Nafplio was the first capital of modern Greece after the Greek revolution of 1821 which ended 400 years of Turkish occupation. Now Nafplio is the capital of the county of Argolis, and an important commercial harbor
It is also a historic city full of many interesting sights. One could think that Nafplio is simply a tourist destination. However, the city and region do not depend on tourism alone. They are economically autonomous with important agricultural production. In the surrounding plain, citrus fruits flourish supplying local industry and fruit markets throughout Europe.
Nafplio is situated at the north of the Argolic gulf which is the North extremity of Myrtoon Sea, a part of the Aegean Sea in the Mediterranean Sea.
Crowned with awe inspiring Palamidi, the robust medieval castle perched on the hill above, Nafplio is perhaps the most beautiful city in Greece with a rich history going back to the Paleolithic era.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Nafplio today is a very popular destination for holidaymakers hosting up to 1.5 million visitors each year from all over the world, 12 months a year.
What attracts the visitor is the old medieval and neoclassical city with marble pavings, bougainvilleas flowing over wooden balconies, walled courtyards, ancient fountains, Constitution square with the old Turkish Hamam (a cinema today) and hospitable lively cafes.
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Today's Nafplio holds a magnificent reception for the visitor who is willing to take a leisurely walk in the city. Each step is a welcome and a reminder of its history.
In our time, we reach Nafplio by road or by train, cruise ship or yacht. The nearest airport is in Kalamata. It serves many direct flights from all over Europe. From there you can either take a bus or a taxi. My latest information is that a taxi costs about 150 Euros and will carry 4 passengers. There is no sea connection with Athens or any other part of Greece any more
In the old days, we would enter Nafplio from the Gate of the Land that was closed in the evening. Anyone remaining outside it was forced to wait till the following morning.
To our left, we have the statue of Staikos Staikopoulos who stormed and seized the Palamidi from the Turks after a siege that lasted from April 1821 up to 30 November 1822.
Arriving with a ship you could only enter the harbor when the chain that protected the city from invaders was not streched across the entrance.
Advancing to the historical centre of the city, we find the Cathedral of Saint George, that was built during the first Venetian sovereignty. It has an exact replica of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper and the purple throne of Otto the first king of modern Greece. In the summertime, concerts are presented here as part of the musical festival of Nafplio. In the courtyard there is a bust of the Archimantriti Christoforos Kokkinis, victim of the civil war. To the South is the municipal school that formerly was the Venetian abbey.
At the end of the street is the church of Saint Spyridonas that was built by the Orthodox Fraternity of Nafplio in 1702. This is where Ioannis Kapodistrias was murdered. A bullet is still embeded in the wall. In the square of Saint Spyridona, there are Turkish fountains with engraved dedications and the bust of the Nafpliot writer Aggelos Terzakis.
Following Staikopoulou street, we get to a Turkish fountain with beautiful decorations, and we soon reach Constitution Square.
Here is the first Greek Parliament, "Vouleftiko", previously a Turkish mosque. The trial of Theodoros Kolokotronis was conducted at this site with the judges Tertsetis and Polizoidis presiding. It is used now for concerts, lectures, and exhibitions. To the south of "Vouleftiko" is the "Mentreses" Turkish religious school. Today, it is used as a store of the archaeological museum of Nafplio, while formerly it served as the Leonardou prison.
Opposite, is the archaeological museum with exhibits from Tiryns, Mycenae, Dendra, Asini, Midea etc. Initially, it was the store of the Venetian fleet, while in the years of the German occupation, it was a temporary prison. Subsequently, it served as a barracks for the 8th Nafplion Regiment. Recently renovated, one of the important exhibits in the museum is the unique armor discovered at the archaeological site of Dendra in the vicinity of Aghia Triada.
Next to the museum is the National Bank built on the site of the house of Kalliopi Papalexopoulou who was the soul of the revolt against King Otto.
To the east of Constitution square is the Trianon which functions as a theatre, cinema and exhibition centre. Initially, it was built as a Turkish mosque and in the years of Kapodistria, it was a school.
Following the Big Street (Vas. Konstantinou) to the east, we reach the Art Gallery of Nafplio that houses paintings of significant artists. Here also is the statue of Otto in recognition of his filhellenic feelings despite his despotic rule. At the intersection of Vas Konstantinou and Terzakis we come to the residence of the poet Angelos Terzakis. Continuing, we arrive at the Judicial Palace with busts of the judges George Tertseti and Anastasios Polyzoidi at the entrance.
Advancing to the east, we find the building that was the first drugstore of filhellin Bonifacio Vonafin who embalmed the body of Ioannis Kapodistrias.
In the Big Street at the square of the Three Admirals, where the Nafpliots celebrated the defeat of Imbrahim in Navarone, is found the Town hall of Nafplio. It was built as the first high school of Greece, founded in 1833. Here also is the monument of Dimitrios Ypsilantis brought from Vienna by his brother Georgios Ypsilantis. In the old days, it had been set up in front of the mosque in Constitution square.
