Argostoli, the capital of the prefecture of Kefalonia, is a very beautiful and modern city with a remarkable historical and cultural tradition. The city is built amphitheater on the south side of the island, right in the middle of the bay Koutavos, that is carrying a major historical route.
According to historical sources Argostoli had been first inhabited about two to three centuries ago. Before start of habitation in this place there were some fishermen’s huts. Argostoli began to flourish and to becoming a city from 1757 and after, which Doge Fr. Lauredano designate the city as the capital of the island and transfers there all the services.
De Bosset Bridge
The historic De Bosset bridge is the largest stone bridge in Europe with a length of 689.9 meters.
It is the first thing a visitor sees when entering the town, and is a daily meeting place for lovers of fishing, and perfect place for a romantic walk, from where you can admire a panoramic view of the city of Argostoli. If you choose walk it in the evening the spectacle is truly impressive.
Constructed in 1811 by the then governor of the island, Charles Philip De Bosset, so it named Devosetou Bridge.
The De Bosset bypassing obstacles thrown in work and in a month he had prepared a wooden bridge that was based on huge stones, while the successor of De Bosset, Charles Napier completed the construction. The current form of the Bridge acquired 30 years later, when Baron Everton restored it.
In the middle of the bridge is the Column, a marble obelisk monument built as a thank you to the bridge creators. On each side of the column was the inscription “GLORY OF THE BRITISH” written in 4 languages (Greek, English, Italian and Latin) which has been removed by the German conquerors of 1940. At the side of Argostoli end of the bridge is the church of the Blessed Virgin Sissiotissis, where every year the holy Cross is thrown into the sea on the Lord’s Epiphany day. The other end terminates in a so-called “resting place” where the Greek, English and Catholic Cemeteries are. In Greek Cemetery stands the Church of Our Lady Drapaniotissas, protector of Argostoli. The first cars appeared on the bridge in the 1920’s. Since March 1970 the De Bosset bridge was classified as a historical monument. In 1985 it was marked as pedestrian road and at 19th July 2005, the bridge was closed permanently to cars.
The Korgialenios Library was founded in 1924 in fulfillment of the will of the great benefactor of Cephalonia Marinos Korgialenios and started operating in 1925 and in 1926 by order of the Ministry of Education was merged with it the oldest public library of Cephalonia, which was operating in Argostoli since 1887.
The first materials of Korgialenios library were the books of the Old Library and the collection of Marinos Korgialenios.
In 1953 the earthquake destroyed the building but the books were fortunately saved thanks to the dedication of staff and were transferred to the Yugoslavian storehouses that had erected makeshift. In 1963 the library moved to its present building, designed to resemble the style of the pre-earthquake building. Books are calculated at approximately 62,000 volumes. Reportedly it is the third largest library at national level and has many rare texts and manuscripts that dated since 1535.
Korgialenios Historical and Folklore Museum
In the halls of Corgialenios Historical and Folklore Museum of Argostoli you can see everyday objects of people of Cephalonia, furniture, tools, appliances, artwork, sacred objects and historical documents that are relics. The museum was created in 1963 on the ground floor of Corgialenios Library and it covers the entire modern history of Kefalonia: from the Venetian conquest (around 1500 AD) till the destruction by the earthquake in 1953. The Museum’s permanent exhibition is divided into thematic sections (civil department, agricultural department, ecclesiastical art and the City Plan of Argostoli) in an attempt to highlight the local cultural stigma all-round. The philosophy of organization of the permanent exhibition is that the visitor feels that is not entering a showroom, but in a warm, family place, so that the experience of other than aesthetics is also experiential – the transition between different parts is in a way so that the sense of unity, the sequence between the component parts of this lost world to be ever present. The two reports that are hosted separately (Collection of Byzantine Icons Sp. Charokopou and Collection of Francis and Stephen Vallianos) have been organized autonomously, (especially the second one) by the same philosophy.
The Focas-Cosmetatos Foundation is located at 1, P. Vallianos Street, next to the Central Square of Argostoli, in the family house of the Focas-Cosmetatos brothers.
