A Tale of Two Castles: Methoni and Koroni’s Best-Kept Secrets

Located just half an hour from each other on the south coast of Messinia, the two castle towns of Methoni and Koroni are idyllic year-round destinations.


Built almost facing each other in southern Messinia, southwest Greece, the two fortified towns – also known as the “Eyes of Venice” – were built by the Venetians. During the Middle Ages, they were important stops for commercial ships and pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. Natural harbors with strategic geographical locations, in Homer’s “Iliad,” king Agamemnon promised them to Achilles to allay his rage.

Today, the two coastal towns attract a steady stream of visitors throughout the year. Those interested in watersports engage in endless activities by the sea, while history buffs make sure to visit the catacombs of Aghios Onoufrios, where hermits lived during the 5th century. Should you visit the region towards the end of April, be sure to watch the annual celebration in Methoni, which reconstructs the naval battle that took place in 1825.

Two Medieval Castles

The Castle of Methoni was built in the early 13th century by the Venetians, while fortifications were subsequently added by the French and the Ottomans. This is one of the largest castles in the Mediterranean, covering an expanse of 93,000 square meters. To enter, cross the stone bridge with its 14 arches and admire the octagonal-shaped Bourtzi. Significant points of interest include the Church of the Metamorphosi tou Sotiros, with its stone belltower, the main gate featuring the lion of Saint Mark, and the domed structures that once housed the Ottoman baths.

Much smaller, the Castle of Koroni dates from the 13th century and is still inhabited. Several churches are still preserved: Aghia Sofia (12th century), Aghios Haralambos, and the monastery of Aghios Ioannis Prodromos. Underneath, nestled in a small palm tree forest, sits the Church of Panagia Eleistria, the patron saint of the area.

 

The exotic Sapienza opposite Methoni is the largest island of the Messinian Oinousses, incorporated in the Natura 2000 network. Uninhabited and gorgeous, it boasts a wonderful beach with deep blue waters called Ammos, an impressive forest of arbutus trees, and a lighthouse dating from 1885, and is home to a large number of wild goats. On the nearby island, named after the chapel of Aghia Marina, be sure to visit the large “panigyri” (traditional festival) that takes place here, while in the south you will find Kardia, a heart-shaped island that has been the subject of many photographs. During the summer months, you can visit Sapienza by boat from Methoni.

Cultural experiences 

Since antiquity, the large ceramic storage jars from Koroni have traveled far and wide, filled with goods and local produce. Maria Vasilagiannakopoulou continues this ceramic tradition at Vounaria. At her workshop named Hoiko (Tel. (+30) 27257.700.26) you can admire the practical and decorative ceramic objects on display, and attend lessons in ceramic art. The British artist Gill Tomlinson is inspired by the Messinian landscape and, at her atelier in Harokopio (Tel. (+30) 27250.293.42), she sells her artworks and organizes small painting groups.

Every year the Koroni Festival (Tel. (+30) 27250.227.55) organizes classical music concerts, art exhibitions and theatrical performances. In Methoni they celebrate the Wedding of Koutroulis festival during the carnival weekend, while in the summer there are various events that are staged in the moat of the Castle by the town’s Cultural Association. 

Where to Swim

West of Koroni, the sandy Zaga-Memi Beach, much frequented in the summer, hosts an average of 46 Caretta caretta (Loggerhead sea turtle) nests, making it an important nesting ground for the critically endangered species. Near Finikounda, Makriammos Beach and its flowing sand dunes form part of the Natura 2000 network, while Marathi is a small bay with a fine pebble beach and Lampes is a serviced sandy beach, with shallow waters, ideal for families. 

The most delicious food

Koroni has been selected as an emblematic community for the Mediterranean Diet, included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Go to the kafenion “I Sinantisi” (Tel. (+30) 27250.221.95) for traditional meze, stop by “Kagelarios” (Tel. (+30) 27250.226.48) and “Palios Kagelarios” (Tel. (+30) 697.719.4084) for fish and seafood, while “Nikos taverna” (Tel. (+30) 27250.512.89) in Vasilitsi is ideal for its home-cooked casseroles and grilled meats.

In Methoni,  the restaurant “Modon” (Tel. (+30) 27230.319.96) is a must, as well as the taverna “Sapienza” (Tel. (+30) 27230.314.59), while you can also enjoy the most wonderful sunset at “Kastro” (Tel. (+30) 27230.318.88).

 

Methoni and Koroni are located 62 kilometers and 52 kilometers from Kalamata, respectively. 



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