Kerkyra, also known as Corfu Town is a charming destination for a city break in the heart of the Mediteranean Sea. Easily reached by low cost flights, its tiny airport is about 11 km away. I loved the old cosy Art Deco building of the former airport that lies abandoned by the junction with the main road.
The flavour of the place is given first of all of its natural setting: different heights play a symphony together with the blue bay waters marked at the horizon by the pinkish violet rolling hills of the Greek mainland.
The second thing that impacts you in a pleasant way is due to the strong finger print of the Venetian rule that lasted here almost 600 years (1204-1797). There is a flavour of Venice and Veneto throughout the old town. It feels like Venice lifted from its canals and placed on a hill. The Old Fortress (Palaio Frourio) looks very much alike Bergamo’s fortress.
The Town Hall (Dimarchio) originally built as a San Giacomo theater in pure Venetian style. A 360 degree turn and you can spot a church tower that recalls San Marco Square of Venice and a corner tower similar to the Veneto castles.
The large lawn covered square flanked by a long French style arcade with posh cafes seems to be Kerkyra’s best room for display to see and be seen. The arcaded terraces known as The Liston were built by the French in the early 1800s following the model of the Rue de Rivoli buildings in Paris. The name (Liston) comes from the famous local “list” or Libro d’Oro – a directory of the Venetian aristocracy having political position and rights, managing the City Council. Stopping here for a coffee or a strawberry salad is a must, just to take a break and watch the world go by.
Once refueled you are good to go across the square to visit the Palace of St. Michael and St. George, former home of the Greek royal family, today home for the Asiatic Art Museum.
But probably the best thing you could do in this old town is just to forget about the map and walk wherever you feel inspired to. Look up, inhale the history of the place and imagine yourself being transported across centuries. Window frames, shutters, arches, porticoes, gates, balconies, little squares elevated by stairs, fountains, palm trees, churches.
Like this you may discover the place where the Ionian Parliament proclaimed in 1863 the union of the Ionian Islands with the Kingdom of Greece under the protecting power of Great Britain.
Nestled at the feet of the New Fortress is the Jewish district (“Evraiki”) organized around the freshly renovated synagogue (the only one remaining out of 3). It was here that I felt to be found the still intact life of the locals where few tourists roam. In fact the little tavernas and terraces stretching towards the new harbor were buzzing with locals in a more laid back frenzy. The 1800 years of the Jewish community in this island saw influxes from Spain, Portugal and Apulia region in Italy and was hit severely by the massive deportations in the 1940s to the extermination camps. Currently the local Jewish population outnumbers 100 persons.
Municipality of Corfu: http://www.corfu.gr/web/guest/home
Corfu page on Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Corfu
Corfu page on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corfu