Afionas is one of the oldest villages of Corfu on the northwest side of the island. It is located at an altitude of 133 meters and is built on the top of a high rock outcrop just opposite the bay of Agios Georgios, with its golden beach, and overlooking the Diapontia Islands of Ereikousa, Othoni and Mathraki and rocky islet of Gravia.
This charming, antiquated village has many renovated and well-kept houses with characteristic bright paint colours and is harmonized with the typical architecture of the island, the narrow streets and the paved cantonments among the courtyards overgrown with flowers.
There are some tavernas and cafes at the top of the village where one can have a meal or coffee whilst enjoying the idyllic view. Parking is difficult as there is no parking area in the village and the road ends abruptly in the village square. By pre-booking a table at a taverna one is able to organize parking for their vehicle at the entrance to the village. This stroll is well worth it as the aerial outlook is spectacular.
For those who are interested in staying in the village there are small complexes with rooms for rental.
Afionas and the famous beach
Below the traditional village of Afionas, with its colourful stone houses and narrow cobbled streets, is the famous twin beach of Porto Timoni. In essence, these are two beaches, separated by a narrow strip of verdant land or isthmus.
The left beach is called Limni and has blue water, while Porto Timoni on the right has darker water. Each beach has its individual uniqueness.
Access to Porto Timoni is either by way of steep, narrow paths descending from the village of Afionas, or by sea from the bay of Agios Georgios. Whichever way one chooses to visit Porto Timoni, what will fascinate are the ruins of medieval fortifications that protected the area from pirates and corsairs, and also the small church of Agios Stylianos that is “buried” in a cave. The entire edge of the peninsula is called the “Murgi’s Head” because its shape is reminiscent of a dog’s head.
There are many versions pertaining to the origin of the village’s name. According to 16th Century records the area most likely belonged to the wider region of Kavvadades called Ano Arilla or Upper Arilla (because of the trees named Arias (Querqus). This species of oak tree still exists in this region today.
Notarized deeds dating back to 1503-1577 bear evidence that no reference to an area with the name of Afionas is made. Kavvadades, which includes the areas of Ano and Kato Arilla, is noted in 1636 AD, evidence of the year that the church in the village of Agios Ioannis was constructed.
The most plausible theory is that Afionas was named after the cultivar of grape called ‘afioni’ which only thrives on Corfu.
However, in addition to this theory, there is also the mythological version. “Amphion” was Ivi’s brother. The town of Acharavi’s name is derivative from Ivi (thankless or ungrateful -abbey). Amphion’s name was given to Afionas.
Finally, another version is of geographical nature deriving the name of the village from the verb lemai which means ‘sit aside, separately’ due to its special isolated location on the cape on which it was built.
History - Mythology
In addition to the natural fortified location of the site, the few remaining ruins of a low wall show that the Venetians further strengthened the area’s fortifications by building perimeter walls. The existence of these places is also confirmed by the toponyms Karteri (ambush), Vigla (lookout), Kastro (castle), Porto (port), Mouragia (stone-built wall), etc.
From a mythological point of view, the opposite islands have been given monikers so that Afionas and this north-western side of the island can, in general, be associated with the famous palace of King Alcinous of Homer’s Odyssey.
Opposite Afionas is a small rock, a short distance from the shores, called Karavi, which is rumoured to be the petrified ship of Odysseus from Poseidon
Not just today, but over the years, myths have added glamour to the area. Such legends and traditions have given rise to many famous visitors to the island i.e. writers who have made reference to the myths in their books and archaeologists who have done excavations.
In the first case, in 1892, the geographical dissertation of Joseph Parts, professor of geography at the University of Breslau, was published, which mentions all the mythological glamour of the area, also noting the myth of the petrified ship. He also mentioned another, obscure mythological version of the name of Aphion. He wrote that in this vicinity of the island was a glamorous city called Pamflagonas. The queen of this city was the sister of the queen of Corfu. It is a more Christianized version of the ship’s legend. Pamflagona’s husband, the king, left to fight in a foreign state, but during this war fell in love with the queen of his enemies and abandoned his wife.
The queen saw her unfaithful husband’s returning ship and begged St. Nicholas to punish him so that he would not rejoin her. St. Nicholas, according to legend, petrified the ship giving another beautiful fable to the rich tradition of Afionas.
In the second case, Kaiser, along with Dorpfeld – an architect who participated in Schliemann’s archeological excavations in Olympia, Troy and Tyrintha, director of the German Archaeological Institute of Athens (1887) – began excavations based on Homer’s descriptions and interpretation of place names on the northwestern side of the island and of Afionas too.
Of course, these excavations did not produce the desired results. The examination of the soil and surface excavations yielded only some tools and monochromatic shells, perhaps of prehistoric and Bronze Age (3000 BC), remnants of a prehistoric district according to Dorpfeld, who wrote an article for an official archaeological magazine, in which he attempted to connect the myth with reality.
Feel Greece. “Αφιώνας“, https://www.feelgreece.com/el/afionas-corfu
Alfavita-ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ. “Αφιώνας: το χωριό με τα πέτρινα χρωματιστά σπίτια, την πανέμορφη παραλία και μια πλούσια ιστορία“, https://www.alfavita.gr/koinonia/302921_afionas-horio-me-ta-petrina-hromatista-spitia-tin-panemorfi-paralia-kai-mia-ploysia
Συγγραφική ομάδα Πολιτιστικού Συλλόγου Αφιώνα (CORFU HISTORY). “Η ιστορία του Αφιώνα”, https://www.corfuhistory.eu/?p=1455