The Old Fortress of Corfu Ionian: The Old Fortress of Corfu is one of the most impressive fortification works in Europe. It is the first thing to see as the ferry approaches Corfu. It stands on the eastern side of the town, on a rocky peninsula that gets into the sea. This fortress is called Old in contrast to the New Fortress (of Saint Mark), that was also built to protect the town from enemies and pirates.
This fortress was constructed by the Venetians in the 15th century on the site of a former Byzantine castle. To make it more secure, they made an artificial fosse and thus they separated the fortress from the mainland. The fortress was connected to the land by a movable, wooden bridge. In 1819, the British replaced this bridge with the present stable pathway, which is 60 m long and stands 15 m above the fosse, locally known as contafossa.
The entrance to the fortress is available through Spianada, the famous square of Corfu, which is in fact the second largest square in Europe. The entrance is arched and has a Venetian symbol above it, carved in marble. After the entrance, there are two rooms on both sides that now host the Byzantine Collection of Corfu and a gift shop. A few steps away, there is another fosse of 22m, arid today, that was used as an additional protection measure.
After the entrance, on the right, there is the small chapel of Madonna del Carmine, where the sentenced to death were transfered in chains. The huge building in front was constructed by the British in the 18th century to host the barracks, but now it houses the Public Library of Corfu, which hosts rare manuscripts and editions.
Two stone stairs lead to a high spot, where there is a beautiful polygonal well of 1732. The highest point of the fortress needs about 20 minutes walking up to a tall clock tower. Historians believe that there used to be an ancient temple there. Also, somne accounts of the Medieval times inform us that this peak, named Citadella, was inhabited and had some houses, churches, water cisterns and storehouses for gunpowder.
In fact, in 1499, 1800 people were living in Citadella. Unfortunately, an explosion in 1718 destroyed a larg part of it and the church of Agioi Apostoli. The view from there is incredible, as you can see the whole town and the immense Ionian Sea in front of you.
On the eastern side of the fortress, there is a flatland, used today for cultural events in summer. In this flat square, there is the church of Saint George, built by the Venetians as an ancient temple. This is actually the only church in Greece that has been constructed according to the Doric style. Above this square, there is a cafeteria. For more than four centuries, this fortress had been the symbol of the Venetian occupation in the Ionian islands and today it is one of the most impressive sights on Corfu.