An Island Fairytale.
It’s sunset. You’re drinking a glass of wine on the rooftop of a 17th century mansion. While music plays in the background the spectrum of colors before you takes your breath away. Below, you hear the children playing beneath the green leaves of the park. Above you hear the swallows dancing and singing, diving and floating through the pink, red, and yellow hues of the sky. Before you, jutting out into the bright blues of the sea, stands a 15th century Venetian fortress daring you to cross the moat and travel back in time. In the far distance, beyond the colorful fishing boats and luxurious yachts, you can make out the faint outline of the nearby coasts of mainland Greece and neighboring Albania… fantasy or reality? It’s just your average happy hour on the fairytale island of Corfu.
Every evening on the roof of the Cavelieri Hotel this incomparable romantic experience is simply the norm. Whether you are a guest at the hotel or just a visitor for dinner and/or drinks, sunset from this vantage point is an absolute unmissable when visiting Corfu and just the beginning.
The Cavalieri is one of many Venetian-style mansions in Corfu town dating back hundreds of years. From the glorious old fortresses to the arch-covered, cobblestone alleyways the island’s history surrounds you. Once occupied by the Venetians, and later by the French, Corfu is the most European of the Greek isles.
The Spaniada Park is the epicenter of all activity in the Old town at the edge of which lies the bridge that crosses the moat to the Old Fortress. Built by the Venetians on the remains of a Byzantine castle in the 1400’s, this fortress is now home to a music conservatory and one of my favorite restaurants in Greece, the Sailing Club. On the opposite side of the park sits the Liston. Constructed during the imperial French occupation to emulate the aristocratic Parisian rue de Rivoli, the marble pedestrian street divides the bustling cafés from their covered terraces and acts as the most interesting catwalk I’ve ever seen. Choose one of the many seats, order a café frappé, and watch the people go by. This sea of activity is the social center and meeting place for locals and visitors alike.
Behind the row of arched buildings that houses the coffee shops are the winding streets of Kerkyra (the Greek name for Corfu) lined with boutiques offering local wares: carved olive wood, woven textiles, kumkwat liqueurs and candies, jewelry, and delicious gelato. In the center of it all is Saint Spyridon Church, home of the remains of its namesake. Inside you can pay your respects to the “walking saint” and look through the glass at the foot of his ornate resting place to see his slippers which are replaced every year. Legend has it that they are worn out by his traveling the world helping others and performing miracles.
To honor him the islanders have a procession for their patron saint four times a year, one of which is on Greek Easter, the most important of Greek religious holidays. If you are lucky enough to be in Corfu on the Saturday prior, you will have the experience of a lifetime. Corfu has a unique tradition that can’t be found on other islands. Everyone purchases terra cotta vases and urns and decorates them in their own way. As the procession walks through the streets of the town, spectators standing on their balconies above drop their water-filled vases, watching them shatter below in celebration.
The wonders of Corfu are not limited to the old city. If you rented a car and are looking for a little adventure, there are beautiful beaches and historic sites all over the island. Hiking trails take you through the twisted branches of olive tree orchards and down to the turquoise waters of isolated beaches. Bus tours are ready to take you from the comfort of your hotel to the Achilleion, the summer palace of the Bavarian Empress Sisi, or to the beautiful clear waters of Paleokastritsa, one of the island’s most picturesque beaches.
Not a fan of traveling over land? Stroll over to the old port of Corfu town (Palio Limani) and hop a ferry to Vidos Island. Once the Alcatraz of Corfu, this now uninhabited island is home to hundreds of adorable, tamed rabbits and pheasants as well as Menios Taverna. Vidos is great for a day trip. Bring a picnic lunch and visit the quiet beaches during the day and when you’ve had enough sun head back to the ferry, stopping for a drink, dinner, live music or just to take in the views of Corfu from Menios’ outdoor taverna.
With overnight ferries to and from Venice and other locations nearby, as well as its own international airport, Corfu is a favorite destination for visitors from all over Europe and the globe. After exploring the endless and varied opportunities for adventure, romance and relaxation, it’s not hard to see why.
The country code for Greece is 30.
Where to stay:
(In Corfu Town)
The Siorra Vittoria : Originally a private mansion, this nine room, boutique hotel offers the convenience of proximity to the old city without the hustle and bustle that usually comes with it. Perfect for a romantic get away, each room has its own unique design and feel. For a truly dreamlike experience be sure to request the “exclusive suite” with views of the fortress and the picturesque windy streets of Corfu town. You may never want to leave your room.
