The rich history of this fortress that has withstood the test of time since its heyday in the 13th and 14th centuries AD is discovered anew by crowds of visitors that enter its gateway every year to explore its narrow cobbled lanes under stone archways, 40 churches and buildings that once numbered 8,000 homes.
The main gate leads to the central thoroughfare lined by colourful shops, cafes and restaurants. The path to the Upper Town winds through Byzantine and post-Byzantine ruins. Aghia Sophia, dating from the 12th century and one of the loveliest Byzantine churches of the 12th century, stands at the edge of a cliff in the Upper Town. The Lower Town’s restored houses and mansions are surrounded by walls, with only two entrances, the main gate and another leading down to the rocks at the edge of the Myrtoon Sea. To the left just inside the main gate and up a small stairway is the birthplace of one of Greece’s greatest poets, Yiannis Ritsos. The courtyard offers a magnificent view over the ramparts.
The new town of Monemvasia, over the bridge on the mainland, leads to other local areas of interest such as the little port of Gerakas, hidden from the sea at the end of a fjord, and Talanta, where there is a restored watermill**. Two routes lead to Monemvasia from Neapoli, either by following the road to Molai or via the settlement of Aghios Mammas.
*A bust of the poet Yiannis Ritsos stands in the forecourt of his family home, and marks the beginning of any tour of the old town.
**Every Sunday from 10.00 to 14.00 the Talanta watermill is set in motion, reviving a local tradition. Take a five minute walk along the footpath from the main square of the village to this idyllic setting among plane and walnut trees, myrtle bushes and rushing water. Hikers can continue on from here through the gorge down to Harahia beach, below Daimonia. For further information: www.talanta.gr