Benitses Festivals Celebrations and Events

Last updated on April 30th, 2021 at 07:44 pm

The local community events have always been based on tradition, and decades ago were as spontaneous and natural as the other everyday events of life.

The feast of Saint Marina was a spontaneous celebration centered around her church, which is the oldest in the area.

Children waited impatiently for the toys that were laid out on benches around the church.
We also remember watching the children leaping over the fire on the feast of St. John on June 22 and also the traditional winter holidays around Christmas.

Time has brought inevitable changes, of course, now everything has become more organized, lasts longer, and is perhaps more commercialized.

The Cultural Association

It was founded in 1982 by some young people with the aim of promoting and preserving traditional customs, and raising awareness of the importance of these especially for the young people……more

Blessing of water and other processions

The service for the Blessing of water are organized with solemnity on the feast of the Epiphany, as is the procession of the Epitaphios on Good Friday,
On Easter Monday, and on the following Sunday there are processions, following a service in the small chapel of Agios Nikolaos in Tsaki, southern Benitses, and end in the main square.
Both processions are accompanied by the band of the Municipality of Achilleion.

Resurrection on Easter

The Resurrection on Easter Saturday is now followed by a mass firework display.
This is a new development.
The display starts at midnight and is as spectacular as the famous one in Esplanade Square’s bandstand in Corfu Town.

The fires of St. John

On 22nd June, the day of St. John, the Women’s Association of Benitses has undertaken the responsibility to organize the celebration of his feast day with Lampatines (jumping over fires).

The Lampatines are the fires of St. John as we call them in the Ionian isles.

Anniversary of the Union with Greece – The Achilleian race

In recent years the union of Corfu with Greece in 1864 is officially celebrated here on May 21st when there is a parade of the schools accompanied by the band of the City in the presence of officials.

One or two days later, depending on climatic conditions, an annual Achilleian race has been established, a semi-marathon race in which anyone can participate regardless of age.

Update October 20th, 2019: In recent years Achilleian race is no longer happening.

Festival of Agia Marina

July 17 is the celebration of the festival of Agia Marina, the patron Saint of Benitses.

The church of Agia Marina was built on the banks of the river that once was passed through the village where now is the road that goes through the old village.
The river was used by the boats that carried flour to the mills which were sited near the present aqueduct.
The church remained in the same place after the river was diverted elsewhere.
The feast of Saint Marina lasts for two days (July 16 & 17) with plans in the future to lengthen it further.
The Itinerant stallholders arrive early in order to get the best positions.

Dances and songs go on until early morning hours and for those two days, Benitses is packed with visitors from other parts of the island as well as from further away.

In celebration of Sardines

During the first ten days of August, the festival of the celebration of sardine was organized.

To celebrate this small fish sounds far fetched but if we remember that Benitses once was a fishing village, the largest in Corfu and that the people in the past lived by fishing they had every right to create a celebration for the most popular fish, the sardine.

On the day of the feast, large quantities of sardines were cooked and offered free to all visitors, who can also enjoy dancing to the music of the various traditional bands and the partying till late.

Update October 20th, 2019: In recent years and for various reasons the custom has weakened and the holiday is not happening.
We cannot delete the article, that now has historic value, but simply inform you so that you do not include this festival in your plans.

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Ruins of Roman Villa with Baths in Benitses

Last updated on May 2nd, 2021 at 09:18 pm

Roman remains around the island

Roman remains are not something many visitors associate with Corfu, but traveling around you can get glimpses that show you that their occupation was definitely not a quick holiday stop!

Many conquerors have left their marks on the island, the history of Corfu is a fascinating glimpse into power struggles, and the rise and fall of dynasties.

The Roman period is less well known than later times but was an extremely important time for the island.

Legend says that Nero watched a play in the theatre at Kassiopi– now disappeared sadly.

There are however Roman remains to be found in many villages around the island, Acharavi, Moraitika, and Benitses to name but a few. Indeed in Benitses, the remains of a splendid Roman bath with mosaics can be seen.

One of the most famous naval battles in history, in Actium, where Augustus Caesar (then Octavius) destroyed the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra, was fought in the seas just south of Corfu, and Caesar’s victory was celebrated by building a large city near the modern town of Preveza, called unsurprisingly Nicopolis, which in Greek means Victory City (Niki = Victory & Polis = Town).

At the northern end of the Corfu channel, on the Albanian coast, lies the remains of Butrint, an important archaeological site containing Roman remains, as well as relics of older Greek civilizations that have colonized this coast.

Corfu has always been very important strategically, as the entrance to the Adriatic Sea.

