Nafplio is one of the most charming Greek cities. It lies on the Argolic Gulf, at the northeastern part of Peloponnese. Its unique architecture, its picturesque scenery, its history, as well as its proximity to Athens – just 140 km away – makes it a very popular choice for a day trip and for weekend excursions. So, whenever you are visiting Athens, you should, also, pay a day visit there.
You can easily arrive at Nauplio by car, taking the National Highway of Athens – Patras (A8 – Olympia Odos) and then that of Korinthos – Tripoli (A7 – Moreas). The route at the Moreas Highway is really beautiful.
Before reaching your destination, do make a stop at the town of Nemea, both to visit the ancient Stadium and the temple of Zeus, but also – I’d say, mainly – to buy some of Nemea’s excellent PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) wines, at very good prices. The local variety of vineyards, is called Agiorgitiko.
There are many interesting wine estates at Nemea, such as those of Palivos, Lafasanis, Gaia, among others. Our favorite one, though, is by far the Papaioannou Estate. All the range of its wines are worth trying, from the cheapest ones, to the most expensive. If you want to try an absolute value for money wine, listen to me and buy a bottle of Microklima. It is, in my opinion, a monumental red wine for its price. If you prefer the white varieties, then the Aristocracy, a Sauvignon Blanc, is a remarkable suggestion. What is more, all of Papaioannou wines are ORGANIC!!!
If you make your visit during springtime, then as you approach the city, you will get a fragrant welcome by the bloomed orange and lemon trees, of which the whole region is full.
Nafplio itself is also at its best during spring time, even though, thanks to its mild climate it can be visited at all seasons. But at spring nature thrives even in the city center, as the alleys are filled by the colors of the Bougainvilleas, that one can encounter at almost every house’s front door.
Nafplio, the Naples of the East, as the Venetian sailors used to call it during the period of their domination (1338-1540) and the first capital of the newly formed Greek state after the liberation by the Turks (1827-1834), maintains its own distinct traditional architectural style. The old town, indeed, is full of colorful buildings, influenced by the Venetians, as well as a great number of neoclassical ones. Furthermore, the city is dominated by THREE (!!!) enchanting fortresses, Akronafplia, the oldest part and the original core of the city, situated on a homonymous hill at the southwestern part of the city, Palamidi with its 999 steps at the southeastern part and Bourzti, located in a small rocky island of the same name, very close to the city port, accessible by boat.
The old town of Nafplio, is located on a small peninsula on the Gulf, between the port and to the northern part of the Akronafplia hill.
Park your car at the free parking, that you will find at the entrance of the city, by the port.
As you enter the city center, taking the Andreas Sygrou street, you will see in the background the dominating Palamidi Fortress.
Walk a few meters and soon you will find yourself between two squares. The Kapodistrias square to your left and the Three Admirals Square to your right.
Kapodistrias square owes its name to the figure that was associated with the history of the city, Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first Governor of the modern Greek state. The square was formed in 1926 after the demolition of the Venetian bastion San Marco, which used to be located at the same place. The statue of the Governor Ioannis Kapodistrias, placed at the center of the square, was created by the sculptor Michael Tombros.
South of Kapodistrias square we can see the Courthouse, built in 1911 in a pure neoclassical style. To the east there is the park Kolokotronis, with a statue of Theodoros Kolokotronis, and the park of OSE, where the old railway station of Nafplio used to operate. The station today houses the Municipal Conservatory “Konstantinos Nonis”
If you like Galleries, make a deviation to your left and take the Sithiras Merarchias Street to visit the Nafplio’s department of the Athens National Gallery. The department is housed in a neoclassical building of 1905 and it exhibits a collection of art works of Gyzis, Lytras, Tsokos, Vrizakis and Margaritis, among others, dedicated to the liberating cause of the Greeks against the Turks.
Back to the Three Admirals Square, now. Named by the English Admiral Codrington, the French Admiral Derigny and the Russian Admiral Heyden, who defeated Ibrahim in the Battle of Navarino, it is practically the entrance to the historic city center. It acquired its current form after the liberation of the city. The square has the characteristics of a merely neoclassical one and today it is surrounded by important historical and public buildings, among which the City Hall, a classic example of Neoclassical Architecture Style, build around 1830 to host the first High School in Greece.
In the past, at the same square the Government was housed, in a building which later became the home of Otto, known as Palataki (small Palace) and which was eventually destroyed by fire in 1929. Today a statue of Otto stands in its place. From this square, two main streets begin, the Vasileos Konstantinou street to the left and the Vasilissis Amalias street to the right, in a parallel layout. We shall meet both of them later on.
If you walk a little further at the Sygrou street, you will see to your left, just under the foot of the Palamidi Fortress and behind the Courthouse, the Venetian Gate of the Land, reconstructed in 1966.
To your right, admire one most beautiful buildings of the city, the Armansberg mansion, which used to be the residence Josef Ludwig von Armansberg, during the period he was the regent of Greece.
Turn right at the corner of the mansion and take the Plapouta Street, to reach the Saint George square and the homonymous Metropolitan Church.
The square is among the oldest ones found in Nafplio. It is a purely medieval square of a trapezoidal shape, surrounded by old and remarkable buildings.
The square functions as a courtyard of the church of the same name, which projects diagonally in the square and completely defines its physiognomy.
Saint George church is considered to have been built in the early 16th century, it was later converted into a mosque and then back into a church. Inside it you can admire 18th-century frescoes, one of which is a copy of Da Vinci’s Last Supper.
Turn a little again to your right at the Aggelou Terzaki alley and you will reach its cross with the already mentioned Vassileos Konstantinou Street, the most important street in the city during the 19th century, also known as Megalos Dromos (the Great Road). It was part of the layout of post-revolutionary Nafplio, to connect the Three Admirals Square with the town’s central square, the Syntagma Square.
(to be continued)