Published in Travel Guides
The blend of Venetian, English and French periods and styles in the Old Town, with its castles, stone-flagged alleys locally called ‘kandounia’ and the arcades will enchant you. You will also be enchanted by the scenic routes through the magnificent countryside with lush green hills and superb deeply indented coastline with gorgeous beaches.
Corfu is attractive as a holiday destination at every season of the year. It has natural beauty, special architectural interest and a sophisticated lifestyle. The island’s main points of interest are the Old Town, the greenery, the lovely landscape and beaches, as well as the traditional villages of the interior. If it’s peace and quiet you seek, you should avoid the stretches from the town of Corfu as far as Ipsos, Aharavi, Roda and Sidari, and from Benitses to Moraitika and Kavos.
The most outstanding scenery of the island is on its west coast, between Paleokastritsa and Agios Gordis
It is said that Corfu is the Homeric island of the Phaeaceans, the kingdom of Alkinoos. According to legend its Greek name derives from the nymph Kerkyra, daughter of the river-god Asopos, or Korkyra, with whom Poseidon, god of the sea, fell in love and whom he brought to the island.
In the 8th c. BC Eretrian colonists arrived and later others came from Corinth. In the subsequent centuries Corfu evolved into a maritime and commercial power, which aroused the anger of the mother city of Corinth. In the naval battle of 644 BC between the two, it was Corfu who won the day. When in 299 BC the Illyrian queen Teuta attacked the island, the inhabitants requested the aid of the Romans who under the command of the consul Fulvius successfully repulsed the Illyrians and for the next five centuries Corfu continued in peaceful coexistence with Rome, becoming a favourite resort of the emperors. In the 4th c. AD the island passed to the Byzantine Empire and began to decline due to repeated attacks by Goths, Normans and Crusaders.
There followed the Venetian domination from 1204, the Byzantine in 1214 and then that of the Angevins, French conquerors of the kingdom of Two Sicilies, in 1267 until the second period of Venetian occupation beginning in 1386 and lasting until 1797. It was thanks to the Venetians that Corfu escaped domination by the Ottomans, despite the latter’s sieges and attacks, and followed the evolution of the West in the arts and sciences.
In 1797 the island was taken over by the French republicans who publicly burned the Libro d’ Oro, the codex of the nobility, and also the deeds of land ownership. However, their poor administration discontented the Corfiots and they turned to Russia, who advocated the independence of the Ionian islands. In 1800, the Treaty of Constantinople created the independent Septinsular Republic which was dissolved in 1807 by the French who this time benefited the island with major public works. After Napoleon’s defeat Corfu came into the hands of the British, who also constructed important buildings, roads and the water supply.
Eventually the Treaty of London in 1863 returned Corfu and the other Ionian islands to Greece.
Corfu is the part of Greece closest to western Europe, both geographically and culturally. It was the first area of the country to be conquered by the Romans, who treated their acquisition with benevolence. In the course of its history the island passed through the hands of the Venetians, the French and the British, who also in turn left the stamp of their cultures. The Corfiots have a long tradition in music, theatre and intellectual pursuits. The Corfu Philharmonic Society was founded in 1840 and there are today dozens of bands on the island. In 1808 Greece’s first university was instituted, the Ionian Academy and in 1815 the first School of Fine Arts, while the Reading Society which continues to flourish to this day, was also the first institution of its kind.
Corfu is 50 km long, 25 km at its widest and produces olive oil, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. The population is 110,000, of which 35,000 inhabit the town. The climate is mild and humid, thus accounting for the rich vegetation with numerous varieties of trees, of which the olive trees — 4,000,000 ! — and cypress dominate in the landscape. The island’s size permits its visitors to choose the most suitable spot for a holiday, so that even in the month of August when it is submerged by the hordes of tourists, anyone who so wishes can find tranquillity in isolated areas.