Named Corcyra in ancient times for Corcyra, mistress of Poseidon. Legend has it their offspring, Phaeax, became the founder of the ancient Phaecian race.
Or, if you prefer, Kerkyra, daughter of Asopos, with whom Zeus fell in love and brought to the island. Their son was called Phaiakas.
Myth also reports that it was in Corfu where Ulysses met the daughter of Alkinoos, Nausica, who nursed him back to health at her father’s palace and then gave him a ship to return to nearby Ithaka. This enraged Poisidon who petrified the ship and which is now an island in the small bay of Palaiokastitsa where Alkinoos palace is said to have been. The wily Ulysses, of course, escaped.
The famed Argonauts were also said to have found refuge at Alkinoos Palace where Jason married Medea after abducting her from the King of Kolhida. Although contemporaries of the Mycenaeans, the Phaeacians had many ties to the culture of southern Italy in Apulla and distinct difference’s from the rest of mainland Greece. This still holds true today.
Also Apollonio from Rhodi in his opera “Argonauti” gives importance to Corfu island, where Giasone and the Argonauti had a stay during their long travel.
Kerkyra has been also mentioned into The Odyssey of Omero with the name of Scheria.Ulisse, escaped from Calypso, found the opposition of Poseidon, the God of the sea, before going back home. Poseidon changed his ship into a rock, so Ulisse had to search help in Scheria island, that was under Feaci occupation.
Nausica, daughter of Alcinoo the King of Feaci, while she was going to the beach with her slaves to clean cloths, she met Ulisse, she gave him help and took him to discover the beauties of the island.
There are many legends about Corfu, especially regarding the origins of the name Kerkyra, the Greek name that is used today for Corfù.
During ancient times the island had many different names as for example Makris (long) due to its shape, Drepanon (sickle) because looks like the agricultural tool, and Scheria as the God Poseidon, on Goddess Demetra request, stops the “schin” (alluvial deposits) to keep the island far from the mainland.
During the Centuries Corfù took many other names, till Kerkyra that comes from the legend about Kerkyra nymph.
Kerkyra was a nymph born from Asopo river and who received the love from Poseidon God who took her to the island and gave to the island her name.
From their love was born Feacas, progenitor of “Feaci” population.
Many scholars think that the myth of the Kerkyra nymph is connected with the Byzantine word “Koryfò”, ensued from the “Acropoli” situated in front of the modern town.
From the word “Koryfo” comes the Latin name Corfou or Corfu that’s the modern name given today to Kerkyra island by foreigners.
The first settlements on Corfu island date back to the 775-750 b.C. due to the Eubea island inhabitants. At the beginning of the 730 b.C. in Corfu there were Corfiots and Corinzi, the latter settled in Kanoni peninsula.
Between the two people began a period of harmony that gave prosperity and splendor to the island of Corfu.
During that period appeared own forged coins of the island and the colony of Epidamnos was founded.
The relation between Corfiots and Corinzi was broken when the former decided to support the Democrats and the latter the Oligarchis.
The conflict came to an end after that the Peloponneso War was finished.
In Peloponneso War the Corfiots formed an alliance with the Athenian (375 b.C.) and they could gradually follow their independence.
Waiting for a new period of calm and splendor, Corfu had to defend its own island from many pirates that were bringing violence and terror in all the Mediterranean sea.
Overwhelmed by the brutal attack of the Illiri (229 b.C.), the inhabitants of Corfù asked to Romans their protection.
The Consul Fulvio with his army was received with joy because he rescued Corfu island but he also gave back the most part of autonomy.
In this difficult age in which there were continuous raids of Unni, Ostrogoti and Bulgarians an important event was the spread of the Christianity on the island of Corfu.
This period goes approximately from the 6th Century till the beginning of the 11th Century. During these centuries Corfu was the base of operations of Giustiniano for the campaigns in Africa and against the Goti of Italy.
The Byzantine domination finished in 1081 when the Normans with Robert Guiscard took control of Corfu island.
