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Vathi is the largest village of Ithaca as well as the capital and main harbour of the island since the 16th century, with a population of approximately 2,000 people. During the Middle Ages this area was called "Vale di Compare" (Port of the Godfather). Today the official name is Ithaca, but everyone refers to the capital as Vathi or Chora. The town has been built along the coastline of one of the most natural ports of Hellas. The length of the port is 926 meters with an entrance of 300 meters in width. Extending from the coastline the town meets a small valley full of citrus trees, vineyards, olive trees, and agricultural farming. As the main port of Ithaca, it is connected by ferryboat daily to Patras, on the Greek mainland, Kefalonia, Astakos and periodically to Corfu and Italy.

During the Middle Ages what settlement existed was forced to move up the mountain to live safely away from the port, which was then being used by pirates as a perfect hideaway.

Standing guard over the entrance to the port are the two ruins of the small fortresses, built in 1805, by the French as a protection from the powerful fleet of the English, to the left is Kastro, to the right is Loutsa. In the middle of the port lies the islet named Lazareto on which stands the church of Sotiros (Saviour) built in 1668. In 1836, with some of the stones being used from ancient ruins, another building was constructed which was used as a quarantine facility all through the English period. With the English leaving and Ithaca uniting with Greece, in 1864 the building became a prison until 1912.

The earthquakes of 1953 demolished almost all of the buildings in Vathi, leaving only a few standing. Among the buildings destroyed were Venetian public buildings and houses that fortunately (unlike Kefalonia) were rebuilt in the same manner. Vathi is considered a traditional in-habitation by a recent law passed in 1978, which prohibits construction or repairs in any other style of architecture or colour.

Perhaps this is the reason that on my visit here I detected a traditional feel about the place. I really enjoyed my walk around this beautiful bay. Although Vathi is a very busy harbour I was still able to find a place to just sit in a peaceful setting and watched the local fishermen preparing their nets, the coming and going of yachts and boats and soak up it's marvellous atmosphere.

Near the port authority building, by the harbour is a large anchor mounted on stone as a memorial to the sailors of Ithaca, it is inscribed with the words . . .

"To the Ithacan sailors asleep forever beneath the waves".

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