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Corfu is the second largest of the Ionian islands in Greece. Its location in the Ionian Sea between Albania and Italy. Since Ancient times, many nations have coveted and seized the fertile island crossroads to Europe.
Corfu Island was formerly the Homeric island of Scheria. Early inhabitants were Phaecian and Corinthians populated the island prior to the foundation of Syracuse. Native residents and foreigners jointly rejected allegiance to Corinth. This disagreement between Corinth and Corfu sparked the earliest, recorded Greek battle in 646 BCE.
Corfu successfully retained its independence from Corinth for nearly 200 years under its own steam. When Corinth attempted to colonize Corfu a second time, Corfu allied with Athens. This was one of the primary causes of the Pelopennisan War between Athens and Corinth. Later, Cassander sieged Corfu and offered it as the dowry for its leading general's daughter in a marriage to Pyrrhus, King of Epirus, ca. 303 BCE.
During Medieval times, Corfu was again the subject of many attacks. This time the attacks originated from Western Europe and the Holy Roman Empire. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily and Italian naval powers fought against Corfu. Venice offered military protection to Corfu and adopted it as a sovereign state in 1401.
From 1537 to 1573, the Turks led partially successful campaigns against the Venetian-Corfu alliance. The Turks frequently pillaged and wreaked havoc upon Corfu. The Venetian castle, however, always remained grounded. In 1716, the Turks lost their final battle under a 22 day siege of Corfu. Venice and Corfu, with the assistance of the Austrian Count Schulenburg, completely warded off the incoming Ottoman empire.
In the 1800's, the Treaty of Campo Formio ceded Corfu to the French. After two years, Admiral Ushakov and his Russian squandron briefly seized Corfu for seven years. The Russians established Corfu as the capital of Hephtanesos, a group of Russian-Turkish islands. The French regained control of Corfu's administration in 1807. Yet, this administration only lasted for 8 years. The British besieged Corfu in 1815 by order of the Treaty of Paris. It became the seat of the British High Commissioners and natives highly disapproved their autocractic government.
The occupiers also 'imported' several thousand Maltese during the middle period of their rule, presumably to 'quell the growing calls for union with the newly libertated Kingdom of Greece. However, the British occupation saw the establishment of the island's road network and a clean and reliable water supply for Corfu Town. Another souvenir from this period is the Corfu prison, still in use today. The British ceded Corfu to the Kingdom of Greece in 1864. Before leaving, they partially dismantled the Old Fort, much to the ire of the local residents.
The two World Wars were periods of strife and turmoil. In 1915,The island offered refuge for Serbian armies, many of whom died from physical exhaustion and diseases. During World War II, the Italian army invaded and destroyed parts of the city. Following the Italian surrender, the city also suffered from German bombing, prior to nazi occupation. According to local records, over 1650 Corfiote Jews were sent to to Auschwitz during this period.Today, the port of Corfu is the largest Ionian town and its coast is one of the most favored tourist stops for British travelers and increasing numbers of Germans and Czechs.
Its village and small mountain towns exhibit authentic Greek, Byzantine, Venetian, and to a lesser extent, British, influences. The east coast is primarily given over to tourism, whilst the north and west of the island are less heavily developed. The north east, often jokingly referred to as 'Kensington on Sea' has many of the island's most exclusive villas, an array of attractive beaches, and beneath Mt. Pantokrator (the highest mountian on the island) Corfu's oldest village, Old Perithia, gives visitors a chance to step back in time. This Heritage Protected Site in a designated Area of Natural Beauty dates back to well beyond the 14th century.
As you follow the coast further round, there is a large and bustling resort at Sidari on the north coast, which is a firm favourite with working class Brits. In the south, which tapers to a point, is the youth oriented resort of Kavos, but just a few miles away on the western side of the island can be found sandy and undeveloped beach areas.