The declared archeological site of Alalkomenes is located on the hill of Aetos, in the narrow isthmus that connects the two parts of the island. The location of the city is of strategic importance: to the north and south of it there are two natural harbors, while from the top of the hill, where the citadel is located, the canal between Ithaca and Kefalonia is visually controlled, as well as the horizon between Ithaca and Acarnania.
The ancient city on the hill of Aetos has been known since the beginning of the 19th century, through the descriptions of foreign travelers. Henry Schliemann made his first excavation on Aetos Hill. From these first researches, bronze coins in the form of Odysseus and the inscription ITHACA came to light.
The city's building remains are numerous and cover the entire eastern slope of the hill. The city is surrounded by walls, which in some places are kept at an impressive height.
In the saddle of the hill, where the provincial road is today, the British Archaeological School excavated a sanctuary in the 1930s, which is identified with the sanctuary of Apollo. The findings were rich and date from the Protogeometric (10th century BC) to the Hellenistic Age (3rd century BC? Early 2nd century BC).
The findings of the excavations are on display at Vathi Museum.
Homer's School- Agios Athanasios
In Northern Ithaca, on the eastern slopes of the mountain of Exoghi, stands the archaeological site of ‘St Athanasios- School of Homer’. Remains of buildings had been visible for centuries and sporadic research had been undertaken by Greek and foreign archaeologists.The complex is built on two ‘terraces’ or andira 5 that are joined by two staircases sculptured into the rock. On the bottom terrace, a large, three-sectioned, rectangular structure was found, having the dimensions 21.50 x 11.50 meters. It resembled similar structures of Mycenaean palaces in Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos. To the west of the three-sectioned building, among other things, a large rectangular building with a subterranean storeroom for foodstuffs was discovered. Prehistoric buildings such as storerooms, baths, workshops of metal and supplementary rooms were discovered on the upper terrace.The building complex is surrounded by cyclopean walls of defence 6 that have four gates. The primary (Southern) gate is bordered by a carefully built wall and its frame consists of large, wrought, square rocks. A prehistoric well was discovered near this gate.Eastwards, and at a small distance from the building complex, there is an underground spring that serves to provide water to the inhabitants of the acropolis in times of siege and enemy attacks. The spring dates back to the Mycenaean period (1300-1200 BC.) East of the subterranean spring, a large cyclical, prehistoric building with a stepped entranced was investigated. The efforts to remove the sand deposits yielded various finds. Among these, the large number of clay plates are of special interest. One of these has engraved scenes of the Odyssey- like the depiction of a ship with a man sitting, tied to the mast, monster-like, mythical forms (birds with a woman’s face, a human form with the head, tail and legs of a pig etc.) The site of St Athanasios- School of Homer is of strategic importance. The acropolis, from its defensive stronghold and vantage-point on the slopes of the mountain of Exoghi, towers over the fertile and well-hydrated basin of Northern Ithaca. Due to its position on the Pilikata Hill, it has direct view, access to and surveillance over three harbours: that of Afales to the North, Polis to the South-west and Frikes to the East. In August of 2010, the professor of Prehistoric Archaeology and member of the excavating team, Thanasis Papadopoulos, identified the acropolis of the site ‘St Athanasios- School of Homer’ as the palace of Odysseus, stating that, “according to the facts as they are presented today, movable or immovable, that are of great significance, with every scientific reservation, we believe that we stand before the palace structure of Odysseus and Penelope, the only palace of the Homeric Epics that has yet to be uncovered”. 9 The official publication of the results of the excavations is awaited.
The archaeological site is not open to visits until the necessary works of restoration and preservation on the newly-discovered monuments have been accomplished
Near Stavros in Pelikata, the city of Odysseus is located, according to the Homeric description, that it was located at a point overlooking three seas and was surrounded by three mountains. Here is the archeological museum of Stavros where exhibits of the Mycenaean and Corinthian periods are exhibited.
The findings in the 1930s of the British School of Archaeology showed that there was continuous human settlement on the site between the years 3000 B.C. and the 12th century B.C., or to the end of the Mycenaean period. This group concluded that what was the centre of Odysseus’ kingdom was close to what is now the city of Stavros.
Archaeologists have uncovered a wall that encircled the settlement and from remnants found close by we have deduced that it is Mycenaean. At the top of Pilikata hill there are remains of stone walls and a short stone walkway or path. But, one of the most significant discoveries on this site was a cache of large clay vessels buried under the stone floors of the inside of pre-Hellenistic dwellings.