The main road to Rome, the Appian Way, began at Brindisi, the Italian port a bit to the north of Corfu, where today’s ferry passengers also disembark.

It was also the gateway to the eastern empire and for ships needing to refresh supplies of food and water, it was an essential stop.

Remains of a Roman villa with baths

There are remains of a Roman villa with baths on the Kapsokavadis family land, in the centre of the village of Benitses.

At the East end, there is a large hall (Caldarium in Latin), with dimensions 4.70 x 6m, its entrance is from the north and the housing is based on arches (ride).

The walls are almost one meter (90 centimeters) thick and are built of the same size bricks and mortar, in some places the stones are irregular, elsewhere there are bricks and mortar, and preserved at the bottom are sections that were probably made of marble.

In the four corners and in the centre of each wall are clay water pipes.

The floor has a very colorful mosaic with geometric jewels and has a rectangular opening communicating with the basement area (hypocaust) whose central area was surrounded by a vaulted corridor.

In the South wall, there is a small semicircular niche, its floor is lower than the rest and separated from the rest by a low wall.

Left of the semicircular apse there is a rectangle.

At the west end, there is a corridor (with dimensions 0.90 X4, 80m.) that was barrel-vaulted.

Southwest of the first room there is another arched room (Frigidarium), whose dimensions are 4,40 X5,50m.

The floor is of a later period and contains pieces of black and white marble. On the north side, a low wall separates this room from the water tank to the north whose base is 2.50 m lower down.

Other large areas have been partly excavated in the adjacent property to the west.

Of the top of the building, nothing has been saved, and of course, there is no trace of any roof.

Conclusion

When we say Roman baths in Benitses, don’t imagine that we mean some of the great public Roman baths that existed in many parts of the empire back then.

We are talking here about a simple house of a relatively wealthy Roman who used it as a summer residence.

It was a typical Roman house, equipped with running water, hence the word baths, as well as with elaborately decorated flooring indicating that it belonged to a wealthy family, a floor that unfortunately, you cannot see now as it is buried under the soil.

In conclusion, and to be objective, we can say that it is a site of insignificant archaeological value.

This is to prevent you from having high expectations while visiting the site.

How to reach the Corfu Roman baths?

Because the access to the monument is a bit weird… as it is hidden behind houses, we prepared a little guide with photos of the trail that leads there, from the main road right up to the monument.

Somewhere in the village’s inner main street, just opposite the entrance of the Marina, you’ll spot Captain Octopus restaurant on the left (first picture) and the old characteristic renovated house of the second photo on the right.

You must walk to the end of the yard between those two and at your right-hand side, you will find the narrow path of the third photo.

Don’t be discouraged, follow this path and after 3-4 yards on your left side, you will see the narrow street of the fourth photo.

Arriving at the end of it you will find an opening as shown in the fifth photo, after 50 more yards on your right you will find the baths as they look in the last picture.

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Benitses of The 60s to 80s and The Legendary ‘Spiros on the Beach’

Posted in: Benitses All Info 12

Last updated on April 30th, 2021 at 07:38 pm

The First Tourists of the 60s in Benitses

When we try to bring memories from Corfu of the 60s, 70s and 80s the first place that comes in mind is Benitses.

The early 60s and the first visitors began arriving in Benitses.

Vivien Leigh at Benitses-1960
Vivien Leigh at Benitses-1960

Many were wealthy and famous and were looking for beautiful traditional places such as Benitses.

Stage and screen designer Roger Furse and his actor and playwright friend Emlyn Williams had both bought land and built villas overlooking the sea, as had the publisher Hamish Hamilton.

Benitses was visited by famous actors and singers of the era, such as Peter Ustinov, Rex Harrison, Vivien Leigh, and Laurence Olivier.

Paul Mccartney, Ava Gardner, Warren Beatty, Paul Newman, Doris Day, Gregory Peck, and Audrey Hepburn were among others who fell under the spell of the peaceful village.

Paul and Linda McCartney in Benitses 1969

Most of them saw it as an escape from civilization and the paparazzi of the era, they used to spent their time on the beaches and in the two or three traditional taverns that existed then.

Vivien Leigh planned to buy a home nearby and during the last years of her life, she visited her friends here in summer and winter.
George Harrison of the Beatles spent several days in Benitses water skiing.

Another regular visitor was John Lennon who stayed in Agios Ioannis, three kilometers south of Benitses in a room behind the restaurant of Pachis family.

Inspired by the landscapes of Benitses in their songs were Moody Blues, they used to play their wooden guitars on the Kaizer’s bridge.

1967 - The old cafe "Skaloma"
1967 – The old cafe “Skaloma”

From a 1967 album, with paintings of the painter Giannis Migadis, is the old cafe “Skaloma”. The photo was found on a blog, unfortunately, it is of very low resolution.