In 1149 the Byzantines with the Venetian fleet were able to set free the island of Corfu from the Normans occupation.
After different invaders in 1386, with the partition of Greek lands, Corfu became definitively assigned to the Venetian empire.
The Venetian hegemony lasted for about four centuries (1385-1796), period in which the organizational structure of the administration of Corfu Island hark back to the aristocratic regime of Venice.
Therefore the inhabitants were subdivided into 3 different classes: the nobles, the civilians and the populars.
The public instruction was organized by the clergy inside the different monasteries, while the nobles could attend some Italian athenaeums.
Moreover the Venetians thrusted the cultivation of the olive trees establishing important bases for the economic future of Corfu and at the same time getting precious and constant oil supply for the city of Venice.
The Venetian domination has allowed to Corfu to be today one of the few areas in Greece which has not endured in the past the overwhelming hegemony of the Turks.
Once defeated the Venetians, Napoleon Bonaparte with the treaty of Campoformio decreed the French hegemony all over the Ionian islands.
First of all the French invaders burnt in the main public square of Corfu the Book of Gold, the list of the nobles of the island, and in the same public square they planted the symbolic tree of the freedom.
The Corfiots felt a wind of rebirth and they accept willingly the new ideals promoted from the French revolution, hoping also that Napoleon could help Greece to get back the freedom.
Anyhow the French hegemony was not really loved by Russian and Turks, therefore in order to limit its power, they instituted in 1800 a treaty that for the first time recognized the State of the Ionian islands like free and independent.
The State of the Ionian Islands passed through a flourishing period and gave birth to Corfu library institution but in 1807 the French re-established their dominance.
For several years Corfiots and French people lived together and in that period Corfu increased its economy and the public education; there was instituted the first Ionic Academy of Sciences and was introduced the printing office.
After Napoleon, many countries were interested in the control of Corfu island but, thanks to the aid of general Ioannis Kapodistrias, in 1815 was signed in Paris a treaty that recognized the autonomy of the Ionian islands with the exclusive control of England.
So the State of Joined Ionian Islands was born and lasted until 1864.
The first english high commissioner was Sir Thomas Maitland, who revealed himself as a strict and repressive dictator very soon, stirring strong complaints from the Corfiots. However the English government was perhaps the most flourishing period in the history of Corfu.
It brought in fact a large development of the economy, the public health and the education.
There was instituted the first Greek University, widened the road network and there was realized a system of public aqueduct.
In those years Corfu had also a progressive development of its commerce with the adjacent countries, especially in 1859 with the last English governor, the colonel Henry Storz.
Freedom and annexation to Greece
The treaty of High power States, stipulated to London in 1863, decreed that England renounce to the Ionian islands and in May 1864 the island of Corfu became finally part of Greece.
Once annexed to Greece, the city of Corfu lost power in favour of Athens, but the rest of the island began to prosper both politically and economically with a widening of the industrial activities.
The increase of the island was also from the agricultural and artistic point of view, mostly under the political guide of G. Theotokis, who was also the first Greek minister for many years.
The two World Wars, carried heavy consequences for all Corfu island; numerous historical, architectonic monuments and various cultural centers were destroyed.
During the Second World War the Italian took the power of the island in a pacific way until Mussolini died.
The 20th Century began in a very hard way for the Corfiots, but they knew how to make useful the splendid nature and the sweet climate of the island in order to begin a new economic development.
Today Corfu is one of the mostfascinating and organized places for holidays of the entire Mediterranean sea.
Fishing and agriculture cover a marginal but important role in the economy of the island that finds in the European tourism its most important economic source.
Its sandy beaches, its colourful bays and its tourist receptivity bewitch every summer thousand of travelers, impressed also by the fascination of the old city and by the old traditions of Corfu that are still alive.
With the modern part of its city, Corfu is today an island full of life also in the winter months, mostly due to the institution of the Greek University of the Ionian Islands.
If you only get one chance in a lifetime to visit Corfu, you’d better choose spring and especially Easter week . It is the time when Corfu brings out to light all its natural and cultural beauty .
