The Fortezza Nuova – The New Venetian Fortress of Corfu
Where there is an Old Fortress follows a newer iteration – after all, with Corfu being such a highly-prized island, defense is a blazing priority. The New Fortress wedges the old town of Corfu between its massive walls and those of its older compatriot. Built in the 16th century during Venetian rule, it is poised above the dated port, a standing sentinel on the hill of Agios Markos.
The views atop are exemplary, but nothing mattered more than fortification strength during its time of construction. Drawing materials from over 2000 houses and churches along the seafront, the New Fortress’ dual layer design was an island-wide effort; its results were two remarkable bastions accessible through a maze of passageways within. At 55 meters above sea level, it features a well-planned system of underground reservoirs, ammunition depots and halls. There were also tunnels linking it to the Old Fortress, but those are unfortunately not accessible.
Whilst some sea defenses were bombarded during the inauguration of Corfu into Greece, the stone barrack stood strong. Moving away from its war tunes, it is now home to the Museum of Ceramic Art. Where the New Fortress showcases historical methods of Venetian defense and architecture, the museum is dedicated to Corfu’s cultural heritage of ceramic crafts. Corfiot ceramics take shape in utility products, tiles, decorative wall plates and murals, colorfully painted details inspired by everyday life.
Equipped with 700 pieces of artillery, the compound is prepped with both offensive and defensive measures. Guarded by the Royal Gate, the fortress stakes a proud warning with the winged lion emblem of the Republic of Venice. Within the lower pentagonal bastion are arched chambers, winding stairs, galleries and ramps; there is also a dry moat that runs the perimeter of the west side. For an encompassing view over the island, climb through vaulted passages and tunnels to the stalwart Bastion of the Seven Winds.
The New Fortress still retains some of its military purposes today. You’ll find the headquarters of the Naval Station of Corfu housed within a newer brick building. But what of the stone barrack that was built during the British occupation?
The Museum of Ceramic Art is a logbook of ceramic art kept alive in the past centuries, expressing a preference for simple but tasteful forms. Excellent samples of folk art, they’re created with home in mind. To complement this artful tribute, the museum also hosted various cultural events.
The New Fortress may not be as heritage heavy as the Old Fortress, but what it lacks in terms of grand landmarks, it makes up for in view. Walk over from the old town after a hearty lunch and work off that energy with a climb to the top. The entrance and ticket office are located near the Street market; an easy transition! As a final tip, we do recommend that you check with the local Greek tourist office if it is open. It is sometimes closed for exhibition preparation work or other reasons; you wouldn’t want to walk up only to be disappointed.