Take a tour without a guide
For history lovers, Monemvasia is an ideal place to explore. With information signs all around, you can easily learn much of the castle town’s history without the help of a guide.
Five of its most famous monuments are the churches of Panaghia Chrysafitissa (from the first Turkish occupation); Panaghia Myrtidiotissa, also known as Panaghia Kritikia (from the second Venetian occupation); Aghios Nikolaos (1703); Aghia Sophia (12th century); and Elkomenos Christos (with its remarkable icon from the Palaeologan Renaissance, which was once stolen and illicitly traded before being returned to Monemvasia). Aghia Sophia is the only one of the five churches located in Ano Poli (Upper Town), and you can reach it by taking the cobbled street that starts from Kato Poli (Lower Town).
Taste olive oil and wine
Next to the church of Panaghia Chrysafitissa is the traditional guesthouse Kelia, where the Greek poet Yiannis Ritsos was born in 1909. Here, you can take part in tastings of olive oil and local wine. Stop by and taste organic, cold-pressed extra virgin oils made from the Athinolia and Koroneiki olive varieties, as well as wines from Laconian producers such as the white Kydonitsa from Vatista Winery and the organic red Mavroudi from Estate Theodorakakos. Pair them with graviera cheese, lupin beans, and caperberries.
Sample almond cookies and samousades
Gefyra is Monemvasia’s modern settlement, also known as “New Monemvasia,” which is built outside the castle. Aesthetically, it’s rather commonplace, but it nevertheless offers locals the comforts that are amiss within the medieval settlement, where cars are forbidden and everything has to be carried by hand. It’s well worth stopping by one of the three pastry shops (Kolones, Moreos Idista, and Doukato) in Gefyra to taste classic local pastries, such as almond cookies and samousades (a treat similar to baklava).
Enjoy a poetic view
Monemvasia’s favorite son is Yiannis Ritsos, who died in 1990 and was buried in his native soil. Just before the main gate of the castle, on a hill, is his grave, a monument surrounded by greenery with an unobstructed view of the sea.
End on a perfect note with a glass of Malvasia
Located between the villages of Velies and Aggelona, around 15 minutes from Monemvasia, is the Monemvasia Winery. It’s owned by the Tsimbidis family, which, with the guidance of pioneering oenologist Stavroula Kourakou-Dragona, undertook the difficult task of reviving the historic Malvasia wine – a Monemvasian sweet wine that had boundless appeal in the medieval world (it was even mentioned by Shakespeare in “Richard III”).
Wine production stopped in the area centuries ago and was resumed only a few years ago by Yorgos Tsimbidis. The winery produces wines from rare varieties such as Monemvasia, Kydonitsa, and Asproudes, as well as Assyrtiko, and the Monemvasia-Malvasia is now registered as a Protected Designation of Origin product. The winery moved to its curent location relatively recently and is now open to visitors.