The Weekly Getaway: the nostalgic charm of Corfu
Only an hour's flight away from Athens and infused with a Venetian past, Corfu probably feels to Italians like home away from home. The bright colors on the city's walls and windows, the small alleys of the centre's Kantounia neighbourhood and the arched arcades in Liston permeate a sense of the nostalgic past.
When I first found myself as a young kid, I was taken by the signature architecture and the old buildings. Similar to the feeling a traveler gets when visiting Paris, Corfu shares similar elements such as a focus on culture and museums, cobbled streets and bold architecture. Springtime brings the best of Corfu out and almost everyone enjoys the sun in the numerous cafés along the Liston square.
If you're there during Easter then you'll definitely witness a long-standing tradition dating back to Venetians that has most families smash pots off their balconies. While Easter morning in the city and surrounding villages of Corfu kick off with a traditional mass, most of the town awaits for the mass' final signal, a bell chime. At the stroke of 11 am, mass ends and the sounds of shattering pottery fill the air!
Corfu is an ideal location for a keen walker. The North is fairly rugged with Mountain Pantokrator, the highest mountain. Beneath the mountain is Corfu's oldest village, Ano Perithia and at the other end of the island is Korission Lake, an inland lake, separated by a thin sand bar from the sea.
Walking inside the maze of the narrow cobbled streets known as Kantounia, you can visit some of the most elegant quarters of this Venetian-built town, that easily compete with Napoli, Florence and Venice in terms of beauty, style and charm. Walking along the old cricket grounds, you see the Royal Palace of St. George & St. Michael and the spectacular arcades of the Liston square, a down-sized replica of the infamous Rue de Rivoli of Paris, built by the French in the 19th century. You can also visit the 300-year old Church of Saint Spyridon with its priceless collection of icons and gifts offered to the Patron Saint of the Island, explore the old flea market and you find yourself in the busy shopping district.
- Achilleion Palace - one of the most important monuments in Corfu, built in 1888 as a palace but also once housing a casino (James Bond's picture For Your Eyes Only contains some parts of the casino)
- Mon Repos Palace - a villa built in 1828 as a summer residence for a British Lord that was soon turned into a fine arts school and later a museum. Lovely place to unwind and appreciate Corfu's royal past. Also, houses the Archeological Museum Palaiopolis
- Kanoni and Pontikonisi - perched on the top of the hill, Kanoni is the name of area overlooking the infamous tiny island of Pontikonisi. Although the coffee is not great, the views are spectacular
- Liston and St Spyridon church - the most central part of Corfu's city, featuring arcaded terraces and fashionable cafes, that was built in 1807 by the French imperial commissioner Mathieu de Lesseps
- Paleokastritsa - the most known beach of the island, famous for its serene blue waters, albeit a bit too commercial lately
- O Chrysomallis - tasty authentic Greek cuisine in this old school taverna-like grill restaurant in the city centre
- Klimataria - great seafood place not very far from the city centre, open for the most part of the year. Make sure you get a reservation as they only have 11 tables and not all enjoy the ambience of the outside terrace
- Gerekos - if you like fresh fish and seafood and only care about the food (not the ambience) then this is the place!
- Alexis dairy store - famous for his galaktoboureko (custard filled pastry) and his rice pudding, visiting Alexis inside Pinia's Kantounia is a must. Can't miss fresh bread smeared with their very own butter and honey!
- Spyros - located in the northern part of the island near Paleokastrotsa, this traditional grill restaurant offers great local meat, fresh vegetables from their garden and their own produced Moschato wine
- A la palea - hidden in the mountain of Strinilas, this traditionla taverna is the perfect retreat during any time of the year. Also offering delicious treats during Easter time