Archaeologists, having found evidence of life here between 3000-2500 B.C., now believe that there had been a walled pre-Hellenistic settlement on this site. Ithaca is thus known to have been one of the very few pre-Hellenistic settlements on Greek soil and its importance in the cultural, historical development of Western Greece is self-evident. The findings and discoveries in Ithaca place the start of its history as far back as 1500 years before the times referenced in the Odyssey. 2
In the considered opinion of W.A. Heurtley, Odysseus’ palace was to be found on Pilikata hill. However, the site is not easy to access so it is necessary to find a guide who can show you the remains of the ancient walls and the fossilised bones in what was a cemetery. Findings from this site are exhibited in the Archaeological Collection of Stavros.
The Nymphs' Cave (Marmarospilia)
Odysseus hid the gifts from Alcinous, King of the Phaeacians, in the cave of the Nymphs when he returned to Ithaca. That is believed to be Marmarospilia a cave which lies above the seashore of Dexia because its shape is consistent with the description in Book 13 of the Odyssey. 1
Archaeologist Sarantis Symeonoglou, Professor at Saint Louis University, conducted excavations in Marmarospilia from 1998 to 2001. Much of the cave floor was covered by piles of boulders, a possible indication that the cave was destroyed by an earthquake in 373 BC. The findings are figurines of Nymphs and their partner Pan, pots with dedicatory inscriptions and two rings that perhaps belonged to young priestesses.
The excavation continued in the space below the floor of the hitherto known cave and a second cave of the same size but even deeper than the first one was exposed. The excavation reached a depth of 36 m. from the ceiling of the cave.The cave is not currently accessible as restoration and maintenance work is being carried out.
Outside Stavros village, in the northern part of Ithaca, is the bay of Polis, where the homonymous beach is located. In the northern side of the bay you will find the cave of Loizos, which took its name from Loizos, who accidentally found in the cave.
The cave was a center of worship from the early Helladic period until the 1st century AD. as evidenced by the finds that include statues of godesses, such as Artemis, Athena and Hera. Although the cave was looted in the early 19th century, later excavations brought to light an ancient temple, vessels, various tributes to the Nymphs and Odysseus. Most of these finds are now housed in the Museum of the Cross.
One of the most important finds of the cave is a piece of clay female mask of the 2nd century BC. century with the inscription "EYXHN ODYSSEI", an elephant statuette which probably represents Odysseus tied to the mast of a ship as well as twelve bronze tripod amphorae that are said to be the gifts of the Phaeacians to Odysseus as mentioned by Homer.
Palaiochora, which is deserted today, was one of the three first settlements of Ithaca and is mentioned along with Anogi and Exogi from 1548 (the period of Venetian rule of Ithaca).
Palaiochora was the old capital of Ithaca before it was moved to seaside Vathy. At the first fork in the road, at the entrance to a farm, take the road on the left (the road on the right leads to a small church) and after about a 10 minute walk, on an almost horizontal dirt road, you will see the church of St. John the Theologian with its stone bell tower and wonderful religious paintings. You are now at the first ridge of Palaiochora and the view of Perahori, Vathy, the surrounding coves, and high up toward Petaliatiko mountain is fantastic.
Vathi Archeological Museum
This museum hosts exhibits collected from the southern part of the island in the main hall with only a few items from the north. The museum was built in 1960 in the distinctive architectural style of that era.
Visitors to the museum are able to view findings from the Mycenaean through to the Roman period in the building which has, in addition to its reception area, three other chambers.
In the first hall the museum displays clay pots that date from the pre-geometric and geometric periods (1000-700 B.C.) The second hall is home to exhibits of findings from the 7th century B.C., which include clay pots made locally as well as from overseas.The final, third chamber displays exhibits which are from different periods and locations.
Stavros Archaeological Museum
This collection, made up of findings from the Stavros area, is housed in a small, one room building on Pilikata hill which was built in the 1930s. The exhibits here date from the early Bronze Age (3000 B.C.) through to the Roman Age. They have been sourced from four sites: Pilikata hill, Stavros village, Loizos’ cave and Treis Lagkades.
the most impressive and significant exhibit has to be the fragments of the bronze geometric tripod with its elaborate decoration. There is also the piece of a Hellenistic mask upon which is engraved ‘EYXHN ODYSSEI’ or ‘“Pray to Odysseus”.