You will feel overwhelmed by the flowers , you will feel surprised by the green , you will be taken away by music , you will get unprecedented feelings by the religious and celebrating events.
It is the only place on Earth where you can experience Spring getting inside your very existence, where you can enjoy so strongly the atmosphere of the most important celebration . Easter here is bright beyond all expectations.
Natural beauty , culture and tradition , The East and the West, both together form a mosaic of culture, customs and language . Easter in Corfu presents this very peculiarity , customs and traditions which can be traced back to the Western and Eastern culture, in pagan customs which date thousands of years in the past. Celebrations which give a new breeze of life to the islands , rising them in a crescendo of joy and enthusiasm .
The most distinctive characteristic of Easter in Corfu is the concerts of classical music and opera, church music , a typical tetraphony deriving from , Crete of the 1700s which initiates all Christians, giving strong emotions to both locals and foreigners.
On Palm Sunday
At 11 o’clock in the morning takes place the procession of the holy body of Saint Spyridon. It is a custom dating back to 1630 , in memoriam of the relief of the island of the Plague, which, in 1629 , had claimed many victims from the people of Corfu. All 15 philharmonic bands of the island take part in that procession . At lunch people enjoy the traditional dish of the day: stock fish or haddock with garlic-tasting mash potatoes .
On Good Monday
All town gives off the perfume of fogatsa (a kind of brioche decorated with a red egg) and mandolato . In the afternoon of Good Tuesday, churches tell the story of Mary Madlene.
On Good Wednesday
The people go to the church to attend the Holy Unction.
On Good Thursday
Corfu is doing the last preparations for the celebration of Easter. At the churches, people experience with great respect the drama of Jesus, his Crucification . In the old town, at the headquarters of the philharmonic bands, they do last-minute rehearsals .
On Good Friday
The processions of a representation of dead Jesus (epitaph) begin early in the afternoon, based on a strict programme which derives on old protocols . At 2:30 in the afternoon there is the procession from the church of Agios Nikolaos at Faliraki . At 4 o’clock it is the procession of the church of Agios Georgioswhich begins from the Old Fortress and goes through the central roads of the town and the Liston alley. As time goes by, more and more processions come out and even meetat various points of the town.
The procession opens with the Cross and the cherubims. The choir comes next , singing honourable psalms to Jesus Crist, large fabric icons , standards (hangovers from the Byzantine era) and Venetian lanterns . At the epitaph processions take part schools, boy scouts and young girls, holding baskets of flowers . Late in the evening starts the procession of the last but most imposing epitaph, the one of the Cathedral . It is born by marine soldiers and all the priests of the town participate, as well as three philharmonic bands . The Philharmonic band of Corfu plays the “Adagio” by Albinoni , the blue Mantzaros Philharmonic band plays the “Marcia Funebre ” (a mourning march) by Verdi , and the red Kapodistrias band plays the mourning ” Suentura ” (loss, damage) by Mariani .
Starts off with another procession of the holy body of Saint Spyridon, established in 1550 , when the Saint saved the island from famine . It is accompanied by the famous philharmonic bands of the island, which give unimaginable musical enjoyment. At the same time there takes place the procession of the Epitaph of the church of Saint Spyridon, a custom which originates from the Venetian ages. The philharmonic bands play Calde Lacrime by Michelli , Hamlet byFaccio and Marcia Funebre from Beethoven’t Heroica .
At 11 o’clock just, the bells announce the “morning Resurrection”, and Corfiot people throw ceramic pots off windows and balconies ρίχνουν . This noisy habit possible bears the influence of the Venetians who would throw old objects out of their window on New Years Day, so than the New Year would bring them lots of new things. Another, more likely , explanation is that the custom is of pagan origins. By smashing things and making loud noises the Ancient Greeks wanted to wake up Persephone, the goddess of spring , and accelerate the coming of Spring .
At midnight all people go by thousands to the central squares of Corfu town and villages, to celebrate Resurrection with glory and typical customs .
