Kouzounteli - Venetian olive grove - Faneromeni


Pefaneromenis Avenue is very pleasant for a walk or a bicycle ride. It goes up quite a steep hill leading to the monastery of Faneromeni. The first section of the road, ending at Kouzounteli, is one of the favourite walks of Lefkadians, in both winter and summer. The area takes its name from the erstwhile Turkish landowner (Kuzum Bey) of the area, or from the Turkish kuzum-delis meaning ‘fine horseman’.

Under the age-old olive and plane trees and tall birches there are still two traditional coffeehouses in Kouzounteli, serving traditional fruit jams ‘in a spoon’, vanilla ‘submarine’ (a sweet delicacy plunged in a cold glass of water) and home-made soumada (‘orgeat’ -an oriental drink of barley or almond and orange-flower water) served with a house-speciality aniseed-flavoured rusk. And their fried potatoes are especially delicious. Time stands still in the serenity of these coffee-houses in the wooded grove and the pace of life slows down; on the small iron tables impromptu tournaments of backgammon are organised, or card games, and never-ending discussions, and mothers can let their children play in the safely-fenced area of greenery. Over recent years, due to the increased traffic on the road, the idyllic landscape has been somewhat disrupted, but it still preserves much of its traditional peacefulness.

The Venetian olive grove

The Venetian olive grove is perfect for a bicycle ride | Lefkada Slow Guide

The road forks at the church of Agia Aikaterini. The northwest direction heads to enchanting Ai Giannis beach, passing through the olive grove. The poet Sikelianos’ “Divine Olive Grove”, “deep olive grove”, (he described it as the “loveliest wood he had known”) is of age-old olive trees planted by order of the Venetians, in 1684. As soon as the Venetians conquered Lefkada, they obliged the inhabitants to intensify the cultivation of the olive, even imposing severe penalties on those failing to comply, and giving ‘incentive’ rewards for planting them. A 1770 census showed 44,169 olive trees planted in 86 years. There are dozens of tracks through the grove for walks or biking in surroundings of timeless beauty.

The Monastery of Panagia Faneromeni

Panagia Faneromeni, the island’s patron saint | Lefkada Slow Guide

Back on Pefaneromenis Avenue at the junction at the church of Agia Aikaterini, continuing uphill takes us to the village of Fryni. The village is built in a semi-circle and commands a panoramic view over Lefkada town and its wide plain, with Akarnania and Epirus in the background. It may owe its name to the Greek word for eyebrow: frydi –referring to the configuration – or to the temple of Artemis Lefkofryni.

Further on we come to the Monastery of Panagia Faneromeni. The church is named for the island’s patron saint and celebrates on the feast of the Holy Ghost, the day after Whitsun (Pentecost). The church was built in the 19th century and shows influences from Zakynthian architecture. Its remarkable iconostasis is the work of a well known painter, Eustathios Prosalentis. The vista from the church is fantastic, overlooking the olive grove, the lagoons, the town, the Ionian Sea and afar the mountains of Epirus and Akarnania. Preveza on the coast opposite is clearly visible and the Ambrakikos Gulf further east in the background. To the east, Mt Lamia towers up, with Ali Pasha’s fortress at its foot and the channel separating Lefkada from Akarnania.