Holidays in Greece
This area of southern Peloponnese known as ‘The Mani’ is a very special place. Its location on the edges of southern Europe, its tempestuous history and its natural beauty all combine to give the visitor an exceptional experience.
The drive from Kalamata down into Mani is stunning and something you will never forget. The isolated aspect of this beautiful area, combined with the independent nature of its inhabitants meant that some traditions grew separately from the rest of Peloponnese and Greece so that a distinct society made its mark on the landscape. To this day the architecture of the area is famed for the tower houses and fortified family residences from the period of the Ottoman occupation of Greece.
It’s the central peninsula of the three which extend southwards from the Peloponnese in southern Greece. To the east is the Laconian Gulf, to the west the Messenian Gulf. The peninsula forms a continuation of the Taygetos mountain range, the western spine of Peloponnese.
Mani is generally divided into the Messinian (or outer) and the Lakonian (or Inner). The Messinian Mani starts southeast of Kalamata and runs south between the coast and the Taygetos Mountains, while the Lakonian covers the rest of the peninsula south of Itilo.
History of Mani
Covering the central peninsula in the south of the Peloponnese, Mani is a wild, rugged region. Greeks from elsewhere will tell you: so are its people, who regard themselves as direct descendants of the Spartans. After the decline of Sparta, citizens loyal to the principles of Lycurgus (founder of Sparta’s constitution) chose to withdraw to the mountains rather than serve under foreign masters. Later, refugees from occupying powers joined these people, who became known as Maniots, from the Greek word ‘mania’. For centuries the Maniots were a law unto themselves, renowned for their fierce independence, resentment of attempts to govern them and for their bitter, spectacularly murderous internal feuds.
The Ottoman Turks failed to subdue the Maniots and largely left them alone, yet the region became the cradle of rebellion that grew into the War of Independence. Post-Greek victory, though there had been a fatal falling out with the first president of independent Greece over the spoils of victory bypassing the Maniots, they nevertheless reluctantly became part of the new kingdom in 1834.
From the steep foothills of the snow-tipped Taygetos Mountain, the pristine coastal coves and the tiny villages nestling amid olive groves, connected by threads of walking trails, to the arid, desolate scenery in the south of peninsula, speckled with abandoned stone towers, the Mani has some of the most dramatic and varied scenery in the Peloponnese, much of it still wonderfully under explored.
Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese, 1958
Gearing & M. Georgota, From the edge of Greek Space: Exo Mani, 2002
Michael Cullen, Landscapes of the Southern Peloponnese, 2003
John Murray, Words of Mercury, 2003
Mat Dean, Walking in Mani, 2003
Bob Barrow, The Mani, Thomeas Travel Services, 2006
Lance Chilton, Walks in Stoupa and Kardamili, 2007
Zorba the Greek (1964), Michalis Kakogiannis
The girl from Mani (1986), Annett Paul
Before Midnight (2013), Richard Linklater