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Corfu's Culture and Traditions

Easy going and cosmopolitan, the islanders are a pleasure to be among, especially off-season. Many are endowed with blue or grey eyes and lighter coloring than the darker olive-skinned and shorter Greek stereotype–they are just as friendly and attractive however. This is no doubt due to the historical Northern European blood influence. To read the History of Corfu is to begin to understand its culture which although strongly Greek and Greek Orthodox, is different than the mainland. 'Italianate' is the general catch all consensus.

The Arts

The islanders have had a love affair with the arts in general and particularly theater, music, painting and dance for centuries. It must be the salubrious climate and magnificent landscape that inspire this, or a strong dose of creative instinct. Perhaps the muses still reside in hidden glens and the forested hillsides as they did in Homers day. Art Exhibitions are held in both the new and old fortresses of Corfu Town In ancient times Corfu had a reputation in the areas of arts, lyric poetry and education. Notable practioners whose works have been handed down were the poet Filiskos, Apollodoros, Timoxenos, and the Roman writer Drakon. Even though many islanders resented the Venitian heretics lack of religious tolerance, artistic growth went unhindered during their hegmony.The Academia of dei Assicurati was founded in 1656. Cultural development was suspended during the Turkish raids. Later In 1732, the Academy of the Wanderers was founded.

Music flourished in Corfu in the 18th and 19th centuries. The first compositions were for dramatic performances by Italian and local theatrical companies. Corfu's traditional music is played with a guitar and a mandolin and called Kandathes and may still be heard in the narrow alleys of Corfu town. The Philharmonic Society was founded in 1840. Nikolaos Mantzaros taught and set to music Dionysios Solomos' Hymn to Liberty which became the Greek National Anthem in 1864. In 1890 Mantzaros Philharmonic was founded. Today the island has over 80 orchestras, both professional and amatuer.

Traditional Dance

The local traditional dances are up-beat and energetic, with small jumps and intense rhythms. The most popular dances today are Tsakonikos and Kalamatianos, both variations of the authentic Peloponnesian dances. Most of the dances are danced in pairs with the accompaniment of a violin, a guitar and an accordion. Corfu's music is unlike mainland instrumentation, which is more influenced by Turkey and its musical instruments. rhe bouzouki, baglama and zither.

Not withstanding these influences, let's not forget that the ancient Greek mystic philosopher Pythagoras invented western music and the scales used today through out the western world.

Traditional Crafts

Local crafts people produce a wide variety of handmade products: knitted garments, woven fabrics, hand embroidered prints in deep natural colors, intricate olive wood carvings and hand made jewelry.

Icons, Hagiographies or Saint paintings are available for inspection in most of the Greek Orthodox Churches and most were painted by ordinary religious citizens as a token of love to the Saint. Many Creten Icon painters including El Greco came to Crofu when Crete fell to the Turks in 1669 and were permitted by the Venetians to continue their craft. Many of these Creten artists and others fleeing the Turks after the fall of Constantinople helped contribute to the Italian Renaissance. Today many reproductions are available at modest prices.


See our Greece hotels for a complete look at accommodations available on this island.

Harry's Other Corfu Pages

Around Corfu | Corfu Beaches | Culinary Corfu | Corfu Culture | Corfu Golf | Corfu History | Curfu Holidays | Corfu Mythology | Corfu Transportation | Corfu Town | Useful Corfu | Photos of Corfu I | Photos of Corfu II | III