crossroads of East and West, Corfu always attracts the interest
of the Europeans and the successive western conquerors left
their seal in her architectural style. The name Corfu emanates
from an old myth about the nymph Corfu, daughter of the
river Asopos, for whom Poseidon fell in love with and brought
her in this island naming it after her. Phaeacas was the
fruit of their love, the primogenitor of Phaeacians, thus
why the island was known as the “island of the Phaeacians”.
During the Byzantine times the name Coryfo derived from
the “dikorfi (twin peaks)” Citadel, the Old Fortress, as
it is known today, that was situated in front of where the
modern city is today. From the name Coryfo derive the Latin
Corfou and Corfu, with which Kerkyra is known abroad.
Scheria, is the beautiful island of the Phaeacians, where
Alcinous reigned and where his daughter Nafsika found the
castaway Odysseus at the seashore. According to Homer, when
Odysseus escaped from Calypso, he was on his way to Ithaca.
Alas, the God of the Sea, Poseidon, who was not in good
terms with him, as one could see from the start of the epic,
he transformed his boat into a rock. Odysseus came ashore
to the coast of Scheria where the kingdom of the Phaeacians
was, a kingdom of friendly people governed by king Alkinous.
The King’s daughter, Nafsika, went with her female servants
to wash the clothes in a beach. The girls sang and played
ball and their voices woke Odysseus up. Without revealing
who he was, he made friends with them and the girls took
him back in the palace where he admired the buildings, the
harbours and the beautiful city and where he was received
with honors. Maybe he thought of marrying Nafsika but his
desire to return to Ithaca was much stronger. Listening
to a rhapsodist singing the heroic deeds of the Trojan War,
he was forced to reveal who he was, and after he recounted
his roaming he left to return to Ithaca.
According to the legend, Pontikonisi is the boat that Poseidon
transformed into a rock.
An Ionian Sea Island situated between Southern Italy and
Greece. The second Ionian Island in size (592 m²), 60 km
long, and from 4 to 30 km wide, is situated at the mouth
of the Adriatic Sea. Its coastline presents a great variety
in its configuration. The western side is more rocky while
the eastern and the northern sides are more flat. Two big
natural bays, the bay of Corfu and the cove of Lefkimmi,
are formed on the eastern coastal side while there are other
smaller ones on the western side of the island. The climate
is mild, Mediterranean, with mild winters and cool summers.
The level of humidity is high due to the hot south-western
and north-western winds that cause rainfalls. The ground
is to a great extent smooth and fertile, while the frequent
and abundant rainfall encourages vegetation. First place,
regarding vegetation, has got the olive tree amounting to
4.000.000. This is owed to the Venetians that first introduced
and cultivated the olive trees in the island. The vines,
the citrus fruits and other fruit-bearing trees are the
main crops. The climate is mild, Mediterranean, with mild
winters and an average temperature of 10C in January, and
cool summers. The level of humidity is also high because
the hot south-western and north-western winds cause rainfalls.
LITANIES - CUSTOMS
The people of Corfu are deeply religious with a special
example being the litany of Saint Spyridonas who is considered
the island’s protector. Four times per year litanies take
place in the island escorted by philharmonic bands; the
most important and most spectacular are the following:
Holy Saturday. This is the oldest litany established in
the 16th century.
On the 11th of August in memory of the termination of the
siege of the island from the Turks when according to the
tradition, Saint Spyridonas, took the form of a monk and
as the leader of a legion of angels chased the enemy holding
a cross in one hand and a lit candle in the other hand.
First Sunday of November. This litany takes place in memory
of the salvation of the island from a deadly cholera epidemic
after the intervention of the Saint. It was established
in the year 1673.
THE OLD FORTRESS
It is the fortified hill in the eastern part of the peninsula
on which is built the city of Corfu. The entry to the Old
Fortress is to be found opposite Liston. It is easy to understand
why this place was considered ideal for the building of
a fortified city. In the northern side of the citadel it
was created an artificial harbour, while further north there
is a natural bay that was also used as a port. The first
fortification works were constructed by the Byzantines in
the beginning of the 8th century and it appears that they
consist from a wall to the land side and a moat. There were
no important changes made up to the 16th century when the
entire city was fortified due to the Turkish threat.
The tour of the city begins here; the big open space between
the city and the Old Fortress. This space formed for the
artillerists of the Fortress a free shooting field against
the besiegers. Today, its southern part has been turned
into a park, with an orchestra stand, statues and shady
paths and the northern part into a cricket ground, where
during summertime Festivals are organised with the participation
of the English teams.
An arched gallery with cafes and restaurants built during
the second short second period of French occupation (1807-1814),
on the plans of the mechanic Leseps, following the model
of the Parisian Rivoli street. The cafes of Liston are the
centre of social life of Corfu and the endless movement
goes on all year round.
