Temperate, multihued Corfu—of emerald mountains; turquoise waters lapping rocky coves; ocher and pink buildings; shimmering silver olive leaves; puffed red, yellow, and orange parasails; scarlet roses, bougainvillea, and lavender wisteria and jacaranda spread over cottages—could have inspired impressionism.
Kerkyra (Corfu) is certainly the lushest and, quite possibly, the loveliest of all Greek islands. Breathlessly blue waters lap rocky, pine-rimmed coves, and plants like bougainvillea, wisteria, and sweet-smelling jasmine spread over the countryside. Homer's "well-watered gardens" and "beautiful and rich land" were Odysseus's last stop on his journey home. Corfu is also said to be the inspiration for Prospero's island in Shakespeare's The Tempest. This northernmost of the major Ionian islands has, through the centuries, inspired other artists, as well as conquerors, royalty, and, of course, tourists.
Today more than a million—mainly British—tourists visit every year, and in summer they crowd the evocative capital city of Corfu town (population 40,000). As a result, the town has a number of stylish restaurants and hotels and a sophisticated European ambience. The interior of Corfu, however, remains largely unspoiled, and the island has absorbed many layers of architectural history, offering an alluring mix of neoclassic villas, Venetian palazzo, pastel-painted hill towns, old farmhouses, and classy, city-sized resorts. You'll find all this, plus ancient olive groves, pine-covered cliffs, and heart-stoppingly beautiful vistas of sea and sky. Corfu remains an enchanting mixture of simplicity and sophistication.
The classical remains have suffered from the island's tempestuous history; architecture from the centuries of Venetian, French, and British rule is most evident, leaving Corfu and especially Corfu town with a pleasant combination of contrasting design elements. And although it was bombed during the Italian and Nazi occupation in World War II, the town of Corfu remains one of the most charming in all of Greece.