This page is intended to give a brief overview of Kefalonia’s modern history and a brief insight into its culture.
A brief history
Kefalonia! It is the biggest of the Ionian Islands with an area of 786.6 km² (303.7 miles²) and a population of 35,801 (2011 census) an astonishing place full of contrasting beauty, mysteries and surprises.
Kefalonia is said to be one of the earliest settled areas of modern-day Greece. Throughout history Kefalonia – mainly due to its location – has been conquered by many nations and was harried by the Crusaders and the Pirates. It has – along with the other Islands in the Ionian Sea – been occupied by Romans, Venetians, Turks, Russians, and for a short period of time by the French.
Between 1815 and 1864 Kefalonia was part of what was known as “United States of the Ionian Islands” and was under British control. It was in 1864 that under the Treaty of London that Kefalonia (along with the other Ionian Islands) became a full member of the Kingdom of Greece.
The Balkan Wars as well as World War I & II and the Civil War, had devastating effects on Kefalonia, while a series of four earthquakes that hit the island in August 1953 caused widespread destruction with virtually every house on the island being destroyed. The material damages but mostly the depopulation that followed the disaster disturbed the social and economic life of the island.
The island opened its first and only airport in 1971 and this has been redeveloped and expanded as the number of visitors has increased. Since the 1980’s, improvements in infrastructure have increased accessibility to some of the most picturesque and beautiful parts of the island. Today, Kefalonia is a modern, well developed island offering quality of life to its inhabitants and visitors, but has remained largely unspoiled and undeveloped outside of towns and villages.
The capital of the island is Argostoli, a town with over 10,500 permanent inhabitants, but this number is swelled during the summer by seasonal workers, as well as visitors who come to the island by plane, by cruise ship or bring their car through one of the ferry ports. This population boom has the capital bustling during the summer months and it really comes to life at night when it’s cooler. The wide range of shops, cafes and tavernas stay open late into the night, attracting locals and visitors alike.
During the summer, in almost all the villages, traditional feasts are held with the participation of local bands and local dancers. Attendees are able to sample Kefalonian wine and local dishes. We will publish dates as we become aware of them, but the fixed holidays and religious dates are listed here. Occasions of note include: the Robola feast in August at Fragata (Omala), the wine feast at Matzavinata (Lixouri), the stock-farmers’ feast at Themata (Pylaros) and the great celebrations of St. Gerasimos (August, 16 and October, 20) and Virgin Mary’s celebration at Markopoulo (August, 15).
There are far too many churches, monuments and the like to list here but you will come across some wonderful ancient structures on your travels. The churches, chapels and monasteries are generally very well looked after and many are beautiful inside, if the doors are open, do step in and have a look around (you are expected to dress respectfully). You may come across what looks like a small monastery here and there, usually on the roadside. There are a number of reasons for these, the two main being; a shrine at the sight of a road accident, for those celebrating the miracle of survival or to indicate that there is a church nearby that is difficult to see.