THE MUSEUM OF ASIAN ART
To the north of the Spianada could be found the place of
Saints Michael and George. A neoclassical building with
a Dorian colonnade in its façade, built with porous stone
brought from Malta. It was designed by the Colonel GEORGE
WHITHMORE in 1819 to be used as the residence of the High
Commissioner. The idea derives from the big Country houses
of the English aristocracy. It is the only architectural
monument of Georgian style in the whole of the Mediterranean.
The last few years, it was renovated and now is housing
the Museum of Asian Art, the Historical Records and the
Classical Antiquities Office.
This church is the most well known religious monument of
the city. Saint Spyridonas was the Bishop of Cyprus and
took part in the 1st Ecumenical Session of Nice in 325,
where the heresy of Areion was renounced. After his death,
his relic was looked after in Constantinople and when the
capital of Byzantium fell to the Turks some refugees took
it with them. The relic reached Corfu in 1489. It is not
known when precisely was so closely connected with the fortunes
of the island, so as Saint Spyridonas to become the protector
Saint of Corfu, but according to tradition he saved the
island from the plague that is recorded before 1553.
THE NEW FORTRESS
The New Fortress was built in the decade of 1570 at the
time of the universal refortification of Corfu. The chief
architect was Francisco Vitelli, who in order to acquire
building material he demolished roughly 2.000 houses and
churches, as well as one of the more beautiful gates of
the city, the Porta Reale. At the end of the 17th century
the fortification of the New Fortress was complemented with
the Avrami and Sarocco fortresses. But a large part of the
New Fortess was destroyed at the request of the Great Powers
before the Union of the Ionic islands with Greece, and also
during the Second World War blitz..
Corfu is connected with Athens and Thessalonica. The airport
is situated 3 km to the South of the city. During the peak
season there are a lot of charter flights from various European
cities to the island.
By hydroplanes for Corfu, Paxoi, Ioannina, Patras, Ithaki, Lefkada & Kaphalonia.
Corfu is connected with Patras, Igoumenitsa, Paxoi, Sagiada,
By Bus (KTEL)
To Athens and Thessalonica with regular bus services
TRANSPORT IN THE ISLAND
There are daily scheduled routes with urban and long distance
buses to all the places in the island. There are car, moppet
and bicycle rental offices. Many tourist offices organize
excursions to all visitors’ sites in Corfu.
THE CORFU CARNIVAL
The Corfu Carnival is celebrated with particular zest and
at the final Sunday of the carnival a procession of carnival
chariots is taking place; groups from Italy often participate
escorted by the local philharmonic orchestra. The burning
of the carnival straw-man follows.
EASTER IN BEAUTIFUL CORFU
On the Good Friday’s evening, when the permanent resident
and the numerous visitors gather to attend the Epitafios,
Christ’s funeral procession, under the sound of the island’s
philharmonic orchestras, the atmosphere in the small alleys
of the city and especially around the Liston is deeply spiritual.
On the morning of the Holy Saturday, at the first celebration
of the Resurrection of Christ, a strange sound accompanies
the bell toll. It emanates from the breakage of pitchers
that the people of Corfu throw off their balconies. This
custom is related to the joy experienced by the Virgin Mary
and Mary Magdalene who according to the tradition they were
the first to see the open tomb of the Resurrected Christ.
On the eve of the Easter Day, the Archbishop of Corfu and
the elected officials of the island gather at the central
square of Sinada’s stand and at the stroke of midnight of
the Holy Saturday close to Easter Sunday when the cry ‘Chris
Resurrected’ is heard, he greets with words of joys and
fireworks while innumerable lit candles are in the hands
of the assembled crowd.
The Empress Sissy’s shelter.
Elisabeth was born in Bavaria in 1837. She was crowned Empress
of Austria and Hungary, after her scandalous marriage to
Francisco Josef the first of the Habsburgs in 1854, since
his wife was intended to be her sister Helena. After her
marriage and her conflict with the protocol of the court
and her mother-in-law Sofia she began to travel. In 1857
in Hungary dies her daughter Sofia at the age of two. Her
mother-in-law, who was right from the start against her
travels, tried to gain custody of her other two children,
Rudolf and Giselle. Following these developments, she pretended
reasons of health to begin a great voyage aboard a ship
to all the islands of the Mediterranean. Thus, in 1861 she
found herself in Corfu staying at the Mon Repos as a guest
of the English High Commissioner, sir Henry Storcks. Her
first encounter with the nature of the island and the Ionian
in general, it seems that touched Elisabeth deeply who in
her many coming voyages she returned to Corfu. Although
she played a positive role in the political developments
of Europe, she had to face up to a hostile court and new
misfortunes such as the suicide of her son Rudolf and the
deaths of her father, Maximilian, her brother in law and
her sister. After these events, Elisabeth decided to leave
Austria and to reside some where else far away. Thus, in
1889 she bought the Vraila villa that was at the current
Achillion site and began the work of demolition and restructuring
of what was to become the current building. The magnificent
garden created was adorned with important statues with the
most important being the one of Achilles dying.