The house was rebuilt on a much reduced scale after its complete destruction in the 1953 earthquakes and the great fire that followed.
The Focas-Cosmetatos Collections include furniture of the family dating from the beginning of the 20th century, lithographs by Joseph Cartwright (“Views in the Ionian Islands”), Edward Lear and Henry Cook, lithographs of traditional costumes of the Ionian Islands, portraits and paintings, as well as a collection of coins and banknotes circulating in the Ionian Islands during their long history.
The downtown building hosts the permanent exhibition:
The Story of Money.
The exhibition is highlighted by rare examples of coins and banknotes from the Foundation’s numismatic collection: means of exchange used in the Ionian Islands throughout their long history.
In the outdoor area of the building, the visitor will also find the exhibition:
The Earthquakes of 1953.
This is a chronicle of the devastation of the island, with photographs of streets and buildings, mainly from the town of Argostoli, before and after the earthquakes of 1953. A short documentary video accompanies this exhibition.
In the middle of the central walkway of Argostoli, Lithostroto, is the sacred temple of Saint Spyridon, one of the most central churches of the city.
If you are here, do not hesitate to get in and admire the gilded, carved, wooden iconostasis. Originally it was the iconostasis of the Cathedral of Argostoli. The devastating earthquake of August 1953 almost leveled the building, but the iconostasis was rescued and taken to Saint Spyridon.
The memorial procession that is made every year for the victims from the earthquake of 1953 in Argostoli, starts from Saint Spyridon. The church celebrates on December 12th. The Saint Spyridon’s church at Lithostroto is an imposing and solemn church of Kefalonia, which attracts many worshipers and visitors, as it is located in one of the most central points of Argostoli.
The Catholic Church of Saint Nicholas
The Catholic Church is at the main pedestrian road of Argostoli, Lithostroto. It is dedicated to the patron saint of sailors, Saint Nicholas and has come to be referred to as St. Nicholas of the Latins. It hosts the famous throughout Kefalonia image of Our Lady of Prevezianas. The church is been built in Byzantine style and attracts many pilgrims, Catholic and Orthodox.
The Catholic community in Kefalonia has its roots to the period of Venetian domination on the island, which lasted almost ten centuries: from the end and the fall of the Roman Empire the Ionian islands and especially Cephalonia, passed into the hands of the Venetians, who were dominant power in the Mediterranean, swooping from Venice.
Then the Franks and then the British, maintained live the Latin element of the island and the community remained active till this day, although in population has decreased significantly. Saint Nicholas of the Latins is the center and the point of prayer for all the Latins island’s guests.
The Bell Square is at the end of Lithostroto in Argostoli and is the place where Libro d ‘Oro of Cephalonia’s burnt in 1797, marking a new era for the local community, without titles of nobility and separations.
In the center of the Bell Square you will see the typical graphical pump, a tap from which previously it was running drinking water and it was used for supplying water to a part of the old town of Argostoli. Four towering palm trees aged over 150 years also adorn the most historic town square.
At the edge of the Bell Square there is a memorial sculpture which was erected in 2010 and it is dedicated to the Athens Polytechnic uprising in 1973 against the Colonels.
It is estimated that the “Clock Tower” had been built at about 1790 and that its height was at least three floors higher than the other buildings in town. The bell of the clock with the characteristic sound of it, eventually gave to the tower and the square their names that are retaining till today, “Square and Bell Tower”.
In 1857, the Bell Tower was raised by about three meters to accommodate new tech device directly from London! A special “winder” was caring for the total right operation of the clock, and after the Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece, this responsibility entrusted to a special employee of the municipality. Built above the main door of the tower one can see the emblem of the Order of monks of Saint Francis of Assisi, which is considered the medieval emblem of Kefalonia.
In the Bell Tower were housed commercial businesses, public services and offices of the Greek state until 1953, where the building was severely damaged by earthquakes. In 1985 sounded the big old bell of the tower, which was fortunately rescued.
