Known throughout time under many names as either Monemvasia, Monovasia (the sole entrance), Malvasia, Menekse Kalesi (The Castle of the Violets), Gibraltar of the East or Balcony of the Middle Ages, the byzantine castle-citadel tempts visitors from all corners of the earth to share in its timeless charms, forever steeped in local legend and lore.
As soon as one crosses the bridge and sole ‘gateway’ which, also lends its name to the castle’s main gate, one senses the majesty and aura that the city’s long held history whispers to those who wish to be captivated by its charms. Travel through time with each and every step on the cobble stoned alleyways still thriving with life.
Thankfully, vehicles, noises, and daily stresses of our modern lives remain relegated outside the ancient walls that guard the city.
The only sounds that one can hear are the footsteps on the well trodden cobble stones that pave the network of alleyways criss-crossing the citadel. Each byway grants the visitor, a genuine feel of times gone by.
Outside of the Castle, on the opposite coast, on the mainland, spread the perennial olive groves as the olive oil has been the main crop in the region of Monemvasia for centuries, and, together with the renowned Malvasia wine, they are closely linked with its history.
It is also the main source of income for most farmers, with a total annual output amounting to some 8,000 tons, 99 percent of which is classified as extra virgin, the highest level of quality.
This is due to the climate, the cultivation methods used, the dozens of ultra-modern modern olive presses, but above all to the farmers’ own passion for their product. Most of the olive oil is produced in accordance with the principles of integrated management and a large number of olive groves are accredited as being organically farmed. The varieties of olives grown are mainly Koroneiki and Athinolia which produce a fruity-flavoured oil; the Koroneiki has a slightly more bitter and spicy aroma than the Athinolia. A blend of the two varieties is greatly sought after on the international market due to its balanced flavour and concentration of nutritional benefits.
The olive harvest begins in the first 10 days of October and continues until mid-March.
The entire process from harvesting to pressing is an interesting experience for visitors.
The flavour of freshly extracted olive oil on a slice of toasted bread is a gastronomic delight.