The music producer of the Bee Gees, Saturday Night Fever, Jesus Christ Superstar, and other notable productions, Robert Stigwood made his appearance usually with his large yacht and used to organize big parties before leaving.
We can’t forget Cat Stevens who, when out with a group of young friends, borrowed the guitar of the young Kostas Zochios. A few months later he sent a new guitar as a gift to Kostas, this guitar is still treasured.

Although we have quite a rich collection of old photos, unfortunately, there is none with these people, but as we are sure that somewhere there are some we will continue looking.
All of these may seem strange to today’s youngsters but it is part of our history and perhaps interesting for other people who are a bit older.

It was the time that Benitses began to build their reputation which during the 70s brought a big wave of organized tourism and especially young women who came to Corfu not only for the sea and sun, it was the golden era of the “Greek kamaki”.
A beautiful era, a time that today’s sixty years old remember with nostalgia.

Spiros on the Beach

Just saying it brings back memories

Saying Spiros on the beach means a small seaside restaurant which in a very short time became the ultimate legend of Corfu nightlife during the 1970s and early 80s.

All following photos belong and were made public on Facebook by Chris Hayward who was DJ in Spiros on the Beach during the 80s

The glorious decade of the 70s

Spiros on the beach was nothing remarkable, a small building a few square metres large, with an outdoor dancing area merging seamlessly with the beach.

This space was covered with the simplest material possible, with mats around the side and forming a roof.

Loud music of the era was played, simple lighting effects were used, and in the middle was a primitive wooden dancing floor.

All these were the ingredients that formed the almost legendary Spiros on the beach, the most “in” place of the 70s, the night club, the disco as they called them then, which every tourist visiting the island of Corfu was bound to visit!.

From 1975 until 1985 it was the undisputed king of the Corfiot nightlife, gathered more than 3000 people every night, some to drink, others to listen to music, dance, and have a good time, and some to engage in the informal “sport” which increased the Greek reputation for being great lovers, the famous harpoon!… Kamaki!

The small bar was not able to accommodate all patrons and at some point, the costumers paid for the drinks with banknotes without getting any change back, there was no time, the pressure was so great, but despite paying three or four times more than they expected to they still felt happy that they had managed to get a drink at Spiros on the beach.

It had such an impact on youth at the time that the music sounded from the loudspeakers help shape the musical taste of youngsters of the 70s.

Its reputation had surpassed the confines of Corfu and especially in Great Britain was well known, “Spiros on the beach” was a place that many older people still remember.

Today the area looks deserted, apart from some old abandoned buildings there is nothing there as the owner, Spiros Poulis died young at the age of 50.

This article was written to keep alive the memories. This disco was a big part of the history of tourism for our village and made an enormous contribution to the tourist promotion of Benitses at the time.

We found a Greek night barbeque ad of Spiros on the beach, it was September of 1974!!!… Certainly written on a typewriter and then came out on photocopies, computers did not exist then either in our imagination, click it to read.

Benitses Spiros on the beach barbeque-1980
Benitses Spiros on the beach barbeque-1980

Benitses During the 80s

Benitses then was the centre of Corfu nightlife, its name became synonymous with nightlife and it helped to bring more tourists in the following decade- the 1980s.

For over twenty years Benitses was the holiday mecca for hordes of young British tourists, who were brought by major tour operators from the UK- although some were Greek-owned.

There was a time when in a road only two kilometers long were over 100 bars, night clubs and dozens of shops, Benitses had 10,000 people every night.

Those who lived here saw many tourists, some staying in the village but others coming from all over the island, who came to party the night away.

Then the problems began and increased every year, and there was a reaction by local people who objected to the drunkenness, promiscuity, and vandalism of some of these young people.
The tourists themselves were also unhappy, even young ones often complaining that they did not like to go out at night because of the bad behavior of others.

Inevitably there were quarrels between local and foreign men over girls.
The party had stopped being fun.

In the early 90s, the local people began to react, many tourists were also complaining to the tour operators, some demanding refunds.
Tour companies began directing young people wanting to go crazy to go somewhere else.

For years later the number of visitors continued to decline as the village tried to live down its ‘party’ image.
A large number of shops, bars, etc. could not be sustained and closed one after another.

Summer Villa of the Shipowner Pateras

Benitses 1960, villa Patera at Chontrakia area
villa Patera at Chontrakia area
stadium club from outside Potamaki hotel- Benitses 2010
outside Potamaki hotel- Benitses 2010

In the above photo, you see the bay of koutsomaroula as it was in 1960, then there, there were only two or three houses with the biggest one in the center.

