Guide to Rethymnon


Rethymnon: An attractive provincial town is the capital of Rethymnon Prefecture. It has a distinctive air, reminiscent of its Venentian and Turkish pasts; its minarets in particular give it an exotic air. It can be a restful place to pass two days or three while taking excursions into the countryside. Rethymnon is the third-largest city of Crete and enjoys the reputation of being the “intellectual capital” of the island. The town has its own modest charms, among which are the old crafts-including violin (Lyra) making!-still being practiced.

The city of Rethymnon is on the site of ancient Rethymna, which seems to have developed in the late-Minoan period; but nothing of interest to the amateur remains and little of its history is known. In the medieval period, Rethymnon is mentioned only in passing, with its fort and towers sketched as seen from far. The town received its distinctive imprint from the Venetian period of the 16th and 17th centuries, with a slightly Turkish veneer to give it that special air. Venetian arches back up against wooden, overhanging Turkish balconies, creating a unique impression for the visitor strolling through the narrow streets.

Principal sights

Loggia: The principal architectural survival of the Venetian period, the elegant Loggia, dated at about 1600.

Venetian Fort (Fortezza): This is the most impressive structure left by the Venetians, a great fortress surmounting the rocky promontory on the coast. After earlier forts at this locale had been destroyed by marauders, the Venetians determined once and for all to build an impregnable citadel here, between 1573 and 1580.

Rimondi Fountain: Alvise Rimondi was a Venetian Rector and built several fountains around Rethymnon; this one dating from 1623, has its four original Corinthian columns and lion-heads spouting water; the back wall was restored in the Turkish period.

Arcadi Monastery: The supreme symbol for Cretans of their ageless strife and dilemma: freedom or death. Like many other monasteries on the island-because of their isolated situations in the mountains-it has always served as a centre of resistance movements and revolts against foreign powers.

Eleftherna: Although settled in the late Minoan period, Eleftherna became a prominent development in the 8th century B.C.

Ida Cave: This is four to five hours to the south-east from the summit, on the edge of the Nida Plain. It was discovered and explored in the 1880s and yielded many rich finds, including bronze shields dating from the 9th and 8th centuries B.C. and showing Assyrian influence.

Spili: The village is renowned for its cascades of water, an unusual fountain and its shady trees; there are some pleasant eating-places.

Armenoi: It was in the vicinity of this village that in 1969 the Cretan archaeologist Tzedakis discovered an extensive late-Minoan cemetery; its scores of tombs cut out of the rock have yielded not only the usual collection of vases, bronze-work, jewelry and seals, but an especially fine set of painted sarcophagi.