Venetians, French, British, they’ve all been here – and last but not least, James Bond: The old town of the city of Corfu (Kerkyra) impresses with centuries-old architecture, narrow streets, a monumental open square and a great atmosphere in such a small space.
The Poet of Freedom
His name is Solomos, Dionysios Solomos. A poet in the service of independence. From his house on the northern edge of the old town of Corfu, he looks far out over the sea; it was here that he wrote the ‘Hymn to Liberty’ when the island was still a British protectorate. Solomos couldn’t have known then that it would become famous as the national anthem of Greece in 1864, nine years after his death. The desk at which he wrote the text still stands in his former home, which has been rebuilt as the ‘Solomos Museum’. From here you can stroll through the old town as the poet once did – and immerse yourself in its centuries-old history.
A Labyrinth of Alleyways
Our way leads over stairs and through narrow alleys between high houses that the Venetians built on Corfu from the 14th century onwards. The streets are stone-paved, laundry lines flutter in the sea breeze on the upper floors, and small squares with weathered stone fountains pop up time and again. Traders sell their goods from shops and cellars: sweet halva, wooden souvenirs and olives, holy images, spices, pieces of clothing. On the way through Campiello, the oldest part of the old town, you’ll find Café Favela 17. There’s hardly a better place to enjoy a nice cup of coffee under the bougainvillea.
A Square like a Stage
You can also take a break at the nearby Liston, a magnificent complex of buildings with an arcade, originally built by the French and then finished by the British. From one of the restaurants and cafés in the shade, you can watch the hustle and bustle on Spianada, one of the largest squares in south-eastern Europe. The site also includes a spacious park where Corfiots pass the time playing cricket – another British heritage. Now that you’ve gathered your strength, head back to the small streets and alleyways until you reach the Dimarchio Square, with the Church of St. James, Cathedral of Kerkyra.
The Agent who Bought Melons
The bell tower of the Church of St. Spiridon with its red dome also makes an appearance in the Bond film “For Your Eyes Only” (1980). His Majesty’s agent (Roger Moore) strolls through the old town with Milena (Carole Bouquet) to buy some melons, St Spiridon looming in the background. Following in Bond’s footsteps, we continue to the Maitland Rotonda, a circular temple with 20 Ionic columns at the southern end of the Spianada. And then, for a view of the sunset on the roof terrace of the nearby neoclassical Hotel Cavalieri, with a view of the Old Fortress in front. In the film, it is a smugglers’ camp, today you’d be served iced coffee here – and maybe a martini – fully legal this time. Shaken, not stirred.
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