It was the summer villa of the shipowner Pateras (Pateras is the Greek word for father), father of the former(2011) President of the football club Panathinaikos.

Later, shortly after 1980 the villa was sold and demolished, and a nightclub called STADIUM was built there, a nightclub with a huge capacity and full of life.

Today STADIUM operates as a nightclub and in recent years has become a popular venue for weddings, christenings, banquets, and other events.

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Benitses Today, a Place for Quite Family Holidays

Posted in: Benitses All Info 0

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Benitses today

Today Benitses is still developing, trying to attract more discerning visitors by upgrading the infrastructure whilst being careful to preserve the traditional look that  it has never lost.

Tourism remains the main source of income for local residents, but a lot of efforts are being made to keep improving the infrastructure in order to attract an increasing number of visitors.

The current priority is to complete the harbor and the new yachting marina so that it will start to bring income to the village.

Other important projects such as a large artificial beach and the paving of internal roads are planned, but unfortunately due to the present economic crisis we are experiencing these plans are currently on hold and remain a dream.

Despite the current economic problems those of the residents who have the skills and ideas feel obliged to strive to implement the plans and achieve as much as possible.

We must not sit back because of the crisis, but keep trying for a better future because even if it happens that Europe does not exist in the form we know it, Greece, Corfu, and Benitses will still be here, it is our home and we must keep it vital and alive.

Benitses at 1940
Benitses at 1940

We found an old photo of Benitses taken in 1940, taken from almost from the same position as a current picture, so we thought it is useful to put them together to see at firsthand the huge changes that time has brought.

We see the differences, the current picture is taken from a point about 50 feet ahead and a little more left from this of 1940, that is the only difference.

The mountains are the same but the coastline has been developed inevitably, the truth is that the picture of 1940 shows a much more pastoral scene …. those electricity wires of today look terrible anyway…

Benitses at 2010
Benitses at 2010
Benitses comparing 1940-2010
Benitses comparing 1940-2010

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Benitses has some very old and beautiful buildings, some of them more than 5 centuries old. We tried to collect as many information we could about the most important of them… Read More

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|

Here are adverts for property sales and rentals in Benitses, mainly apartments, rooms, and stores… Read More

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|

We see below some pictures – maquettes from the square in Benitses.
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|

Within the first ten days of August, the festival of sardines was organized, a relatively new festival that was organized only for the last decade… Read More

Benitses: The Celebration of Agia Marina

|

July 17 is the celebration of Agia Marina, the patron Saint of Benitses, and the festival to honor her… Read More

Activities of Benitses Cultural Association

|

The cultural association was founded in 1982 by some young people, aimed to promote and preserve the traditional customs, but also the cultural enhancement especially of young people… Read More

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|

The local community events have always been based on tradition, and decades ago were as spontaneous and natural as the other everyday events of life… Read More

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|

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Benitses Marina: Lease of the Port of Benitses

Posted in: Benitses All Info 0

Last updated on June 27th, 2021 at 03:04 pm

Benitses marina from google earth
Benitses marina from google earth

The shelter of tourist boats

Here we see the port as it is today, September 2011, it is actually almost ready, you can see on google earth is well.

The old fishing harbour of Benitses has become now a Shelter for tourist boats (Benitses yacht Marina), it’s construction began in 2002 as an extension of the existing port, it is officially completed but there is some damage to the equipment due to non-custodial and maintenance of the area over the years.

But soon problems will be overcome, the yacht marina will officially belong to the Municipality of Corfu and will operate normally.

A little of the history

Because the Benitses people lived almost exclusively on fishing and the cultivation of citrus and olives, it was imperative to have some protection for the fishing boats so the residents decided to build a small harbor themselves.

The work began at once with volunteer residents and a few mechanical aids, and in the adjacent photograph, we can see pictures of those early efforts.

So the current marina has not destroyed a beach as some people think, but it is an extension of the old port made by filling in part of the harbor to create a larger land area.

In the harbor area of Benitses two major engineering works have taken place,  resulting in a loss of some of the picturesque landscape.

In the third from the top picture, we see how Benitses was in 1965 when the sea reached up to the doors of houses and we can compare the picture with today.

Of course, the inevitable development created needs that could not be fulfilled without such a landfill, a major problem was that the road passed in front of the houses, it was narrow and very dangerous especially for residents even in the quieter 1960s.
Accidents happened and the landfill enabled the road to be moved away from the houses, which eliminated those problems and also accommodated the increasing traffic better.

The first infill began in 1972 and covered the creek in the old port where the road is now,  and the second was during the construction of the marina and began in 2002 covering almost the entire area enclosed within the old harbor area.

