“Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen.” ― Gerald Durrell, My Family and Other Animals
Built in 1870 in the Venetian style by an English architect for a Corfu merchant, Villa 1870 is for discerning guests to experience the magic Durrell felt in the 1930s. Except, unlike the Durrell’s, your personal chef will be roasting the lamb while you relax by the heated pool overlooking the Ionian Sea. Perhaps after lunch your personal driver will take you the short distance into UNESCO World Heritage Corfu Town or to explore this legendary island’s countryside.
Dimitrious and Nancy bought the house in 2017, made a total restoration, installed the heated swimming pool and opened for their first guest in April 2019 – me. I have had the pleasure of previous experiences being guest number one, and it does provide a travel journalist a unique perspective.
It is possible for one guest to have Villa 1870 to themselves since this impressive house is a vacation rental – five bedrooms, five bathrooms, housekeeper, car and driver and a personal chef to cook to your needs. Obviously it’s the perfect venue for a vacation with friends, family or a small wedding.
Each of the spacious five bedrooms and baths are individually decorated in 19th century style with 21st century conveniences. An antique armoire is still a functioning piece of furniture. Even the rain shower in the marble bath hearkens back to the luxury of Villa 1870 when it was first constructed.
It was only six years earlier, 1864, that Corfu Island was united with Greece for the first time in its history. Although the Ionian Islands off the west coast shared many similarities with their mainland and Aegean Island neighbors, Corfu was either independent or part of empires. From the Romans through the British – especially during the nearly 500 years of Venetian rule – Corfu was at the center of Asian-European international trade and influences.
Being on Corfu at Villa 1870 for Greek Orthodox Easter highlighted some of these unique influences. Already the most celebrated holiday in the Orthodox calendar, on Corfu there is the tradition of throwing water-filled red clay pots.
Dating back to pre-Christian days of getting rid of winter’s cooking pottery at the Spring Equinox, it morphed in Christianity to symbolize the earthquake that proceeded the opening of Christ’s tomb. At noon on the Saturday before Easter, after a solemn procession, thousands of people gather on the narrow streets of Old Corfu Town and the balconies of buildings and drop the pots to smash on the street below.
Within an easy stroll or even easier ride from Villa 1870 is UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Corfu Town with its pedestrian friendly streetscapes lined with an eclectic mixture of architecture. This is not a “typical” blue roofed whitewashed Greek town. World class museums (the Museum of Asian Art) and restaurants (The Venetian Well) are all within easy walks.
Yet Chef Themes Iliabis at Villa 1870 just might entice you to eat in. From classic slow spit roasted whole lamb at Easter dinner, jewel like maze with late afternoon drinks to sumptuous and surprising breakfast treats, dining at the Villa matches any restaurant.
Corfu has been a vacation mecca for centuries and a stay at Villa 1870 will evoke the magic of time standing still. An elegant mansion, the Ionian Sea, your driver, your chef, your housekeeper and the heated pool will settle over you. Surrender.
When you go: Direct flights connect Corfu International Airport (CFU) to many European cities including London, Frankfurt and Rome. Frequent flights connect the island to Athens and Thessalsoniki. Ferry and coach bus connections to major Greek cities are frequent as well. For Villa 1870 booking information please visit their web site.
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