The Invasion of Corfu

From Nero to Nicolas Cage, the invasion of Corfu goes back to Roman times and through to Hollywood today!

People have been so enchanted by Corfu that they have been visiting and settling there for thousands of years. Madonna has beenspotted house-hunting on the island, continuing a long tradition. The Roman Emperor Tiberius had a villa in Kassiopi, and the Emperor Nero visited the town as well. Today you might see a nightclub called Caesar's, but it doesn't quite date back to Roman times.


You might also look at Sidari and see a modern holiday resort, but there were known to be people living here in 7,000 BC, no doubt enjoying the sun and the sea every bit as much as we do today, though of course the waterpark hadn't yet been invented. Even older than that, back in about 40,000 BC, Palaeolithic people were living in the area around Gardiki Castle, the oldest known remains on the island.

Since the first settlers arrived, wave after wave of people have coveted Corfu. The first known invasion was by the Corinthians in 734 BC, and they had more than package holidays in mind. They were fought off by the Corfiot people who defeated them in what was the first recorded sea battle in Greek waters, in 644 BC. 

The Invasion of Corfu: The Romans

No sooner had the Corinthians been shown the way home than the Spartans arrived, in 375 BC. Then the Romans turned up on the shoreline, in 229 BC. The Romans were at least invited in, as the Corfiots sought their help to get rid of Illyrian invaders.

Having got rid of the Illyrians, the Romans obviously liked it on Corfu as they stayed for almost 600 years, during which time some of their Emperors and other dignitaries built villas here. It was also a popular spot for those who could afford it to come on holiday, so the island's first tourists go back about 2,000 years.

Later invasions by the Goths and Vandals didn't do much for the tourist trade, and the pizza parlours probably went out of business. In the 11th century it was the turn of the Normans, who took Corfu to use as a base while they tried to expand their empire into the Balkans, but in 1147 they were turfed out of Corfu by a coalition of Corfiot, Byzantine, and Venetian troops.

The Invasion of Corfu: The Venetians

In 1214 the Despot of Epirus invaded, Epirus being a country made up of what is now southern Albania and northern Greece. In 1267 it was the King of Naples' turn to rule the island, and in 1386 the Venetians took over. It is the Corfiots' proud boast that they were the only part of Greece not to be conquered by the Turkish armies, though it has to be said that the Turks are just about the only nation not to have conquered Corfu at some stage.

The Invasion of Corfu: The British

In 1797 the French took the island, and in 1814 the British took over for their turn, which lasted 50 years. Finally in 1864 Corfu gained its independence and became a part of the modern Greek state. Since then there have only been a brief invasion by the Italians in 1923, and again in 1941 when they controlled the island for three years alongside German forces.

Modern Times

In more recent times the island has had mainly peace and prosperity, with tourists as welcome guests. A million of them arrive each year between Easter and the end of October, when the season is in full swing. There is also a sizeable overseas community, mainly British and German, who live on the island all year round. Others have homes on Corfu which they use for part of the year.

Nicolas Cage fell in love with Corfu, which he visited after filming Captain Corelli's Mandolin on the nearby Ionian island of Kefalonia, and has subsequently been seen house-hunting here. So too have Richard Gere and Madonna. It seems the only invasion these days is from Hollywood.

Where to Stay on Corfu

Other Corfu pages

  • Corfu

    Corfu or Kerkyra is the main island in the Greek Ionian islands with Corfu Town being one of the most attractive of Greek island capitals.

  • A Lawrence Durrell Walk

    This Lawrence Durrell walk takes you from Kaminaki Beach in northern Corfu to the White House in Kalami where the writer Lawrence Durrell lived for four year.

  • Northern Corfu

    Northern Corfu is the most diverse part of the island, with Corfu's highest point, Mt Pantokrator, and beach resorts like Sidari and Palaiokastritsa.

  • Kalámi

    Kalami in north-west Corfu is a hidden gem which many people know about because writer Lawrence Durrell once lived here in The White House.

  • Best Things to Do on Corfu

    The best things to do on Corfu include visiting Palaiokastritsa, a day trip to Albania, seeing the Achilleion Palace, and the museums in Corfu Town.

  • Mount Pantokrátor

    Mount Pantokrator is the highest mountain on Corfu and it’s easy to drive to the top for spectacular views of Albania, Corfu, and even sometimes to Italy.

  • Mount Pantokrator Drive

    This Mount Pantokrator drive takes you to the top of Corfu’s highest mountain with wonderful views to Albania, mainland Greece, and around Corfu.

  • Drive to Palaiokastrítsa

    This drive to Palaiokastritsa starts at Corfu airport and takes you across the Ropa Plan and through hill villages before returning to Corfu Town.

  • Where to Eat in North-West Corfu

    Greece Travel Secrets has its list of favourite places where you can eat in north-west Corfu, including in Paleokastritsa, Pelekas, and Ayios Stefanos.

  • Corfu Town

    Corfu Town is the capital of Corfu and of the Ionian Islands and has museums, two forts, several museums, churches, and many other attractions.

  • Northern Corfu Drive

    There are two sides to every Greek island, the tourist and the traditional, and this drive from Corfu Town through northern Corfu shows the two faces of Corfu.

  • Corfu Festivals and Events

    Information for travellers to Greece on Corfu festivals and events including Easter, the Feast of St Spiridhon, Carnival and Name Days.

  • Two Corfu Saints

    The main two Corfu saints are Saint Spyridon, the patron saint of Corfu who saved the island four times from disaster, and Saint Theodora Augusta.

  • Southern Corfu

    Southern Corfu has busy beach resorts like Benitses, historical buildings like the Achilleion Palace and Gardiki Castle, and wildlife at the Korision Lagoon.

  • The Achilleion Palace

    The Achilleion Palace is one of the most visited sights on Corfu and contains a museum and impressive gardens with wonderful views over the coast.

  • Corfu Offshore Islands

    There are three islands off the northwest coast of Corfu, Erikouusa, Othoni and Mathraki, popular with day-trippers from resorts like Sidari.

  • Corfu Food and Drink

    Information for travelers on Corfu Food and Drink including restaurants and tavernas, Corfiot specialties, desserts, wine and other Greek drinks like ouzo.

  • Corfu Climate: Sun, Rain, Winds

    The Corfu Climate page describes the hours of sun, the rain, the winds, to help you plan the best time to visit this Ionian island.

  • Corfu Beer Festival

    The First Corfu Beer Festival took place in Arillas in North West Corfu and celebrated the beer of Bavaria and of Corfu, in the Ionian islands of Greece.

  • Corfu and Cricket

    The history of Corfu and cricket goes back to 1823 when the island was under British rule, which left them with a legacy of loving both cricket and ginger beer.

  • Corfu’s Marine Life

    Corfu’s marine life includes dolphins, loggerhead turtles, and rare Mediterranean monk seals.

  • Corfu Wildlife

    Corfu’s wildlife includes rare and colourful birds, snakes, lizards, fireflies, and insects, with plenty of places to watch the wildlife like lakes and lagoons.

  • Corfu’s Special Cuisine

    Corfu’s special cuisine includes dishes like sofrito and pastitsade and the chance to try ginger beer and kumquats.

  • The Corfu Trail

    The Corfu Trail runs from the southernmost point of Corfu at Cape Asprokavos and winds for 220km (137 miles) to the northernmost point near Andinioti Lagoon.

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