Architecture in Corfu Town.
The cultural landscape of Corfu definitely embodies all the defining characteristics of its European heritage. This diverse flair is mostly reflected on the island’s architecture and its Venetian, French and British structures, almost untouched by time, creating a sophisticated and unpretentious atmosphere.
Regal and massive, the flourishing Venetian occupation of almost four hundred years is evident all over Corfu. The current image of the Old Fortress of Corfu is the result of constant interventions beginning from the 6thcentury AD. However, it was the Venetians that cleared the open space in front of the Fortress to make the vast Spianada Square that we all enjoy today. It’s worth mentioning that the name of Corfu, as has prevailed in many European languages, comes from the medieval ‘corypho’ which, in Greek, means ‘peak’ referring to the two peaks of the old Fortress. Moreover, the huge fortification walls along the coastal road of Mouragia is part of the medieval defensive system of Corfu that the Venetians constructed in order to connect the old Fortress with the new one which they themselves built in the mid 16thcentury. The row of imposing high buildings alongside the city’s walls create the genuine façade of the old city of Corfu and the intricately interwoven narrow streets within this old section of the town sum up the essence of Corfu’s culture. Don’t miss the opportunity to stroll along this beautiful maze of Campiello neighbourhood and sense a small part of the Corfiot temperament (it’s quite typical for the locals to speak out loud from their own window, gossiping or commenting on the latest news). It’s quite extraordinary as well how some of the oldest constructions of the old town have been transformed into the most luxurious and high tech accommodation apartments to satisfy the most eclectic taste.
Following the imaginary timeline of foreign architectural impact, the Venetian period was followed by the French in 1797, passing on one of the most well known masterpieces of the central square of Corfu, the magnificent Liston, imitating the French road of Rivoli in Paris. Under the high arches of this long row of terraced buildings perfectly matched with the elegant pedestrian street that trails along, you can take your time and settle back in the chic and cool cafes that have been considered the meeting point for both locals and visitors. The name though is not French and has become the bone of contention amongst those with a keen interest in local history. Liston resembles the word ‘list’ that reminds us of the names of the nobles in Libro D’oro that were the only ones who had the privilege to enjoy their walk in this part of town. On the other hand, there is also the Venetian ‘lista’ which refers to a wide walking road. Well, whatever the origin of the name, Liston retains its pure style and cosmopolitan energy.
Last but not least, the English were the ones to finish the line of occupation before Corfu was united with the Greek state in 1864. During the fifty years of the English Protectorate, many iconic edifices have contributes to the diversity of Corfiot architecture. The Palace of St Michael and St George now housing the Asian Art Museum, the Maitland Rotunda in Spianada square, the Church of St George in the Old Fortress, the Douglas Column, the mansion of Mon Repos in the archaeological site of Palaiopolis and many more follow the open colonial style together with intense Greek and Neoclassical elements.
Now it’s your turn to discover each one of Corfu’s multiple personalities that make up the island’s transcendent beauty and unique timeless character.