THe Fortresses, Corfu

The Old and New Fortresses

Corfu's fortresses slowly loom into view as you approach Corfu and from their heights and afford a spectacular view of the Old Town and the surrounding countryside and coastline. In the past the two fortresses were linked by large walls and the inhabitants retreated behind them through one of four gates for safety during times of war. The walls were long ago destroyed but one of the two remaining gates can be seen at the Old Port.

The Old Fortress dates back to the sixth century and was built on a small island at the eastern end of Corfu Town. The entrance can be found opposite the Liston, near Corfu's Esplanade. The large moat is now used as a harbour for fishing boats and entrance is via a bridge across it. Construction was started in Byzantine times and the fortress was later strengthened and expanded under Venetian occupation to protect Corfu Town from Turkish invasion. A statue in honour of Commander Schulenburg who successfully defended the town against the Turks can be seen close to the entrance. The Fortress houses a museum of Byzantine history, the old barrack buildings, hospital and prison, two churches and a lighthouse. There are stunning views across the town and the sea.

The New Fortress is less impressive but more imposing. It was built by the Venetians between 1576 and 1645 and this huge complex of fortifications dominates the north-eastern part of the city. It was until recently a restricted area due to the presence of a naval garrison but is now open to the public, with tours possible through the maze of medieval corridors and fortifications. The winged Lion of St Mark, the symbol of Venice, can be seen at regular intervals adorning the fortifications. The New Fortress is worth a visit if only for the marvellous view from the top.

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