Since the 8th century BC the island the Greeks call Kerkyra has been prized for its untamed beauty and strategic location. Ancient armies fought to possess it, while in the early days of modern Greece it was a beacon of learning. Corfiots remain proud of their intellectual and artistic roots, with vestiges of the past ranging from Corfu Town’s Venetian architecture to British legacies such as cricket and ginger beer.
While certain regions of the island have succumbed to overdevelopment, particularly those close to Corfu Town, Corfu is large enough to make it possible to escape the crowds. Venture across cypress-studded hills to find vertiginous villages in the fertile interior, and sandy coves lapped by cobalt-blue waters.
In remote glades, Corfiot villagers still celebrate summer-and-autumn panigýria (religious festivals-cum-fairs) with music and merchandise stalls – watch for posters (usually Greek only) plastered onto olive trees, and don’t expect much action until after 8pm as a rule. Sadly, such events have occurred less frequently in recent years. Olive culture was traditionally rather desultory – the Corfiots for years didn’t prune, or pick the fruit, local patron saint Spyridon having forbidden the practices in a vision – and many groves still retain a romantically half-wild aspect.