Updated: Sep 8, 2021
Greece is beautiful, we all know that. Greece is also a never ending adventure with something new to discover at every turn. No matter the place you go, you will always find something that is unique to that location. Something specific to the village, the city, or perhaps the island itself. The beauty of Greece is what draws so many people from around the world to experience it firsthand, and the desire to continue exploring is what brings them back. In Chios, despite not being the ‘buzz’ island, it certainly is one with loads of history and beauty found nowhere else.
In our minds, Chios includes perhaps one of the most beautiful villages in all of Greece located on the southern part of the island called Pyrgi. It’s also where we are located - not a coincidence at all of course… In fact, its the inspiration behind the packaging on all FēLē products! You'll understand how after this post.
The ‘Painted Village’
Pyrgi is a medieval village (like many villages in Chios) with some of the most unique architecture and painted facades that exist on all buildings, homes, churches, and even gas stations in the village! The unique handmade plaster geometrical shapes that dress the village are called Xysta and the art and process behind creating these continues to be passed down through the generations. It really is something to behold - the pictures simply do not do it justice!
Pyrgi was founded before the 10th century, but was colonized by Genoese Italians during their occupation up until 1566. There are many villages in Chios with links to the Genoese, but Pyrgi exemplifies this with the Xysta that continued to be preserved. It is also a highly fortified area with houses built in connection with one another and alleys and narrow streets (stena) creating a maze of adventure within the fortress, if you will. There is actually only one entrance and one exit in the village as this was how safety could be assured. The village itself is considered a protected monument as it survived the earthquake of 1881 and it has almost remained unchanged since the day it was built.
If that wasn't enough, Pyrgi is also the seat of the Mastic villages (Mastihohoria) and almost all residents are engaged with the cultivation and harvesting of Mastic. It's also the only place where you can find a Mastic Frappe to drink - yes, you heard that right.
As you walk the alleys of the village, you will also see locals (most likely the older generation) sitting outside of their houses and engaging in the cleaning of the Mastic teardrops that were harvested from the trees. It's amazing to see this tradition has been upheld by the locals.
As our families in Chios will tell us, Christopher Columbus was also a descendant of the Genoese family from Pyrgi and traces of his name and family origin go back to over 600 years ago. If you ask the locals, they will show you many houses with the last name Columbus inscribed above the front doors. They will also show you the house itself that Christopher was believed to have lived in before going on to discover America. The legend has it that Christopher also wrote a letter to the Queen of Spain to make mention of his discovery of Mastic before leaving Pyrgi.
This is just an example of how much history one village in Chios holds. This is truly present all over the island and one reason to never stop exploring! Chios forever.