Kalamata olives are indeed named after a city in Greece and that’s not all you should know about Kalamata and the Messinia region! With great history to share and magnificent sights, you need to put this on your “to discover” list and start planning for it!
Messinia is located on the southwest Peloponnesian coast and has a population of about 185,000 according to 2011 statistics. The main cities and towns in Messinia are Filiatra, Messene, Pylos, Kyparissia, Chora, Gargalianoi and Kalamata, its capital and largest city. Along this southwest Peloponnian coast lies several archaeological sites named on the World Heritage listing and just two of these are Olympia, the centre for worshipping Zeus back in the 10th century; and the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, built in the 5th century and has the oldest Corinthian capital found so far.
Kalamata is also a chief port and is probably the reason for the region’s success. History in this region dates back to Homer who mentioned the city of Farai that was believed to have been located exactly where Kalamata is now. This area was thought to have been under water in ancient times but recent archaeological information states otherwise. It may not have been underwater by Kalamata today has many beautiful beaches along the Messinian Gulf and the crystal blue waters are simply amazing!
Besides the large, black olive, Kalamata is also known for the Kalamatianos dance and of honey-eyed figs. Dance is a key signature of the area and this is evident in the annual Kalamata International Dance Festival that is looking forward to its 19th year this coming July 12 through to July 19, 2013.
One of your first stops on your sightseeing tour of Kalamata should be at the Castle. This 13th century castle was built on the remnants of the kingdom that was reigned by Prince Faris. Over the years the structure was changed; Christians eventually built a church there and when Frank conquerors took over, the citadel was fortified. Today it allows for beautiful panoramic views and in summer, the amphitheatre that was built there is the site for many cultural events. Visit the Old Town found right at the foot of the castle.
Visit the Gallery of Modern Greek Art for fabulous paintings, engravings and sculptures. See the Benakio Archaeological Museum telling the history of the Copper Era up to Roman times. The Marina and the Port are also great locales for touring as this is truly the heart of the city. If you like the water you should also look into heading just to the outskirts of town to Verga Beach, Avia with its luxury summer houses and rooms for rent, and Kitries with its stunning views of the sea. Each of these three destinations is as short as eight kilometres away to as far as seventeen kilometres, which still isn’t that far a trek.
One of the city’s biggest summer events is the Kalamata International Dance Festival. The best of the best international performers come from near and far to share their love of dance, aims to promote the many dance styles, hold workshops and hold performances of original work for a wide audience. With shows presented to the public, dancers also get to congregate in conferences to continue growing their talents and crafts. It’s a big festival so if you plan on being in the city for it, it would be best that you search for your accommodations very soon as the rooms in available nearby hotels will start to fill quickly!
Make your way to the Peloponnesian coast and discover Messinia and all its surroundings.