Ionian Islands - History, Culture and Cuisine
During the period of Ottoman rule in the rest of Greece, the Ionian Islands were European dominions; this exposure to the western way of life has led to a cultural and artistic development that is evident today in their architectural heritage, their charming dialect, customs and traditions.
On cosmopolitan Corfu Island, our suggestions on must-see places include a tour of the Old Town of Corfu (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Old Citadel and the New Fort, a stroll in Spianada Square and the nearby Liston area, a visit to Agios Spyridonas Church, as well as to famous Pontikonisi. Other must-see places beyond the town limits are Achilleion Palace, and Panagia Palaiokastritsa Monastery.
On picturesque Paxi Island, visit the impressive Venetian Agios Nikolaos Fortress and enjoy the Paxos Music Festival in September.
On Lefkada Island, take a trip to the Santa Maura Venetian Castle, the Archaeological Museum and the Public Library.
On Kefalonia, the biggest island in the group, enjoy your tour of Saint George’s Castle, Assos Fortress, katavothres (a seaside place with an underwater intriguing geological formation) and Agioi Theodoroi Lighthouse.
On Zante Island, visit Agios Dionysios Church, the remains of the Venetian Fort on picturesque Bochali area, the Exhibition Centre for the protection of the local sea turtle in Zante’s marine park, and Milaneio Maritime Museum.
On Kythira, the southernmost island in the group, the most interesting historical sights are the 13th c. Venetian Castle (Fortezza) in town, the Archaeological Museum and Myrtidiotissa Monastery.
Local products include virgin olive oil, thyme honey, fragrant herbs and rare citrus fruit; these are some of the basic ingredients to delicious traditional savoury and sweet dishes you can try in this part of the country.
On Kythira Island, you must try the renowned and scrumptious olive oil rusks. Taste cheeses and charcuterie such as salami made in Lefkada Island, ladotyri (a flavourful cheese which matures in olive oil) made in Zante Island and nouboulo (smoke-cured pork meat) made in Corfu Island.
Savour pastitsada (rooster meat cooked with spices and tomato, served on long thick tubular pasta with a hole in the centre) and bourdeto (a fish dish cooked with tomato and spices) on Corfu Island; sofigado, a particular beef dish cooked with quince, tomato & grape molasses & bean soup cooked with salami, on Lefkada Island; tasty meat pies on Kefalonia Island, aliada (a side dish for fish made with potato, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice) & stifado (a type of rabbit stew) on Zante Island.
Locally produced wine is the best way to accompany your meals. Enjoy a glass of white PDO robola from Kefalonia Island. Taste also red vertzami, a flavourful wine produced on Lefkada Island. Kumquat liqueur is an absolute must-try on Corfu Island as well as the local tsitsibira, a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage made with ginger root and lemon.
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