The Square and the Statue of Panagi Vallianos are located in the center of Argostoli. The Vallianos square is paved with lots of trees and palms. Around the square are restaurants and cafes, and you can enjoy your coffee or food in the heart of the city.
Vallianos Square took its name from the Kefalonian benefactor Panagi Vallianos, the statue which is now at the top of the square. Panagis Vallianos was born in 1814 in Keramies Kefalonia. Member of a poor family with six children, he never went to school and only later in his life he learned basic reading and writing. Nevertheless, three of the six brothers Vallianos managed to create one of the largest firms of the time in London and become super-rich from trade.
They have provided much of their money not only in their hometown Kefalonia, but also to the rest of Greece donating, for example the National Library of Greece owes its creation to Panagis Vallianos, “ in this illiterate Cephalonian dealer” . He died in London in 1902.
The statue of Panayi Vallianos in the square of Argostoli has created in the early 20th century by one of the most important Greek artists, the sculptor George Bonanos from Lixuri, the second largest town of Kefalonia. At first the statue was placed in the middle of Vallianos square and later moved to its current location at the top.
To get to Vallianos square, you have to cross Lithostroto, the street where there are most of the city’s shops. On the other side of the square starts Avenue Radicals, with their lofty palms in the sidewalks.
Argostoli sea promenade
Argostoli Port is one of the few natural harbors throughout the Mediterranean, due to the natural gulf that exists. It ends in a shallow spot in the beautiful forest of Koutavos, but it is not accessible by large vessels because of its historical bridge Devossetou, the biggest link of the city of Argostoli with the past. The sea promenade is decorated in a large part by pebbles, white and black, which are forming drawings that give a different tone to the natural harbor.
The beach is beautiful at any time for walking. Either winter or summer it is full of life in the mornings, because a large part of the commercial activity of the town moves around it. There, you can also see the turtles, kareta – kareta where are following the fishing boats and they offer a pleasant sight to attendees.
Especially in summer, the port of Argostoli is ideal for romantic walk under low light near the sea. In recent years, organized barcarolle has been given a tone more traditional and pleasant both for locals and for visitors. Indeed, many people continue their walk and are reaching the tree-lined part and continues along the beach to the famous and beautiful beaches, Makris Gialos and Platis Gialos, and other attractions such as Katavothres and St.Theodore’s Lighthouse.
On the hill of Argostoli named Koutoupi, existed until the early 19th century a manicured vineyard. While the island was under British rule, the Colonel Sir Charles James Napier who was governor of Kefalonia, bought from Peter Paul Valsamakis on March 28, 1828 this area. At the request of the then Mayor, the first daughter of Napier, Susan-Sarah countess Mac Mo(u)rdo, donated to the Municipality this area in Koutoupi.
This area was formed in November 1905, to a Municipal Park and served as a recreation area and entertainment. Plants were planted, kiosks were built, seats and water pipes were placed and one bust of Napier was erected. In the same year Napier Street was formed.
The bombing of 1943 destroyed the booth and Cafe Napier, and the bust of Napier -work of the sculptor John Kokkinou on 1906- was vandalized by an Italian soldier. Earthquakes followed and abandonment of the Garden and in 2003 a new reconstruction of the historic garden was made. The garden was planted anew with various plants, new benches were installed and in ten points were set up bilingual signs with historical texts and rich photographs to guide and inform the visitor.
One of the most famous landmarks, which are also premier geological phenomenon of Kefalonia are Katavothres. Located at a distance of about 2km from the capital, Argostoli, at Cape of St. Theodore.
Sea water enters at cracks near the shore and disappears. In fact the water that enters here follows an underground long path almost through the entire island. Eventually after 14 days it empties into the lake of Melissani and Karavomylos, at the area of Sami. This was revealed in 1963 when Austrian geologists threw pigments in one of these inputs so then using radioisotopes verified the route of “extincted” waters. In the amount of water is also added rain, which at some point encounters that which traverses underground island.
The mills were placed by the English Stewens, who was the first to note the phenomenon.