It is a small picturesque town and port of eastern Crete, the administrative center of a municipality. Its population is slightly more than 9,000 inhabitants and location – on a hill about 73 km east of the town of Agios Nikolaos, with houses on its slope ressembling an amphitheater. Therefore, so many streets there offer beautiful views of the cozy bay of Sitia. This municipality is renowned for the excellent quality of its olive oil and wine.
Well known to every inhabitant of Greece Vitsentzos Kornaros, the author of the epic poem “Erotokritos” was born in Sitia.
It is believed that the name “Sitia” was borrowed from the name of the ancient city of Itia. The city minted its own coins and was an important commercial and financial center of the Eastern Mediterranean during the time of the Romans, Byzantines and Venetians. Why, then, almost no sights have survived in one of the most important cities of Crete, which has existed for centuries?
The city has been through more than its share: in 1508 it was destroyed by a strong earthquake and 30 years later, in 1538, was raided by the pirate Barbarossa. In 1651, the Venetians finally destroyed Sitia so that the Turks would not get it. Thereafter for about 219 years the site was deserted and abandoned, until it was bought by the governor of Crete Hussein Avni Pasha in 1870 who built a new city here and called it by his own name – Avni. According to the 1881 census, there were only 570 inhabitants in Sitia, and only by 1928 their number increased to 2,170.
The most impressive monument of the past, towering over the modern city, is the Kazarma fortress – the only evidence of Venetians in Sitia. The fortress was built in the 13th century and was a guard barracks or an administrative building; therefore, it was called Casa di Arma (Barracks). Based on the maps, drawings of the Venetian era and the excavations, we can say that Sitia was surrounded by a wall. The earthquake of 1508 almost completely wiped out not only the city, but also all the fortifications. During the Ottoman rule, the Turks built a new fort on the basis of the Venetian fortress. Currently, most of the fortification has been restored and the fortress declared a cultural monument; and during the summer months it hosts the Kornaria festival, which attracts a large number of participants. The view from the fortress to the city and the Gulf of Sitia is impressive, especially at night.
There are many historical and natural attractions around Sitia such as the Orthodox Monastery of Toplou, the palm beach of Vai, the Gorge of Dead, the fourth largest Minoan palace in Crete Kato Zakros, the remains of Itanos, an ancient port-city, the ruins of the Minoan city of Palekastron and other important archaeological sites. In Sitia itself, you can visit two beautiful museums, the Archaeological and the Folklore one, which offer many interesting exhibits.
Museums in Sitia
The Archaeological Museum of Sitia is one of the most important museums on the island. It opened its doors in 1984, one hundred years after the first excavations in the region. Here are collected artifacts from excavations from all over Eastern Crete beginning from the Neolithic and Minoan periods to the Byzantine time. The most important exhibits are the finds from Zakros, the Minoan palace. Among others are a bronze saw and large vessels with clear signs of a fire that destroyed the palace, a gold and ivory figurine of a young man “Kouros” from the Minoan city of Paleokastro. The exhibits from the Hellenistic and Greco-Roman periods are also impressive.
The Folklore Museum of Sitiа was founded in 1975 and contains many important folklore exhibits: traditional local clothing, and furniture, kitchen utensils, embroidery, textiles, woven products, photographs. Some old Orthodox Christian icons are also on display. In the museum you can see a complete loom with all its parts in working order. This loom is currently used by museum staff to produce items that are sold in the museum store.
It is interesting that the city has its own municipal philharmonic society, consisting of about 40 musicians aged 11 to 65 years. Musicians, who play mainly wind instruments, perform at almost all festive events of the municipality of Sitia.
In the suburbs of Sitia, there is a modern building of the Faculty of Nutrition & Dietetics of the Hellenic Mediterranean University.
How to get to Sitia
Sitia has a small modern airport with flights to Athens, Heraklion and other cities and islands in Greece. Since 2012, in addition to domestic flights, Sitia Airport has begun accepting international charter flights. More about all airports in Crete:
The seaport of the city has daily connections with the port of Piraeus and some of the Aegean islands.
Two main modern roads cross East Crete and lead to the city. The northern road, that begins at Agios Nikolaos, winds around the northern coast of the island and passes through picturesque panoramic villages overlooking the Cretan Sea. Thee second, the southern one, starts from the city of Ierapetra, runs along the southern coast with beautiful picturesque coves and endless sandy beaches, goes then north through the countryside, crossing gorges, climbing hills, and mountains, bringing travelers from the south to Sitia.
In summer, the town and the surrounding villages host numerous cultural events and local festivals in the traditional Cretan style that are definitely worth a visit.
Sitia Mediterranean Radio Festival
The festival was first organized in 2013 in the Chlowerakis grove. Since 2015, it has been held in the port of Sitia and at the promenade on the waterfront. There you can hear music not only from the traditional Greek space, but also from the wider region of the Mediterranean, the Balkans and the East. The festival is broadcasted live via radio stations in Crete and Greece. During the festival, there is an open exhibition where you can buy handicrafts, local products, musical instruments, etc. Informational, theater, dance and other creative events are also held. It lasts 3 days and always takes place on the first Friday-Saturday-Sunday of July.
It is an annual cultural festival in honor of the greatest Greek poet of all time – Vitsentzos (Vincenzo) Kornaros, who gave the Greek world his poem “Erotokritos”. The festival runs from July to early September. The program includes music and dance concerts, theater performances, art and photography exhibitions, lectures and sporting events (such as road races, beach volleyball competitions). The events take place outdoors in the Venetian fortress of Kazarma and in the multicenter of the municipality of Sitia. The surrounding villages also host events such as Kazanemata (rakia festivals). The Municipality of Sitia organizes these events in order to contribute to the cultural development of the city and to provide foreign visitors with the opportunity to get to know the customs, and traditions of Eastern Crete.
In the last week of June, it is held every two years. The organizers are the General Staff of the Navy and the Port Authority of Sitia. There are lectures, music and dance events, and sailing competitions.
Carnival of Sitia
These colorful events organized by the municipality of Sitia are relatively recent. The great party in the city is centered on the main streets and plaza where shopkeepers make barbecues outside their shops, treating people. There are always jugglers, magicians, harlequins, aerial and ground acrobats, clowns: a lot of fun, creative self-expression, bright colors around. The festival takes place in the city every year finishing the carnival celebrations in Crete.
Feast of Saint Catherine
This religious holiday takes place on November 25, in honor of St. Catherine, the patroness of Sitia.
Sitia is the best “ambassador” of Eastern Crete, a real one, friendly and picturesque.
статья из № 5, 2021