We can see in the photo at the left the planning of the marina, and the areas covered by the landfills.
In red is the landfill of 1972, and in blue is the landfill of 2002.
The position of the old harbor is marked green on the plans.

Benitses yacht Marina now

The marina was started with the aim of attracting wealthy visitors and their yachts, attracting them with very high-quality anchorage, and aiming to increase the income of Benitses both directly with fees, and indirectly, with the money, these new visitors would spend.

Due to shortages and damage to the equipment and the lack of official operators, Port currently operates rudimentary, there are many ships moored and many who would like to be there but can not find space.

What the local residents now want is to finally clarify the commercial status of the port.
There are assurances by the new Municipal Authority about a completed management plan which will start soon and in any case before the end of 2014.
By the summer of 2015, the port will finally start to deliver profits to the area.

Update December 2019

After almost 20 years from its construction, we can say now that the port was a failure and a big waste of money.

It is still not clear to who it belongs, to the municipality? and if so why nobody cares about it?

Of course no profit for the area, and an abandoned area in which anybody can moor her/his yacht or smaller boat with no charge.

At least, there is a huge parking area for visitors, this gives a big advantage to the village, as it is visited by more people, but apart from this nothing more.

We wonder if instead of this waste, the money was spent for a large artificial organized beach covering the whole area down to Koutsomaroula bay, that would be proved a much better idea!

March 2021 – Lease of the tourist port of Benitses

In March 2021, the government proceeded with the transfer of the tourist boat shelter to a private company that will have the exclusive management of the port for the next 15 plus 5+5 years.

The lease was assigned to Maritime Projects for the amount of € 250,000 per year plus approximately 2% local tax on turnover.

The Mayor said that there will be many benefits from the financial lease, both in terms of income for the Municipality and the strengthening of the tourist product of Corfu.

We know that there will indeed be financial benefits for the Municipality of central Corfu, but not for the local community of Benitses.
The agreement stipulates that from 250,000€ the local community will be given the “considerable” amount of 5,000€ per year.
We do not need to comment further, just to laugh.!

The mayor Ms. Hydraiou said that the following leases will concern the tourist ports of Alipa in Paleokastritsa.

Deputy Mayor of Tourism Panos Varouchas said that there were discussions with the local council before the lease so that the contract is beneficial for local businesses and therefore there is a condition that the company will not be able to operate cafes or restaurants – only a leisure bar.

Note here that the local council is a faithful extension of the blue mayor, no further comment needed.

Mr. Varouchas, allow us to have our objections here, we know how the jobs with the private capital are done in Greece and how the agreements are kept.
We would be naive to believe that any individual will leave a huge space by the sea unexploited and that it will be limited to the operation of only a bar.
They will find a way, they know!

The deputy mayor added that he asked the local council for its recommendations for the necessary projects, so that part of the local taxes received can be used for infrastructure works in the area.

What will happen to the existing fishing boats?

The tourist port of Benitses can accommodate 96 boats and it was agreed that the 10 seats will be available free of charge to local professional fishermen.

For amateur fishermen, the contract stipulates that they will be allowed to use the ramp to access the sea for their boats at a very low cost.

Tourist boats already moored in the port free of charge must now contact the company to settle the docking fees.

What about the space used as a parking lot?

After the lease, this space closed.

There are rumors that it will open as a paid service when the repair work is completed, but this is not a formal commitment of the tenant, nor is it explicitly mentioned in the contract.

In other words, we do not know if it will become a parking lot again or if it will be used by the lessor for other purposes.

It should be noted here that the ample parking was one of the biggest advantages of the area and another attraction for the large number of visitors that contributed to the financial strength of the place.

Undoubtedly, the large parking lots were a vital advantage for Benitses and their lack will be absolutely catastrophic for the small and medium tourism business of the area.

In any case, the future will show whether the residents were finally sold out in the name of “development” in order for the municipality to have some financial benefit.
And of course, the responsibilities will emerge.

Opening in July

According to the contract, the lessor will provide the necessary studies and permits for the port at his own expense.

Following the granting of the operating license and the first repairs, it is estimated that the port under the new management will start operating at the end of June or the beginning of July.

Newer information states that the inauguration will take place on July 5 and in the presence of a competent minister.

Conclusion

No Greek government dared to sell some islands back in 2010 to pay off the debt of bankruptcy, instead, they will sell all of Greece piece by piece, slowly slowly.

More about Benitses

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Benitses History from Roman Times to Today

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History of Benitses begins when it was first inhabited,
This was in ancient times and was because of the abundant freshwater springs  with which the area was favored… Read More

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