This reference to Odysseus is evidence that this particular cave was a place of worship to the King Odysseus and, by extension, so was the whole of Ithaca. The fragments from the bronze tripod reference directly to the passage in Homer’s Odyssey, where the Phaeacians gave a gift of thirteen such bronze tripods to Odysseus. (The Odyssey v.14,v.135-6,v.217-8 and Θ110-117).
Ithaca's Folklore and Nautical Museum
The museum is located in Vathi & first opened to the public in 1997 with a rich and varied collection of exhibits, donated by Ithacans, with the purpose of preserving the island’s cultural heritage.
The ground floor hosts an exhibition of artefacts highlighting the centuries old nautical tradition of Ithaca: paintings and photographs of Ithacan-owned merchant ships, nautical instruments, naval uniforms, documents and manuscripts from the Stathatos School of Merchant Marine and Nautical education. In addition, a visitor can view original work tools used in the exercise of a variety of occupations; examples of ecclesiastical artwork; samples of local costumes and of agricultural tools, musical instruments and of embroidery.
Anogi Folklore Museum and Geopark center
Located in the center of Anogi Village in Anogi cultural center. There are few exhibits of local traditional life such as nautical instruments & documents, agricultural tools and articrafts, donated by Ithacans, with the purpose of preserving the island’s cultural heritage.
The center of Geopark of Ithaca is placed there with technological equipment that guests can use to learn all information about nature and culture of the island.
Facing the entrance of the habor, the imposing statue of Odysseus dipicts the myhtical hero in two forms.
In an upright, young, haughty, gazing at the sea that deceived and enchanted him. In the other form, he is bent over, squatting, with the paddle of his boat in his hands, taming the waves, with the sole purpose of returning to his sweet homeland Ithaca!
The unveiling of the statue took place in August 2011, it was created by the Ithaca sculptor Korina Cassianou and it is located on the waterfront of the main square in Vathi.
Stathis Raftopoulos outdoor artworks
Towards Kolieri or Kalamos of North Ithaca you will find another of the sights in Ithaca. This is the open-air Museum of Statues. Some are copies of antiquities, created there by the Stathis Raftopoulos and have come from faraway Australia.
Menirs of Ithaca
In the area of the village of Anogi there are scattered huge boulders called "menir". Araklis is the most important and curious of these strangely shaped stone masses. This huge monolith that is located just below the houses of the village has a height of 9m and rests on a wider rock that is its pedestal. Its shape is roughly spindle-shaped with its surfaces, east and west pressed. Corrosive grooves are observed in the rock, especially on the northern surface and upwards it ends at a sharp peak. This strange rock presents such regularity that at first glance one thinks that it is an artificially processed stone, about an obelisk, made by human hand and not about a natural rock that took that strange form from disintegration. Another notable boulder is the one called Kavellaris (because it looks like a horseman).
In Ithaca, on the north side of the entrance of the bay of Vatheos, above Loutsa beach, there are two cannons. These cannons seem - at first glance - to be placed on makeshift bases, but in reality it is a small bastion (or what is left of it). The bastion was part of a fort built by the French between 1807 and 1815 when the Ionian Islands were under French control. The cannons, however, are Venetian and have existed since ancient times on the island, perhaps in a different location.
The bastion is strategically located with a very good view of the mouth of the bay and the wider sea area.
Both cannons are made of iron. One is made in Venice. The emblem of the Most Peaceful Republic of Venice can be seen worn (the lion - photo 5). The other cannon is of English manufacture and origin with the emblem of the Tudors (the rose).
It is certain that the cannons were placed in Vathi after the end of the 7th Venetian-Turkish war (1714-1718) when the Venetians were defeated and forced to leave Moria permanently. By the end of that war, the Venetians had decommissioned 10 of their warships (because it was too expensive to keep all the warships and their crews in operation, and many of them were half-destroyed.)
Kalamos water spring
A little beyond the palace of Odysseus (Agios Athanasios) is the great spring of "Kalamos" .This clear, fresh water spring has been running for thousands of years and has quenched the thirst of thousands including that of Lord Byron, Heinrich Schliemann, Queen Frederica, Aristotle Onassis and Jackie Kennedy.