Updated: Jun 21
Quite honestly, Carla and I had never even heard of Corfu until we watched the BBC TV series, The Durrells in Corfu. Since then, we have watched the show multiple times - and found ourselves falling love with the idea of Corfu – of course, without ever stepping foot on the island. In the spring of 2022, we made grand plans to spend a month in Corfu, but COVID reared its head and our plans – like many of yours - were put on hold.
So, fast forward to this past May, and we finally are going to visit Corfu. It was the third island on our Greek tour, following Crete and Naxos, and to say that we were excited to visit the place we had romanticized and idealized for quite some time was an understatement. It seemed impossible that Corfu could stand a chance of coming anywhere close to our expectations. And yet, even with all the buildup, Corfu still exceeded our expectations. We loved it!
Before I go into what we loved about Corfu and why it charmed us, I want to share a little history about Corfu that I think you’ll find helpful. Corfu is the queen of the Ionian Island group that rests in the northwestern part of Greece. Unlike most of Greece, Corfu was never ruled by the Ottomans, and, because of the strong influence of its other rulers - the Venetians, the French, and the British - spanning centuries - the island feels more western unlike the rest of Greece which feels decidedly eastern.
We were based in Corfu Town (also known as Kerkyra) which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007. The award is based on its two Venetian fortresses that were designed to withstand – successfully, I might add - invasion by the Ottomans. The Old Fortress (also called the Citadel) was built in 1555 on the site of a former Byzantine castle that lies on an artificial peninsula that juts out into the sea while the New Fortress, built later in the same century, stands just above the old port on a hill overlooking the town.
The story of how Kerkyra got its name is so Greek . . . The God of the Sea, Poseidon, fell in love with a beautiful nymph named Kerkyra, kidnapped her, and brought her to the island. He then offered to name it Kerkyra, in her honor. This beautiful place is also the island of the Phaeacians, where Odysseus (also known as Ulysses) was cast up during his long voyage back to Ithica after the Trojan War.
For better or worse, Corfu has a rich history with the Venetians, French, and English, all ruling here and leaving their marks on the island. The Venetians ruled Corfu for over 400 years (1386-1797) and you can see their influence in the beautiful Venetian style mansions and town hall in the old town. Even the Greek spoken here has a lilt to it that sounds a little like Italian and the Italian restaurants are good and plentiful. The French, in their short rule (1797-1799) built the famous Liston Arcade facing the Esplanade Square to resemble the Rue de Rivoli in Paris, and the English (1815-1864) turned the Esplanade square into a cricket field.
One way to describe the unique feel and appearance of Corfu Town is . . . if the countries of Italy, France, and Greece had a love child, it would look a lot like Corfu Town. The dominance by the Venetians and their influence is obvious in the architecture of Corfu Town, as the maze-like cobbled streets and the arches of The Liston are reminiscent of St. Mark’s Square and the surrounding streets in Venice. It’s totally different from the other Greek islands and that’s what makes Corfu so special.
So . . . why did we love Corfu Town . . . and the entire island? It’s the cultural diversity and the cosmopolitan feel of the town that makes it feel unlike any other place we’ve visited in Greece . . . or elsewhere. Its architecture reflects a melting pot of cultures as do the streets and the food. As for the overall feel of the town . . . the beauty, history, and uniqueness in architectural style are so exquisite that the island is unmatched in its magnificence.
But the Old Town is so much more than just interesting architecture. Corfu Town’s center has a lively square, the Esplanade, which is actually the biggest square in Greece, and where you will find some of the finest cafes and restaurants in Corfu. It is also the only place in Greece where Cricket matches are played. Off from the square are winding streets and alleys filled with restaurants, bars, cafes, and great shops. It’s fun just to walk the streets and listen to all the life that happens there – from children running around playing tag to women chatting in the alleys behind restaurants on their breaks. Corfu Town is by far one of the most engaging and relaxing cities of any Greek island we visited. In short, it is a cosmopolitan city vibrating with laidback energy. If you love Italy and you love Greece, then you’ll love the fusion that is Corfu.
Corfu is so much more than just Corfu Town. Corfu has gorgeous trees and plush vegetation and is called the Emerald Island because it’s the greenest island in Greece. It has a beautiful coastline with over 50 gorgeous beaches, with mountains in the north and valleys and plains in the south. Olive trees are everywhere. There are picturesque towns, castles, and monasteries. In next week’s blog, I will go into detail beyond Corfu Town and discuss and share photos covering our experience with the entire island.
So, is this a place we could call home? Absolutely! We love Corfu and so far, it tops our list for where we might want to live. Our challenge is that we keep falling in love with the places we visit! What we’re learning is that when we visit a place and approach it through the lens of living there, we do a type of immersion into the city or town, which helps us enjoy a place even more. It keeps us open and ready to experience all that a place has to offer.
In the meantime, our search will continue, but as you can see from the photos, Corfu is stunning and enormously appealing. Even if it does not become our permanent home . . . we will absolutely return!
I’d like to end with a note about a “side adventure” we had during our time in Corfu. As I mentioned in the very beginning of this article, Carla and I are fans of The Durrells in Corfu . . . especially Carla. So, we decided to indulge ourselves and visit as many places from the set of the show as we could.
The actual set where they filmed the town scenes is Danilia Village which is about 20 minutes outside Corfu Town. It is a replica of a 1930’s Corfiot village, built in the 1970s as an open-air museum. For those of you who enjoy the Bond movies, several scenes from For Your Eyes Only were also filmed there. We also managed to find (no easy feat) the farmhouse where Sven raised his goats and where Louisa would often visit. Most importantly, we managed to catch a glimpse of the house where so much of the show was filmed. It’s gated, locked, and off limits, so we had to walk the rocky beach to get a view from the water. It was totally worth it – as we found that the original cast was having a reunion (in costume, no less), and they very kindly asked Carla to join them in a photo. Actually, the truth is that I had quite a bit of fun in Photoshop. It was a fun and memorable day and Carla absolutely loved it!
Looking forward to next week and sharing our explorations of the beautiful island of Corfu.