Cephalonia or Kefalonia
Cephalonia or Kefalonia (Greek: Κεφαλονιά or Κεφαλλονιά), formerly also known as Kefallinia or Kephallenia (Κεφαλληνία), is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It was also a former Latin Catholic diocese Kefalonia–Zakynthos (Cefalonia–Zante) and short-lived titular see as just Kefalonia.
The capital of Cephalonia is Argostoli
The main island of the regional unit is Cephalonia and has a size of 773 km2 (300 mi2), with a population density of 55 people per km2 (140/mi2). The town of Argostoli has one-third of the island’s inhabitants. Lixouri is the second major settlement, and the two towns together account for almost two-thirds of the prefecture’s population.
The other major islands are: Petalas Island, Asteris Island, but they are uninhabited.
Cephalonia lies in the heart of an earthquake zone, and dozens of minor, unrecorded tremors occur each year. In 1953, a massive earthquake destroyed almost all of the settlements on the island, leaving only Fiskardo in the north untouched.
Important natural features include Melissani Lake, the Drogarati caves, and the Koutavos Lagoon in Argostoli.
The island has a rich biodiversity, with a substantial number of endemic and rare species. Some areas have been declared a site in the European Union’s Natura 2000 network.
Cephalonia has hot, sunny summers and mild rainy winters. During winter it can occasionally snow in the mountains of the island. It is very wet in the wettest month of December when 115 mm of rain can fall. Conversely, it can be very dry in July when usually there is no or little rainfall. Rain in the summer can usually be seen, but the dry air prevents it from being felt as it is evaporated before it reaches the ground.
Tourism to Cephalonia started in the early 19th century. Even the Royal Family of Greece sent their children in the summer months to Lixouri, in the early 20th century, but the island was not discovered by most tourists until the 1980s.
Tourists from all over Greece, Europe and the world visit Cephalonia. It is a popular vacation destination for many Italians, due to its proximity to Italy. As one of the largest islands in Greece, it is well-equipped to handle the influx of tourists during the summertime and it has something to offer to everyone.
Picture from Maria Ananiadou
Two cultural attractions, the picturesque fishing villages of Fiscardo and Assos, and various natural attractions, including Melissani underground lake, Drogarati cave and Myrtos beach, have helped popularize Cephalonia. The film, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001), shot on the island itself, made Cephalonia more widely known.
Picture from Maria-H
Literature and film
The novelists Nikos Kavvadias (1910–1975) and the Swiss Georges Haldas (de) (1917–2010) spent parts of their life on the island. Andreas Laskaratos was a satirical poet and wrote about the society in the town of Lixouri. Lord Byron wrote parts of “Prelude” and “Don Juan” in Livatho. Perhaps the best known appearance of Cephalonia in popular culture is in the novel Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, by the English author Louis de Bernières. The book is believed to have been inspired by the picturesque village of Farsa, just outside Argostoli. The love story comprising the theme of the book is set before and after the Acqui Division massacre, during the Second World War, and the film adaptation was released in 2001.
During filming there was lively debate between the production team, local authorities as well as groups of citizens, as to the complex historical details of the island’s antifascist resistance. As a result, political references were omitted from the film, and the romantic core of the book was preserved, without entering complex debates about the island’s history. In 2005 Ennio Morricone made his film Cefalonia, also about the massacre.