Gouvia – A Crucial Naval Base!

Gouvia, a fishing village with a population of roughly 1000 people and a rich history, is only 8 kilometers from Corfu Town. Gouvia is a new resort with a strong maritime theme that pays homage to the area’s lengthy sailing history. It’s a natural harbor that sailors have traditionally regarded as the Adriatic Sea’s entry point. Today, it is a popular tourist site that has been well-integrated into the natural surroundings.

Small, generally narrow beaches with a combination of sand and stones sloping into shallow seas line Gouvia Bay. Standing on Gouvia’s pebble beach, one can see the low hills and high mountains of both Albania and Greece’s mainland on the horizon. Gouvia’s beach is modest, but it’s packed with tourist attractions including providers of water sports, boat cruises, and the ability to rent beach umbrellas and deck chairs.

A wonderful view of the bay and the tiny chapel of Ipapandi may also be had from the beach. Candlemas, the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, is commemorated in the little church of Ipapandi. Ipapandi’s church lies on a small island attached to the Kommeno peninsula, a green cape with a scattering of luxury hotels and villas. Daniel Kombitsi, the son of a Cretan noble family who moved to Corfu in 1669 when the Turks conquered Candia in Crete, erected the church in 1713 during Venetian rule. The 60-meter-long thin piece of land that connects the church to the mainland is perfect for wedding ceremonies and baptisms due to the grandeur of the surroundings. Every year on February 2nd, the residents of Gouvia used to cross the bay in their fishing boats to celebrate the feast of the small church.

One of the most complex infrastructures marinas in the Mediterranean can be found at Gouvia Bay, namely Gouvia Marina. For many years, it served as a natural harbor in Gouvia Bay and was regarded as a natural link between the Adriatic and the Mediterranean. Gouvia Marina, Greece’s first privately owned marina, is a state-of-the-art facility with a variety of amenities. Gouvia’s marina can handle 1200 boats on the jetties and 500 vessels on the ground. The marina includes a big hub building of around 3,500 square meters, designed in the classic Corfu style. Shops, restaurants, bars and cafés, a refueling station, and a laundromat are among the amenities.
Gouvia’s marina provides a comprehensive variety of services for both sailing and motorboats. All year long, the yachts are maintained, watered and repaired on the reefs. Carpentry and electrical work is also available.

Since the Venetians first established a naval base and shipyard in the region, Gouvia has been utilized as an anchorage. There are remains of a 17th-century Venetian shipyard located just off the marina. Venice exploited Gouvia Bay as a port and erected an arsenal near the coast.
Three arched docks at the Venetian shipyard in Corfu were used to service their two fleets that were stationed in Corfu. Only the roof is missing from the arsenal’s columns, walls, and arches. The year 1778 – the year it was built – is engraved on the cornerstone of the gate in the entry yard.

On August 29, 1537, the Ottoman army under Hayreddin Barbarossa disembarked for the first time at Gouvia. After destroying the center portion of the island, the Ottomans continued in the town and tried unsuccessfully to besiege the Old Fortress. The harbor could hold 25 galleys in the late 16th century. When the Ottomans stormed Corfu for the second time in 1716, they landed in the same spot. The Venetians chose to reinforce the position after defeating the invasion. Following the Ottomans’ second great siege of Corfu in 1716, the Venetians built the arsenal to serve their ships that utilized the bay as a port as part of their reinforcing of the defenses of Corfu. Aside from its strategic significance, the site was close to a wooded region with high-quality wood for ship repairs.

The Gouvia shipyard was part of a Venetian network of arsenals and naval stations in Greece and Venice. During the winter, once each fleet had returned from their yearly campaign during peacetime, the arsenal at Gouvia was meant to be utilized for ship repairs. The possibility of an arsenal in close proximity to Venice, which might potentially compete with the major arsenal in Venice, terrified the Venetian Senate. The Senate confined the repair efforts at Corfu to simple maintenance such as washing and caulking in order to maintain the latter’s privileges. Instead of repairing their damaged ships at the arsenal, several captains preferred to sink them.

The number of ships that served the area decreased over time. On October 18, 1798, the Treaty of Campo Formio officially ended the Republic of Venice and Venetian control over Corfu, putting an end to more than 400 years of Venetian dominion. During the Siege of Corfu in 1798, Admiral Ushakov landed his forces at the arsenal site and established a military camp there where they erected guns that fired on the island’s fortresses. The last time a naval ship utilized the bay of Gouvia was in 1814 when a British corvette docked in its waters. In 1917 and 1918, the armory also served as a base for the French.

The Serbian monument on the beach of Gouvia is composed of granite and bears an inscription in Serbian, Greek, and French. The Serbian allied force disembarked at this port on the island of Corfu from January 6 to April 5, 1916, passing through Albania. During the First World War, the Serbian navy was exiled to Corfu, and this monument was constructed by the Serbians to commemorate the ship’s disembarkation at this location. A large bay leaf crown is placed atop this monument by Serbian visitors every year in May and September by coachloads of the country’s citizens.

The French established a center for French Naval Aviation (Aviation Maritime) at Corfu in the spring of 1916, when the first seaplanes arrived on the island. The French developed one of the largest military seaplane stations in the Gouvia sea area. Because the bay was unaffected by the winds, it was suitable for the construction of such a base. An Air France seaplane facility was established in Gouvia in 1935. The base was decommissioned in 1940. It was used as a refueling station for Air France seaplanes flying from France to destinations in Indochina. A large, shed belonging to the Air France seaplane facility formerly stood where you can currently find a football field.

The main road that goes through Gouvia is lined with many different types of stores, including supermarkets and souvenir shops. There are plenty of lively bars and restaurants to choose from. Traditional Greek taverns and restaurants, as well as Italian, Mexican, Chinese, and Indian establishments, line this street. There are several cafeterias serving ice coffee and wonderful ice cream. You can find a variety of family hotels and apartments in Gouvia.

The All-Saints Church of Agion Panton, completed in 1958 and located on the village’s main road, is a prominent landmark. The building of the church was finished in just over six years. Gouvia’s main school and the village’s kindergarten are located next to the church. The school’s yard is actually the church’s garden. A pavilion sits in the midst of the garden, and during the Resurrection celebrations, the locals congregate around it to listen to the priest chant “The Risen Christ” while spectacular fireworks light up the night sky over Gouvia. A Panigiri is held in the church’s garden and in the streets of Gouvia 56 days after Greek Orthodox Easter Sunday. Panigiri is a centuries-old celebration held mostly in the villages honoring the patron saint of the area. It takes place throughout the summer months. The celebration features live Greek music, grilled souvlaki, and local wine, as well as dancing and singing until the early hours till the sun comes up. You can easily reach Gouvia from Corfu town after a short drive north. Public buses are also a reliable mode of transportation, with regular bus service.