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From Venice to Corfu: hidden treasures

From Venice to Corfu: hidden treasures
Corfu is often said to be the least Greek of the Greek islands - and there’s a good reason why.
Step into the centre of Corfu Town and you’ll find yourself surrounded by structurally striking feats of architecture that have a distinctly Italian air to them - some are even stamped with the iconic Venetian symbol, the Lion of St Mark.
With cloisters, colonnades and church towers with distinctly Venetian belfries, you could easily mistake yourself for being in Venice. The only thing missing is the canals.
Standing guard at the entrance to the Adriatic Sea, Corfu has been easy pickings for invaders. Sitting off the northwestern coast of mainland Greece, near to Albania and only 60 miles from the tip of the heel of Italy’s boot, for seven centuries the island was under foreign rule, before eventually becoming officially ‘Greek’ in 1864.
Corfu was a stop on the revered Silk Route, a historic trading route between Asia and the Mediterranean, and so it benefited from a world of imported culture that it still proudly embraces today.
What we now know today as a city in Italy, Venice was once a huge and powerful trading empire. In 1386, Corfu voluntarily joined the Empire’s colonies, and was then ruled by Venice for four hundred years.
Image of the island of Corfu one of the Greek Islands with buildings and the sea
Not only was the strategic location of Corfu an incentive to the Venetians, the island’s rich fertile land was also a pull, who wanted to ensure their city never ran out of olive oil. (Oh, the Italians and their olive oil!)
Today, particularly on the west coast of the island, you can see an endless landscape of olive groves as far as the eye can see, which are a living symbol of their historic rulers. A whopping four million olive trees are planted across Corfu, some of which are over 500 years old! In recent decades, Corfu’s olive industry has undergone its own renaissance, with the focus being placed back on quality and artisanal extra-virgin olive oil.
The predominant olive landscapes of Agios Markos are a 10 minutes’ drive from Dassia Bay in northern Corfu, home to the luxurious resort of Ikos Dassia, which is perfect if you want to go on an olive oil tasting adventure.
Alternatively, stay at The Olivar Suites in Messonghi, located on the south coast of the island, where you can actually sleep in a restored 18th century olive mill.
The Venetians brought over olive trees, their own flamboyant, elegant architecture, their amorous singing Italian language, and much more from the world to Corfu.
You’ll find Asian and exotic kumquat fruit in liqueurs, sweets, marmalade, and even ice cream! You’ll also behold coffers of spice, which were once enjoyed by the Venetian aristocrats of yesteryear. These have greatly influenced the island’s fusion Corfiot cuisine.
The warming spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaves, and cloves always seem to linger in the homes of Corfiots. Tuck into the distinctly Italian-sounding dish pastitsada: braised meat in a brilliantly aromatic spiced tomato sauce that is served on a bed of bucatini pasta.
While visiting, you can also feast on the dishes of bianco: a gorgeously garlic fish stew, bourdetto: a spicy fish and tomato stew, and sofrito: slow-cooked veal in a white wine, garlic and herb sauce.
Image of a beach and cove in Corfu in Greece
Located an hour’s drive from Ikos Dassia is an abandoned village that is a time capsule to Venetian Corfu, which you can tour. Old Perithia once housed 1,500 hundred people who lived across 130 medieval hand-built stone houses in the 14th century.
Built in the verdant mountains, these homes were purposefully hidden away so that passing pirates couldn’t spot them. What’s more, dotted around Old Perithia are underground cubbies where the villagers could hide with their prized possessions.
Old Perithia was once a very rich village, with its fertile land providing for its people, from the oak trees that would be used to build the Venetian’s ships, to its wonderfully wild fruits.
As the oldest village in Corfu, Old Perithia was abandoned in the 1960s for the more lucrative tourism that was being developed along the coast. It’s only now being unearthed by visitors and being reinhabited as locals return to their ancestral roots.
Why not embark on your own historical journeys and compare the differences between Venice and Corfu for yourself?
Image of a brick house

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