36 St. Padova Street, Corfu Town. 266 103 630. www.siorravittoria.com
Cavalieri : Perfectly located, the Cavalieri Hotel sits among the shops, cafes, restaurants, and clubs that make up the social center of Corfu Town. Sitting on the edge of the beautiful Esplinade (Spianada) the hotel Cavalieri offers some rooms with an unobstructed view of the Old Fortress and the Mediterranean Sea. Even if you don’t decide to stay here, the rooftop is a great spot for dinner or at least a drink. Take in the sunset over the city and the sea with panoramic views of the island and the coasts of mainland Greece and nearby Albania while swallows sing and dance overhead to celebrate the setting sun.4 Capodistriou Street, Corfu. 266 103 9041. www.Cavalieri-hotel.com
The Bella Venezia : This beautiful neo-classically designed, boutique hotel is on a quiet side street in the heart of Corfu town. Recently renovated, this converted mansion offers a serene sojourn with the comfort of modern conveniences. Be sure to have tea under the floral garlands of the back terrace or play a game of chess on the giant black and white board. 4 N. Zambeli St., Corfu Town. 266 104 6500.
(For a deeper look into the Island)
Fundana Villas : Just a short drive from the excitement of Corfu town you find an oasis. This former 17th century Venetian mansion has been transformed into a bungalow hotel. Amongst the olive trees and the hypnotizing hum of cicadas you can choose to either lounge by the pool soaking in the sun and panoramic views of the island, hike one of numerous trails through their beautiful gardens and orchards, or simply visit their centuries-old olive press museum. You will want to rent a car for this location but with such affordable rates (starting at $63) it is hardly a factor worth considering. Spyros Spathas, road to Paleokastritsa, 15th KM, 49083. 266 302 2532. www.fundanavillas.com
Casa Lucia : Owned and run by a British-Greek family Casa Lucia offers a kind of visit unlike any other on the island. The tranquility and the beauty of the setting is only part of what makes the 7 self-catering cottages a place of serenity and relaxation. This environmentally conscious sanctuary offers a series of regular activities, therapies, and workshops to ensure that your vacation is a relaxing and rejuvenating one. Casa Lucia has partnered with a nearby organic restaurant, Lucciola-Bio Bistro, offering local beers and wines as well as concerts and performances. While it’s a central starting point for touring the island, with everything it has to offer you may simply never want to leave the grounds. Sgombou, Corfu. 266 109 1419. www.casa-lucia-corfu.com
Restaurants and Nightlife:
(In Corfu Town)
Piperitsa: offers a modern take on traditional Mediterranean cuisine. Placed in the airy square right outside of Saint Spyridon Church, it’s a great spot to stop for an iced coffee (café frappé) during the day or to have a romantic dinner al fresco at night. You’ll often find artists and musicians stroll by offering to perform for you. Placada Aghiou, Corfu Town. 266 104 3300.
Porto Remounda: is a great spot on the corner of Guilford and Moustoxydou if you’re looking for more traditional local fare. Set on a pedestrian side-street, this is a great low-key spot to get a true taste of Corfu.14 Moustoxydou, Coruf Town. 266 102 2658.
To Dimarcheio: means “town hall” and is the name of this higher-end restaurant that is located in the setting of its namesake, Town Hall Square. Under a protective umbrella of vibrant bougainvilla, you will feast on both traditional and original delights made of the freshest local ingredients. This is a perfect setting for a romantic dinner for two. Corfu Town. 266 103 9031
The Sailing Club: Tucked into the side of the Old Fortress, the setting for this restaurant would be enough to make it an unmissable but on top of all that the food and wine selections are excellent! The combination makes this my favorite restaurant on Corfu and potentially, in Greece. Koromios Nikos Old Fortress, Mandraki. 266 103 8763.www.corfu-sailing-restaurant.com
Fortresses: On either side of the Old Town you’ll find the Old (15th century) and New (16th century) fortresses and the church of Saint Spyridon right in the middle. A physical representation of the island’s history and its years of Venetian and Imperial French occupation. Cross the bridge and take a stroll back in time.
(Beyond Corfu Town)
The Achilleion: Possibly the island’s most visited attraction, this summer palace was an escape for Empress Sisi of Bavaria. The interior decorated with rococo statues of Greek gods and goddesses, the exterior adorned with exquisite gardens, this palace was once the setting of the casino in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only.
Paleokastritsa: A beautiful beach with clear blue waters is found at the base of a road at the end of which you find a beautiful monastery that welcomes visitors. Here you can visit the monastery’s museum, buy local olive oil and wine made by the monks, and take in the exquisite views of the turquoise waters and rocky beaches below.
Pondikonissi: “Mouse island” is a little islet and home of a 12th century church. Reachable by boat from the 17th century Vlachernon Monastery, which is attached to the mainland by a little bridge. This tiny island is often seen as a symbol of Corfu.
Vidos Island: A hidden gem of Corfu, Vidos island is the perfect place to bring a picnic for the quiet beach during the day and relax at Menios Taverna, named after its owner, for drink or dinner and some live music as the sun goes down. 266 103 2711