Nafplio is one of the most beautiful towns in Argolis area and some claim to be the most romantic town in Greece. It was also the first capital of the newly born Greek state between 1823 and 1834. Nafplio got its name from its founder Nafplios, the son of Poseidon.
A bit of History Lesson
Nafplio was a Sparta ally in 685 BC which resulted in it being destroyed by King of Argos who then used it only as a port of Argos. During the reign of the Byzantine Empire, the Byzantines recognized the city as a commercial centre of the Eastern Peloponnese. In 1204, the Byzantine Empire gave Peloponnese to the Franks, who built Akronafplia. The Venetian later ruled the city from 1388, given to them as a gift from the Franks. (Sounds like people are so generous back then, right.. ‘love ya loads, hey here – have a city…” – I am sure nothing is for free – not sure what were the costs of these ‘gifts’). Nafplio city was then known as Napoli di Romania which became rather ‘Italian-looking’ from all the Venetian architectural works. The Venetians reinforced the city’s two existing fortresses – and built a third castle and fortress- known now as the Bourtzi. Bourtzi is located in the middle of the harbour of Nafplio to protect the city from pirates and invaders from the sea. From 1540 to 1686, the Turks took over. Then in 1686, back to the Venetians again under Admiral Morosini. Then it was back to the Turks again. And finally back in the hands of the Greeks in 1822. So in January 1823, Nafplio became the capital of the independent Greek state.
So What To Do In Nafplio?
Let’s start with the fortress. If you have a long day trip from Athens, with many stops along the way, by the time you get to Nafplio, you probably would just make it to a trip to one of these, barely. You have a few choices – there is the Palamidi, the Akronafplia or the Bourtzi. If you have to choose between Palamidi vs Akronafplia, maybe choose the bigger Palamidi. Bourtzi is in the harbour so not the quickest to get to compared to the other two.
Palamidi dominates the city’s background, as you can see it from the photo below. The Venetians took a short time to build the castle between 1711 and 1714 and this castle was the final fortress of importance they built outside their own country. Palimidi was also used as a prison for some time from 1840.
You can drive up to the fortress to the eastern gate or if you are up to it, you can go up the famous originally 999 steps on the western side which will give you a beautiful view of Nafplio and the Argolic gulf. There are just 857 steps remaining, but it is still a long way uphill.
We didn’t go up to the castle but you can see it from town. This is a view from Syndagma Square.
Bourtzi (Turkish) means Tower. As mentioned, the Venetians built this fort on the rocky island in the harbour in 1473. The Venetian called it Castello dello Soglio which means ‘Castle of the Throne’. But Bourtzi was the name that stuck.
The hexagon-shaped tower at the centre of the fort is surrounded with canons positioned at the lower level. The Bourtzi was an active fort until 1865 – changing hands from the Venetian to the Turks and then the Venetian again and then to the Turks again before the Greek revolution.
Later, the castle became home to the executioners of the Palimidi Greek prison in the second half of the 19th century as they were shunned by people from the mainland.
Take a Stroll Around Town
Beautiful Shops and Alleys
Old Parliament Building
Archaeological Museum of Nafplio
Have a Delicious Seafood Meal
This is a beautiful and quiet town – I don’t think I gave it justice by spending just a few hours here. I think it would have been great to stay at least a night in Nafplio to enjoy all the town has to offer.
See all my other posts on our Greek getaway…
- Beautiful morning at Acropolis Athens
- Ancient Corinth & The Corinth Canal
- Lets Visit Mycenae, Greece
- Athens in Two Days
- Ancient Epidaurus – The Complete Health Sanctuary With Entertainment!