Begins with the procession of the icon of Resurrection around Corfu town and the villages, followed by the festive meal . Lambs on the spit , red eggs , sweet wine and mostly singing, music and dancing.
Saint Spiridon Saint Spiridon is the patron saint of Corfu island. The legend says that it has saved the island many times from plague, famine and invasions from Sarakins and Turks in the Medieval times. Although he never lived in Corfu, his relics came to the island after his death.
Saint Spyridon is very beloved in the residents of Corfu and celebrates four times a year: on December 12th, on Sunday before Easter, on the first Sunday of November and on August 11th.
The Philharmonic, which began to be founded in 1840, has been instrumental in musical events and the further development of the music tradition of Corfu.The founding of the first Philharmonic took place during the period of English Protection, on the occasion of the British’s refusal to accompany the Orthodox Litanies (1837). The Corfiots three years later, in 1840, founded the Philharmonic Society of Corfu.
The Philharmonic of Corfu is known worldwide. There are 18 Philharmonics on the island, of which 4 are located and operate within the boundaries of the Municipality of Corfu. They are non-profit companies and aim to promote and develop the Corfu music tradition and education, which constantly feeds the Pan-Hellenic musical body with creators. They play a leading role in the celebrations, cultural events of the Municipality of Corfu, and beyond the island.
The Greek name, Kerkyra or Korkyra, is related to two powerful water deities: Poseidon, god of the sea, and Asopos, an important Greek mainland river.
coAccording to myth, Poseidon fell in love with the beautiful nymph Korkyra, daughter of Asopos and river nymph Metope, and abducted her. Poseidon brought Korkyra to the hitherto unnamed island and, in marital bliss, offered her name to the place: Korkyra, which gradually evolved to Kerkyra (Doric). They had a child they called Phaiax, after whom the inhabitants of the island were named Phaiakes, in Latin Phaeaciani. Corfu’s nickname is the island of the Phaeacians.
The name Corfù, an Italian version of the Byzantine Κορυφώ (Koryphō), meaning “city of the peaks”, derives from the Byzantine Greek Κορυφαί (Koryphai) (crests or peaks), denoting the two peaks of Corfu’s old fortress.
Corfu is located in the northwest of Greece and is separated by the Albanian and Greek mainland by the Corfu canal which, at its narrowest point, is less than 2 km wide. The island’s area is estimated at 588 sq.km. and is shaped like a sickle, wide at the north end and nαrrowing towards the south. The concave side, with the town and harbour of Corfu in the centre, lies toward the Albanian coast.
Corfu is approximately 64 km long, with its greatest breadth at around 32 km. Corfu’s coastline spans 217 kilometres and its highest point is Mount Pantokrator (906 metres). There are two lakes , Korission and Antinioti, and four small rivers often dry in Summer at Potamos, Sidari, Messonghi and Lefkimmi.
Two high and well-defined ranges divide the island into three districts, of which the northern is mountainous, the central undulating, and the southern low-lying. The more important of the two ranges is that of Pantokrator (Παντοκράτωρ), the ancient Istone, which stretches east and west from Cape Falacro to Cape Psaromita, and attains its greatest elevation in the summit from which it takes its name. The second culminates in the mountain of Hagioi Deka (Άγιοι Δέκα), or the Ten Saints.
The whole island, composed as it is of various limestone formations, presents great diversity of surface, and views from more elevated spots are magnificent. Beaches are found all around the island, with the most spectacular and less busy ones lying at the western coast.
Corfu is located near the Kefalonia geological fault formation but although earthquakes have occurred, unlike Cephallonia, Corfu town and countryside have not lost their traditional architecture from the 16th century.
The climate of Corfu is warm in the summer and damp in the winter with heavy rainfall. As a result, the whole island is green and covered with thick vegetation. The flora and fauna of Corfu are spectacular and vary from olive trees to pine forests, chestnut groves and thousands of wild flowers.
Corfu Town is the capital of Corfu (Kerkyra in Greek) one of the most beautiful and elegant towns in Greece. It is the principal port of the island and one of the largest and most populated (30,000 inhabitants) towns of the Ionian Islands.
