The European GythioGythio, Greece
The European Gythio invites you to explore the main gateway to Lower Mani. Gythio is the traditional regional capital and it has retained its distinct local identity over the course of two and a half centuries.
The tour begins at the old prison, built in the early 20th century and site of mass executions by the Germans in the Second World War, as well as clashes between the Communists and the government forces in the Greek Civil War. It seems this land was always destined to be a point of contention even since Apollo and Hercules fought over it. Zeus intervened and declared both contestants as patrons of the city, an honour that did not help the people when a strong earthquake struck in 375 CE and destroyed Gythio. The largest part of the town was lost beneath the waves, while twenty years later the raids of the Visigoths completed the destruction, leaving only a few traces of the ancient settlement, including the Roman conservatory.
Τhe town hall was built in 1891. It is a typical neoclassical building that marked the end of a cycle of reconstruction that endowed the developing city with a cosmopolitan air. The same process differentiated Gythio from the wild and rugged physiognomy of the other settlements of the so-called “Lower Mani”. The town’s prosperity was always linked to the port; all the local products were gathered here and forwarded to Piraeus, Crete, Kalamata, the Ionian Islands and Italy: olive oil, acorns used in the leather processing industry, and the red dye used in the making of the Ottoman fez and silk fabrics in Venice and Paris.
No tour of Gythio would be complete without a visit to the hill, at the top of which the castle of Goula was built. This was called “Melissi” (beehive) and offered great views of Gythio and the plain where local farmers cultivated the fields of the local bey. There is a tradition that the castle’s huge doors opened each evening as the sun set and food was distributed to the workers. In 1797 two emissaries of Napoleon Bonaparte were hosted here in order to explore the possibility of a military alliance and the provision of weapons to be used in a future uprising against the Ottomans. Unfortunately the Ottoman fleet arrived and burned the small castle. Since then Melissi hill is known as Mavrovouni (“Black Mountain”).
1. The old prisonOne of the oldest and few remaining prisons in Greece. The engraved inscription on the building’s façade is a reminder of the basic purpose and principle behind imprisonment: the prisoner’s "reformation”.
2. Girls' SchoolIn the late 18th- beginning of 19th century, Nikitas Nefakis, a poet and teacher at the court of bey Gregorakis, criticised the lack of education in Mani at that time. According to his account, Gythio was the only exempt
3. Upper GythioAt the beginning of Larisiou Street a rock inscription commemorates human activities and habitation from the 6th-5th century BCE. In the absence of flat land, Gythio’s growth depends on the geography of a seaside hill.
The old prisonDeclared a historical monument, the old prison was built in the early 20th century and operated until 1972. It was constructed when Gythio became the administrative center of Laconian Mani. Its architecture is quite interesting: it consists of a complex of buildings that include the central penitentiary, administrative offices and smaller auxiliary buildings.
Ziller never came
Girls' SchoolThe girls' school dates back to the late 19th century. The urban legend attributes it, along with the town hall, to Ernst Ziller. Historical research, however, does not confirm the rumors, since there are no plans of the two buildings signed by the German architect. It is most likely that Ziller, who supervised numerous public projects, kept a distant oversight of the building’s construction.
In the mountains
Upper GythioThe small mountain, at the foot of which the newest Gythio was “integrated”, was called Larission in antiquity and belongs to the Taygetos mountain range. Unlike all the other rocky and barren hills and mountains of Laconian Mani, Larission is consider to be the most “green” due to its sparse vegetation, consisting mostly of arbutus shrubs (koumaria in Greek), which gave it its present name: Koumaros or Akkoumaros.
historistai is a cultural Group of Public History aiming at the creation of aesthetically upgraded history projects with applications at education, tourism, and culture.
|Address||The old prison|
|Starting point||European Road 961, Tripoli – Gytheio|
|Finishing point||Goula castle, Mavrovouni|
Why take a self-guided tour?
This is a self-guided tour based on the award-winning storytelling concept developed by Clio Muse and the fascinating narratives prepared by our handpicked destination experts.
You can enjoy each multilingual tour by using your smartphone or tablet at your own pace even if you are offline. The interactive map on your screen will guide you step-by-step as you explore all points of interest along your route. Each stop comes with a selection of our signature stories allowing you to tailor the tour experience to your personal interests and schedule.
After downloading Clio Muse app, you can access this tour and activate it any moment you wish and also repeat it any time. To best enjoy our multimedia self-guided tour (comprising maps, video, audio and text) we recommend the use of headphones.