Corfu is a beautiful Greek island in the azure waters of the Ionian Sea. It was originally named for the lovely river nymph Korkya, who was kidnapped by Poseidon and brought to these shores. The two fell deeply in love and named their paradise in her honor.
The history of Corfu predates even ancient Greece, thanks largely to the fertile soil that encouraged agrarian societies to develop here. But the island’s location near the entrance of the Adriatic Sea made it a desirable outpost for many civilizations. Prior to the birth of Christ, Corfu weathered a number of invasions and takeovers, most notably the Corinthian conquest in 665 B.C., the Persian invasion of 480 B.C. and the occupation of Epirus from approximately 300 B.C.-255 B.C. The Macedonians also held Corfu for a time.
The Eastern Roman Empire brought stability to Corfu for several centuries, but the medieval era was an unsettled time characterized by recurrent military attacks. Corfu was successively passed among the Sicilians, the Genoese, the Venetians and the Normans, among others. Most notably, the Venetians made it part of their empire for almost 400 years, from 1401 until 1797, all the while withstanding attacks and periodic sieges from the Ottoman Empire. The legacy of their long presence is everywhere – in the Old Town of Corfu, in countryside fortresses and in a rich cuisine.
Corfu was held by the British and French for much of the 19th century, and Italy occupied the island during part of the 1940s. A 1941 Corfoit resistance movement against Italian fascism ultimately failed. Still, Italian fascism gave way to German occupation in 1943. The post-war liberation of Corfu, along with the Greek Civil War, led to a healthy reconstruction period that has lasted into the modern day.
Corfu Culture and Heritage
Corfu enjoys a richly diverse culture that represents its various European influences. The variety is most noticeable in the architecture, with Venetian and British styles most prevalent in Old Corfu Town, the historic district of the capital. At mealtime, locals are as likely to enjoy Venetian cuisine as they are to savor small plates of Greek mezés. The people of Corfu also have a far-reaching appreciation for music, theater and the arts.
Corfu Landmarks and Attractions
Fortresses and monasteries dot Corfu’s countryside, many of them nestled amidst the island’s stunning natural beauty. A scenic tour along Corfu’s coast reveals their tranquil splendor. One of the most beautiful, the Pantokrator Monastery, is perched on Pontikonisi Island, also known as Mouse Island. Along the Kanoni Peninsula is Vlacherna Monastery, an important Corfu landmark that dates back to 1685. This majestic church provides amazing views of the sea and surrounding peninsula.
The Old Town of Corfu is a fortified district spread over a broad peninsula, long considered a gateway to the Adriatic Sea. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Old Town boasts an impressive collage of Venetian, Italian and British architecture amid narrow cobbled streets. A 16th-century neoclassical cathedral completes the stunning scene.
No journey to Old Town Corfu would be complete without a visit to the Esplanade, or Spianada, a green park that divides the town from the sea-facing ancient fortress. Historically, this buffer between the fort and the town served a strategic purpose, protecting the town from attacks. Today, it is a lovely park with great views of the fortress and the Bay of Garitsa and plenty of open space to roam, relax and enjoy the Ionian air.
The historic Liston Promenade was established in 1807 and features arcaded terraces and architecture from the Napoleonic Era, when the island was part of the First French Empire. The Liston is lined with delightful shops and cafés, the perfect place to explore and enjoy fine food and drink.View Cruises to Corfu