When the English came to the island,
they brought with them an exotic citrus fruit of chinese
origin which resembles a small orange, the cumquat. It's
too bitter to be eaten raw, but the locals use it to make
an odd-tasting liquer, as well as a preserve and candied
Some archaelogical finds suggest that the island was inhabited
since the Paleolithic Age, but the first Greeks to arrive
on the island seem to have been a small group of emigrants
coming from Eretria of Euboes, around 750 B.C. However,
it was not until ca. 735 B.C. that the island was settled,
this time by the Corinthians, who settled in the region
where the town of Corfu stands today and gave the island
its name, Kerkyra.
Today Corfu has two
different and totally distinct faces to show to the visitor, which
co-exist nevertheless in harmony. There is touristy Corfu, with
its more than 30 luxurious and A' class hotels and hundreds of
smaller ones, gathered around the most popular beaches of the
island (Roda, Paleokastritsa, Ipsos, Kondokali, Benitses, Mesogi,
Kavos). And there is also the traditional Corfu which survives
untouched by tourism in all the inland villages, where you will
often see women wearing their traditional dress.
Thanks to frequent rains and fertile soil, Corfu is covered with
lush vegetation which gives it an exotic character. 60% of the
trees growing on the island are olive trees, many of them age-old,
the cultivation of which was introduced by the Venetians.
Of all the conquerors
of Corfu, those who definitely left their stamp on the island
were the Venetians. During the 400 years of their rule (1386 -
1797) the arts flourished and the economy prospered, at a time
when the rest of Greece was deep into the dark of the Ottoman
rule. A thriving middle class of Venetians and Greeks developed
in Corfu, but the poor peasants lived a life of slaves. Today
the town of Corfu has kept intact its Venetian character, with
its many-storeyed buildings and narrow alleys, an imposing central
aquare and its numerous churches.
The English kept the rule on Corfu only for a few years (1814
- 1864) but it was time enough for them to leave their stamp behind,
too. The dense road network of Corfu was first designed and its
main part constructed by the English who were particularly interested
in the development of the country.
At the narrow Venetian
alleys of the town, many old houses have been turned into restaurants
where you can enjoy the delicious local cuisine: pastitsada (macaroni
and beef in a tomato sauce), sofrito (beef steak with garlic sauce)
and the famous bourdeto (fish with red hot sauce).
Corfu was the first Greek territory to be conquered by the Romans.
During the long Roman conquest (230 B.C. - 337 A.D.) Corfu enjoyed
many privileges and freedoms. In return the people of Corfu honoured
the Roman Emperors. Many Emperors paid visits to the island, like
Nero himself visited the temple of Zeus at Kassiopi.
Only a few kilometres west of the swarming-with-tourists beach
of Lefkimi, the large sandy beaches of Aghios Gordis and of Vitalades
maintain their natural beauty and are hardly visited even in summer.
The seabed of these beaches and south towards Asprokavos is full
of reefs and very rich in marine life.
Corfu remained for nearly a thousand years part of the Byzantine
Empire (337 A.C. - 1267 A.D.). Being, however, too far from Constantinople,
it suffered many raids (from Vandals, Goths, Saracens, Normans
etc.). Around 500 A.D. the old town was abandoned and the terrified
locals settled on the small island on which the old fortress stands