The “eyes of Venice” in the Mediterranean
On the SE Messinia, at the first leg of the Peloponnese peninsula, there are two beautiful little towns: picturesque Methoni overlooking the Ionian Sea and the island comlex of Oinousses, and colourful Koroni, a place with insular atmosphere. Thanks to their strategic position, they have been important trade and marine centres. But for the very same reason, they have always been coveted by the powerful of the times. That explains the need for building huge fortresses.
The castle of Methoni
Built by the Venetians in the early 13th century on a rocky promontory, the castle is among the largest ones in the Mediterranean. You’ll be astonished at the bridge stone of 14 arches which connects the castle to the shore instead of the timber one that used to stand in its place before the Venetians ever got there. The celebrated symbol of Venice, the lion of St Marc, dominates the gate of the castle where immured reliefs, emblems, blazons, inscriptions, the huge gates –especially the main gate, above the moat – and the relics of two Ottoman bathhouses have survived.
At the south edge of the castle a fortified islet floats. Bourtzi, as it is called, a prison and place of executions during the Turkish Occupation, was built in 1500 and is connected to the Sea Gate of the castle with a paved tiny road.
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The castle of Koroni
One of the finest examples of the Venetian fortress architecture and amongst the few of each kind to encompass houses and churches, the castle of Koroni dominates Akritas cape, on the southern edge of the Messinian Gulf. It was built by the Venetians in the 13th century and revamped by the Ottomans in the 16th.
Leaving the shore to walk uphill will feel like travelling back in time. Narrow passages will lead you to the gate of the castle. Cross it to find just a few inhabited of the many houses once seeking refuge from the pirates here. Apart from the breathtaking view to the Sea, in the castle you can see immured tombs, underground arched tanks for the rain, the octagon tower –peculiar to ottoman architecture- and the churches of St Sofia (a 12th century Byzantine one) and St Charalambos (an old mosque).
• The church dedicated to Panagia Eleistra below the castle in a palm tree grove.
• The Historical and Archaeological collection with the region’s excavated findings, housed in a small building on the site of the grove.
• The Venetian islet opposite cape Akrita with a marvellous sea bed for diving and fishing.
• The secluded coves and the beaches (Paroulia, Gargarou, Zagga, Agia Triada, Agios Ioannis).