The mythical birthplace of Dionysus, god of merriment and wine, the sun-quenched fertile grounds of Naxos are traced with flowing rivers, adorned with delightful white villages and surrounded by calm, sandy bays. As one reaches the island's welcoming port the eye immediately falls on Portara (Big Door): the imposing, 80-ton marble entrance of the ancient temple of Apollo, which still stands on the little island of Palatia, reminding the visitor that they are about to enter a place of enchanting mythology, fascinating history and imposing nature.
With the first steps into the busy port of Chora, one realises that this island's history goes beyond myth and legend, into a complex web of cultures that span millennia. From the Mycenaean, Roman and Byzantine influences to the Venetian and Ottoman occupations, Naxos' main port betrays its splendid past. As we take one of the many calderimia (stone-paved streets) connecting the port with the inner part of town, leaving the noisy bars and tavernas behind, we soon find ourselves lost in the labyrinth of covered alleyways of the district of Bourgos (Old Town), which offers a captivating trip back to the Middle Ages. Tranquil courtyards, old mansions bearing coats of arms on their lintels and medieval gates then lead the way up to the district of Kastro (Castle), the former seat of the prominent Venetian families that founded the Duchy of Naxos in the 13th century.
|Emancipator, Safe In the Steep Cliffs, 2010|
Naxos is the greenest island of the Cyclades, blessed with gurgling natural springs, waterfalls and rivers, that make its grounds fertile, with fresh fruit and vegetables aplenty: thanks to that, the island is home to an exquisite cuisine that marries the crisp ingredients found in its green fields and gardens, including a variety of potato unique to the island and its very own citrus-leave liqueur, the Kitro.
Overlooking the land, the imposing summit of Mount Zas —the highest mountain of the Cyclades— stands guard of the golden-green olive fields, oak forests and sandy beaches below, where history and myth intertwine, and the footsteps of kings, goddesses and pirates still echo in the hilly paths and stone-paved alleys.
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