Built on a promontory, the town displays a unique architecture which is strongly influenced from the different dominations, such as the Sicilian, the Venetian, the French and the English ones. From those times, Corfu Town has kept many of its imposing buildings, elegant mansions, superb palaces, French-style flowered squares and beautiful fortresses.
All that amalgam of architectural style gives to Corfu Town a unique charm, character and atmosphere that reminds of the glamorous Italian town of Naples. Having been greatly expanded during the Venetian times, Corfu is separated into a northern and a southern section.
The Old Town lies on the northern side between the Esplanade Square and the new fortress. Ferries approaching the port of Corfu offer a magnificent view to this picturesque and beautiful town as it is located close by.
The square of the Esplanade (also called Spianada) is the central square of Corfu Town and the largest square in the Balkans. It became a public square during the French occupation and was designed according to the French garden architecture, with many organised trees and flower pots. It is surrounded by sumptuous buildings, imposing monuments and an old Venetian fortress which marks the beginning of the modern town. One of the most beautiful buildings boarding the square is the Liston building which stands at the western side of the Esplanade and was built during the French occupation.
Its superb arched terrace was inspired by the architectural style of the Rue de Rivoli, in Paris, and houses the most elegant and luxurious cafes and restaurants of the island. It is arguably the most cosmopolitan spot in Corfu. Many other interesting monuments adorn Corfu Town, such as the Old and the New Venetian Fortresses, the Town Hall Square, the Square of the Saints, the Ionian Academy and the Palace of Saint Michael and Saint Georges.
The town is filled with beautiful Venetian neighbourhoods such as the Kanoni area where are the ruins of the Ancient city or the beautiful area of Mandouki. With all these treasures and marvels, Corfu Town is among the most important and beautiful towns of Greece, having innumerable sights and charms to offer its visitors.
Where the Venetians, the French and the British used to live.
With the passage of time the island may have changed, but we can still feel the spirit of a distant glorious past . Its rich multi-cultural heritage, its historic monuments, its stunning natural landscape, its crystal clear seas, and its excellent weather all year round explain why Corfu is one of the most cosmopolitan Mediterranean destinations weaving a powerful spell on its visitors.
Corfu (Kérkyra), unlike the rest of Greece, never fell under the Ottoman oppression. Due to the successive dominations of the Venetians, the French and the British over the centuries, the island has primarily become part of the Western rather the Levantine world. Their culture wielded strong influence in the city: it was here that the first Greek University (the Ionian Academy), the first Philharmonic Orchestra and the First School of Fine Arts were founded.
In the beautifully preserved Old Town of Corfu, a UNESCO world heritage site, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical “repertoire” came to be successfully applied to local artistic traditions. Palaces, fortresses, austere public buildings of the Venetian rule uniquely blend with lines of drying washing in tiny alleyways and small secluded squares. Strolling through a complex of narrow cobbled streets with stairways and vaulted passages, the so-called “kantoúnia”, will make you feel as if you’ve travelled to Genoa or Naples.
The two imposing fortresses (the Old and the New) impress visitors. A stroll through the quaint, cobbled back streets, the beautiful Town Hall Square and the sublime Kambielo is certain to remind you of somewhere in Italy and arouse your romantic side. Liston, the church of Agios Spyridonas, the Palace of Archangel Michael and St. George as well as many other worthwhile monuments are among the highlights. Other famous attractions on the island, outside the town, include the highly praised Pontikonisi with its highly photographed Vlahernon Monastery, the Palace of Princess Sissy (Mon Repos), Gouvia Marina and Korission lake.
Corfu allows you the opportunity to have exciting experiences as it has numerous beaches -Glyfada, Benitses, Palaiokastritsa etc- as well as other explore villages -Palia Perithia, Kassiopi, Lefkimmi, Pelekas etc.
During your stay on the island you should try the traditional local cuisine at taverns and restaurants. With regard to nightlife, Corfu has it all.
One thing is for sure. You will leave here satiated with beautiful picture postcard images.