chain.
Many coveted the perfect trade route and over the centuries Corfu has been controlled by the English, French and Turks. In the 15th century the Venetians left a lasting impression by building Corfu Town, now a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. Italianate, French and British architecture dominate, particularly the Liston, a Parisian-style arched colonnade on the edge of the Spianada. It is lined with cafes and is a popular place for what the locals call volta simply sitting or strolling and just taking it all in.
The vast main plaza and park incorporate several pavilions, a cricket field and many beautiful pink and ochre Venetian mansions.
Corfu's labyrinth of narrow, cobblestone streets is closed to motor vehicles so it's perfect to explore on foot. It's a clean and colourful place and somehow the laundry strung across the laneways adds to the appeal of it all.
Steeped in history, Corfu has been connected to Greece from the beginning of mythology. It was Homer's "beautiful and rich land" and Odysseus' last stop on his journey home to Ithaca. Shakespeare reputedly used it as a background for The Tempest.
The island has 37 churches, and a visit to St Spyridon is a must. It's the resting place of the island's patron saint. Many miracles are attributed to him, including expelling the plague and he is revered as the saint to guide travellers safely on their journeys.
The Fortress of San Marco was built by the Venetians between 1576 and 1645. It played a pivotal role in protecting the town and these days it is the perfect lookout. You can see how well it protected neighbourhoods and harbour movements.
To explore the rest of the island, seek out Michael Vassilis who runs a personal service showing highlights, including the mountain village of Lakones, which has just one road running through it. Not only is he knowledgeable about everything Corfu but he is collecting information to educate the young people on the island's history.
A path running to the waterside village of Paleokastritsa was built by women as the going was too tough for donkeys! It was a location for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.
Tripa Tavern in the pretty village of Kinopiastes is known all over Corfu. No wonder, as Spiros Anyfantis and his family have been dishing up Corfiot specialties from their tiny kitchen since 1936. It's a great place for a relaxed meal, some local wine and maybe a glass or two of ouzo, the aniseed-flavoured drink so popular in Greece.
The little tavern has hosted such luminaries as former Greek president Constantine Karamanlis, former French president Francois Mitterand, shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, and actors Jane Fonda and Anthony Quinn. They may have sampled the delicious lamb, or maybe wild boar, and as the island has such a huge amount of rainfall there is a bounty of olives and oil, pears, pomegranates, apples, figs and grapes.
Corfu, a Greek island in the Ionian Sea.
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre has three-night stays at the four-star Cavalieri Hotel, including arrival transfer and breakfast from $345 per person twin share. They run year round.
Emirates has flights to Athens.
- Melbourne $1756
- Brisbane $1775
- Adelaide $1799
- Sydney $1972
Valid for travel until November 30, 2009. Connections to Corfu are available.
Prices correct at March 26, 2009.
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Greece and Mediterranean Travel Centre
Suite 2, 644 Botany Road
Ph: (02) 9313 4633
Fax: (02) 9313 4475
Greek National Tourism Organisation
Level 3, 37-49 Pitt Street
Ph: (02) 9241 1663
Fax: (02) 9241 2499
Visas: Australian passport holders do not require a visa to enter Greece.
Electricity: Greece uses 220V/50Hz electricity. Two- and three-point plugs are used.
Time zone: Athens time is GMT +3.
Currency: The euro is used in Greece.
International dialing code: +30.
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