Continuing to the east, we find ourselves in the square of Ioannis Kapodistrias where his statue is situated and onwards from there is the park of Theodore Kolokotronis and his imposing equestrian statue. In the same direction is the residence of the bishop. A few meters away lies a magnificent building, an annex of the National Gallery of Athens, recently renovated by the Onassis Foundation. It formerly was used as the headquarters of the Iron Division, as a hospital, and as a headquarters for the police.
The parallel road is called "Sidiras Merarhias" (Iron Division) and to the West we find the 1st Public school and the 1st and 2nd Lyceum buildings of the 1930's on Amalias street. Advancing, we meet the old military academy that now accomodates the War Museum with exhibits from 1821 up to today. At the end of Amalia street is the central library of Nafplio, "the Palamidis", and the founding association of the same name. On the same street is the impressive museum of the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation. It displays traditional clothing and everyday objects from 1800s Greece through today. The museum was awarded Museum of Europe status in 1981. The Nafplio Art Gallery, on Ipsilantou, is open throughout the year showing paintings and other art.
To the north of the library is the church of Saint Nikolas facing the square of the same name with the monument of the Filhellins in memory of the French fighters of the Revolution. It is dominated by two important buildings: The old town hall which now houses the Center for Hellenic Studies, an annex of Harvard University; and the Customs Office.
The lion of the Bavarians sleeps carved on a rock in Pronia. Worth visiting, too, is the cemetery to admire some remarkable marble sculptures on tombs.
At some point, we must see the church of the Virgin Mary behind the square of Constitution
Right next to it is the age-old olive tree where, according to tradition Saint Anastasios died under torture in 1655. We must also visit the Fragkokklisia in the Vrahateika, and Saint Sofia which is on Michaelis Labrinidis street where the Turks first permitted the Greeks to worship.
But for now we walked enough. Let us sit down at one of the cafeterias by the sea front under Akronafplia, the citadel of Nafplio surrounded by walls built by the Franks and the Venetians over the older Hellenistic ones.
In front of us we see Bourtzi on the islet of Saint Theodoros first fortified by the Venetians in 1473. Further fortifications were added later until it took the form we see today.
It is now difficult to imagine the enormous chain that was once streched at night from the land to Bourtzi in order to close the harbor, giving Nafplio the name Porto Kadena. And even harder to imagine that Bourtzi was the residence of the executioner...
The view that we have here is unique. As the sun is setting behind the mountains, the sky fills with colours from gold to deep red. The most romantic stroll in the city is around Arvanitia where we meet the sea gate of the church Panagitsa which operated as a secret school during the Turkish occupation. After continuing the walk in the pedestrian zone and admiring nature and the views, you can reach the beach of Arvanitia at the end where you can enjoy the sea.
Another walk begins from the Five Brothers Square where one either can head towards the old town at the base of the cliff Akronafplia with the Church of Saint Spyridon and the Catholic Church, or towards the porch and elevator situated inside Acronafplia from where one can admire the Clock Tower of Nafplio. Then, procede past the Anargyroi church and Arvanitias beach. Continuing left, enter the stone arches and the stairs to the Catholic church in the city's center.
Tomorrow, we must surely visit Palamidi. We can go by car although it is just 999(!) steps to the top at 216 meters above sea level. The higher we climb, the more inviting is the view for another stop and another photograph.
Palamidi was first fortified by Francis Morozini in the 17th century and the work continued up to the last years of the second Venetian domination (1686-1715) when it was occupied by the Turks. It has seven ramparts that are connected by the perimeter wall.
It was known as one of the most formidable fortresses of the middle ages.
Inside the fortress is the historical chapel of Apostle Andreas, and we can visit the cells that were used when Palamidi was a jail not only for common criminals but also for political detainees. Theodoros Kolokotronis, the hero of the revolution, had been imprisoned here.
A last glance at the "Alonaki" outside the gate where the hated guillotine was set up.
If you want to go for a swim you have various options.
The nearest beach is Arvanitia. It has no sand but it is close and quite sheltered from the wind. You can get to it by walking on from the sea front due west following the path around Akronafplia.
For a sandy beach you have to go to Karathona, walking on from Arvanitia or driving around through the town. Here you will find beach umbrellas, recliners, snacks, drinks and music.
For an unforgettable day at sea you can join a day trip on sailing yacht ERATO with Captain Aris to be found at the sea front by the cafeterias.
You will be taken to a beautiful spot with clear water and a lovely landscape. You can swim and dive off the yacht and you can explore the sea with the masks and snorkels offered on the yacht. You can also learn about the wind and how to sail. And you can trim the sails and drive the boat yourself.
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