The physical environment of the city of Corfu consists mainly
of the houses of the middle and working class which are
as a rule multi-storey in the form of a block of flats.
The older of them consist of three or four storeys although
there are others dating from the English period that sometimes
reach 6 to 7 storeys. They are built in very small plots,
and rarely have a courtyard or garden.
The houses of the Venetian period of occupation are usually
uniform. Characteristic elements of their appearance is
the organisation of the arches, the orderly placed windows,
the zones that separate the floors, the doors, the stone
balconies, the engraved consoles of the balconies and the
The walks (the arcs), that is the galleries of the ground
floors are one of the most impressive characteristics of
Corfu architecture. They ease the traffic in busy streets
without losing beneficial space above the ground floors
of the buildings, on both sides of the road. Furthermore,
these galleries offer protection from the weather to the
pedestrians. Characteristic are also the chimneys that appear
above the roofs, as well as the window and stairwell railings.
But also the colours, red (common in Venice), the ochre
in the walls, and the green frames create a unique style
in the entire island.
The mansions of Corfu are in their majority built in the
period of the Venetian occupation and they are also adapted
to the limited space with 2-3 storeys and simple appearance.
Their main characteristic is the sticking out portico that
creates a verandah on the floor making it imposing. These
mansions are found scattered in the city thus never creating
a neighbourhood. The nobles were compelled to maintain a
residence in the city, but their main residence was in their
land in the countryside.
Generally speaking the buildings of that era follow the
Italian architecture with Renaissance and baroque elements
styled and adapted to the local needs.
LOCAL CORFU SPECIALTIES
Renown are the dishes ‘Sofrito’ (small slices of beef fried
in garlic), ‘Pastitsada’ (thick macaroni with spicy meat
in red sauce), ‘Bourdeto’ (special fish, preferably scorpions,
stonefish or cod cooked in a sauce of onions with lots of
It is also worth to try Corfu’s nougats, liqueur from aromatic
strawberries and the tiny oranges called kumquat, and the
exceptional quality wines of Corfu.
• According to Stabo, the name was given to Paxoi from the
Phoenician word ‘paks’ meaning a geometrical table, that
is an V shaped (trapezoid) island as seen from the sea.
• Another version supports that a number of residents from
the Sicilian Paxountos, both because of necessity or a factional
raid, left their country and moved to Paxoi, giving it their
• Athinagoras, the Archbishop of Paramythias, attributes
the name to the slabs that Paxoi exported. The etymology
of the work ‘Pax’ is slab and island which in Greek means
the island of the slabs.
• Moustoxidis thinks that the name derives from the adjective
‘paktos’ (Dorian type of ‘pyktos’).
• Another version is that the name derives from the ancient
verb ‘pignio’ and especially from its future tense ‘pixo’.
• It is also possible that the name derives from the phrase
‘paxosas thiras [doors] (closed) because the port of Gai
is a closed one.
IT’S WORTH A VISIT
• The castle of Saint Nicolas on the islet bearing the same
name, after obtaining permission from the Municipal Authority.
Tel. 26620 32100
• The monastery of Panayia on the islet.
• The church of Saint Apostles, it is located behind the
• The Early Christian church of Saint Marina, in Porto Ozia,
at the end of the coastal road, before the turn for the
• The museum of Paxoi and the Municipal Gallery.Tel.26620
• The cistern of Eleoussa, above the church in Vlachopoulatika.
• The cistern of Saint Apostles, to the right of the church
bearing the same name
• The Mill of Lesianiti in Tranakatika.
• The Precipice of Moysmoylioy, from Tranakatika.
• The Ostries for the view of Avlaki and the sunset. Take
the road right of Saint Paraskevi in Bogdanatika.
• The beaches: Kloni Gouli, Kamini, Kaki Lagkada. Take the
road past the New Harbour and turn right at the crossroad
for Platano - Loggo
• The house of Ntrichoutsi in Grammatikeika. Follow the
road to the Lighthouse, bypass left.
• The Lighthouse, from the road the right bypass.
• The Planous, take the road to the Lighthouse.
• The Hypapante (1601)
• The Monodendri beach, take the road to Lakka, turning
right opposite the church of Saint Spyridonas in Argyratika.
The factory of Anemoyiannis next to the Municipal school.
The beaches of Levrehio and Marmaria.
The beaches Vrika and Voutoumi, by speedboat or ketch.
The traditional vineyards.