The neighborhood of Mantouki is one of the most traditional suburbs of Corfu town and one of the most historic neighborhoods of the island, as most of its houses were built in the 17th and 18th centuries in the traditional Venetian architecture. The first evidence for the seaside suburb begins to appear in the early 16th century. Its first inhabitants were locals from the countryside. Mantouki is located between the Virgin Mary Platytera Monastery, close to the town, and Corfu’s new port.
As Mantouki is close to the sea, its inhabitants were the first to be attacked by the pirates and enemies that threatened Corfu. It was destroyed in 1537 by the chief of the Ottoman fleet, Hajreddin Barbarossa.
The seaside area was mostly built in the 17th century with a large residential development. During this time, five churches were built in the community, which now serve as landmarks for the settlement’s limits. Mantouki is thought to have had at least eleven churches. Some of them are still standing today, while others have been destroyed.
In 1797 the Ionian Islands were occupied by the French troops. In the summer of 1798, the French, fearing the Russian-Turkish alliance, ordered the local population to surrender its weapons. The inhabitants of Mantouki refused and clashed with the French garrison. After Mantouki got surrounded by the French ships, the inhabitants fled to the monastery of Platytera for protection. Finally, the French raided the monastery, arrested the abbot and the monks, looted the monastery, and set it on fire.
In the 18th century Mantouki was divided into three areas. The first was Karteria, which was established near the city to shelter 4000 refugees fleeing Parga, a seaside settlement on mainland Greece opposite Corfu. The second area was called Vogglis after the Vogglis family that supplied with the industry with coal, while the third area was known as Alyades, after the fishermen who lived there. The name Alyades comes from the Greek word “alyis”, which means “fishermen”.
Mantoukis’ inhabitants were either fishermen, sailors, or harbor workers. Until the 1960s there were shipyards along the entire length of the coast of Mantouki. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Mantouki played a crucial role in the economic development of Corfu, and it was the island’s densest industrial zone, as well as one of Greece’s most economically successful towns.
The first factories appeared in Mantouki towards the end of the nineteenth century. Most of Corfu’s industrial units were constructed near the port to make product transportation easier. A gas-lit factory, wheat factories, potteries, an olive oil factory, wax processing factories, and a soap factory all operated in Mantouki starting in the 19th century.
Later, the growth of Athens as a major manufacturing location gradually brought about the collapse of provincial industrial activity. In 1936, there were thirty small and big industrial firms that employed workers in Corfu. From the industrial past of Corfu only a few complexes remain today, and two of them have been declared as “historical preservable monuments”. One is the historic olive oil factory (AEBEK) in Mantouki, which was established in 1924 and was operating until the 1980s.
The main work at the olive oil mill was the discoloration and refining of olive oil, as well as the production of olive pomace oils and soaps. On September 14, 1943, the Nazis bombed Corfu town with incendiary bombs, which also targeted Mantouki, destroying numerous key structures.
Today, all of Mantoukis’ industries are ceased, and several structures have been demolished. In the 1960s, Mantoukis’ shoreline was embanked and expanded for the construction of the new port and modern residential complexes started to be developed there. In 1985, the construction of the cruise ship pier took place. In 2000, a new passenger terminal was opened.
A narrow central road runs through Mantouki. In the past, you could find many shops, taverns, and fishing-related activities on this main street. Today, it is one of the most picturesque places of the area, which is due to the many historic homes that line it.
Mantouki, despite its modernization, and apart from the old, ruined factories, still retains its traditional spirit in its picturesque narrow streets, where time left intact certain corners of the neighborhood.
There are small colorful houses with flower-filled gardens. Some of them are abandoned, others are still inhabited, while many have been restored and look like exquisite “dollhouses,” many of which are leased out for short periods of time by tourists to the island.
Today, in Mantouki there are the facilities of the island’s new port, where ferries from mainland Greece, Italy, and Albania arrive. During the high season, a large number of cruise ships visit the island, bringing thousands of tourists every day.
Many hotels, restaurants, and cafeterias are located around the harbor. This neighborhood has a lot of fantastic places to dine and drink, particularly in the evening. Not far away is an area with a variety of nightclubs that are always packed on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the year.