Preveza & Vonitsa
PrevezaThe port of Préveza is attractively situated on the north side of the entrance, only 350m/380yd wide, to the Gulf of Árta (Ambracian Gulf).A town was founded on this site about 290 B.C. by King Pyrrhos of Epirus, who named it Berenikia after his mother-in-law Berenike, wife of the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy I. In 31 B.C. the battle of Actium (Aktion) was fought in the waters south of the town, and Octavian founded the town of Nikópolis to commemorate his victory. In the late medieval period a new town was founded under the present name of Préveza, and in 1499 this town passed into the hands of Venice. From this period dates the castle which is the only substantial remnant of the town's former fortifications, and which affords an excellent general view of the gulf. In 1797, under the treaty of Campo Formio, the town passed from the Venetians to the French, but in the following year the French forces were driven out by Ali Pasha of Ioánnina. Préveza became part of Greece in 1912.The Nikopolia festival is held annually in July and August.
Vónitsa lies on the south side of the Ambracian Gulf, dominated by a massive castle. The town can be reached either from the fishing village of Amfilokhía at the southeast corner of the gulf (tavernas on the shore; fish a specialty) on a narrow asphalted road running through beautiful hilly country (40 km/25 mi) or by taking the ferry from Préveza and driving 15 km/9 mi east.The castle was originally built in the Byzantine period, and in 1084 withstood an attack by Robert Guiscard. From 1362 it was held by Leonardo Tocco and his successors, who gloried in the titles of Duke of Leucadia, Count of Cefalonia and Lord of Vónitsa. They developed the castle into such a formidable fortress that it was able to hold out until 1479, although surrounded by Turkish territory.Bus connections with Amfilokhía and Lefkás.
A recently improved road leads south from Vónitsa to the three fishing villages of Páleros (15km/9mi), Mítikas (18km/11mi; boats to the offshore island of Kálamos) and Astakós (33km/21mi), continuing to Aitolikón (38km/24mi) and Mesolóngi (10km/6.5mi).Astakós is a picturesque market town overlooking the gulf of the same name. It has extended, unspoiled beaches with fine white sand.
At Áyios Pétros, near Vonítsa, there are ruins of ancient temples and walls, while on the hill above a ruined medieval castle stands the chapel of Divine Wisdom (12th C.), fashioned like a Byzantine fortress.
The castle at Vónitsa has well preserved walls, bastions and gates, and contains within the ramparts several towers, a chapel, a cistern and other buildings. It is approached by a path on the east side.
The double delta of the Louros and Arahthos rivers in the Amvrakian Gulf provides the conditions for the formation of a rare ecosystem of water- and salt-loving vegetation as well as a great diversity of birds and animals (herons, dolphins, sea turtles, etc.), many of which are endangered.The area is protected under the RAMSAR international convention.
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