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Myth, imperial luxury and plain natural beauty. The imperial villa of the sad emperess «Sissy» is the emblem of a whole era.
Entering the yard, in front of the imposing building and the garden with several statues, close youw eyes and imagine the view of Elisabeth Emperess of Austria (known as Sissy), when she first came to this place, in the summer of 1861. On the slope of agreen hill, with stunning view over the Chalikiopoulos lagoon, Kanoni, Pontikonissi and mount Pantokratoras, the estate around the Achilleion offers a unique sense of peace– even in the summer, when it is overwhelmed by visitors. This is the peace that sought the empress when, suffering of depression, she visited again her beloved island in 1889 and bought the area from the scholar and politician Petros Vrailas -Armenis.
Here she withdrew from her former cosmopolitan lifestyle, to build a villa which pointed out her love for the ancient Greek intellect. Pillars, balconies, gables, statues and frescoes make up animposing image , in a Pompeian mansion, designed by the Italian architects Raphael Carittoand Antonio Landi , in impressive gardens orned with masterpieces either ordered or broughtfrom the Borghese villa in Rome. Until her assasination in 1898 in Vienna, by an Italian anarchist, the Greek-lover empress, would spend several summers here, learning Greek and reading Goethe, Shakespeare and Homer.
The palace was devoted to Achilles, the hero who represented to the empress the Greek soul and beauty of the locals. Entering the palace, all eyes are impressed by the wonderful roof fresco, by the Italian painter Galoppi, which symbolically depicts the Four Seasons and the Horae. In the background, a majestic marble staircase (to the first floor, which cannot be visited, for the time being), with statues of Zeus and Hera at the bottom – is anotherdistinctive item of the wealth and profusion of the palace.
The fireplace by black Italian marble with the small statues ofAthena and Hebe and the dorated clock, the portrait of Elisabeth and the « chapel » with the icon of the Virgin Mary , where the empress used to pray, are but a few of the highlights of the main hall.
Still at the ground floor, we enter a room devoted to the next owner of the Achilleion, emperor (Keizer) of Germany William II, who bought it in 1908 and spend his hilidays here until 1914. In the room of the Keizer, we can still see the emperor's office, his chair, at the shape of a seddle and the porcelain fireplace, as well as several documents, medals, portraits and photographs.
At the yard , gods and heroes continue to accompany us as we go up the small staircase with the marble statues of Appolo, Hermes , Artemis and Aphrodite , which leads to the Muses' Peristyle (at the back of the palace, outdoors, first floor). A set of Ionic pillars, painted in bright colours, creates a small arch. At the end of the Muses' Peristyle, you will meet a crowd of people trying to see, through the glass window, the famous oil painting of the Austrian Frantz Mats « Achillles' Triumph » or « Triumphant Achilles » (entrance to the hall is prohibited). The huge painting (4Χ10 m.), overtaking an entire wall, is considered to be the most artistically important artpiece of the Achillleion.
Going down the stairs from the Muses' Peristyle, , we see two of the most famous statues of the palace–, representations of Achilles , – which dominate in the garden: the lyrical marble « Dying Achillles » by Ernst Gustav Herter (Sissy's favorite statue and the emblem of the Achilleion) and the bronze « Victorious Achilles » by Goetz, installed by Wilhelm II. It's up to you to decide whichstatue you like best and move to the edge of the garden, where romantic couples take photos with the Pontikonissi in the background.
Opening hours: 08:00-19:00. Saturday, Sunday. 08:00-14.30.
History:The Achilleion property was originally owned by Corfiote philosopher and diplomat Petros Vrailas Armenis and it was known as "Villa Vraila". In 1888 the Empress of Austria after visiting the place decided that it was the ideal location for her to build her palace in Corfu.The palace was designed by Italian architect Raffaele Caritto and built on a 200,000 m2 area. Elizabeth's husband, emperor Josef of Austria, had owned some nearby land as well. Ernst Herter, a famous German sculptor, was commissioned to create works inspired from Greek mythology. His famous sculpture Dying Achilles (Ancient Greek: Αχιλλεύς θνήσκων), created in Berlin in 1884 as inscribed in the statue, forms the centrepiece of the Achilleion Gardens. The palace, with the classic Greek statues that surround it, is a monument to platonic romanticism as well as escapism and was, naturally, named after Achilles: Achilleion. The Triumph of Achilles by Franz Matsch. Achilles is seen dragging Hector's lifeless body in front of the Gates of Troy. (From a panoramic fresco on the upper level of the main hall) The place abounds with paintings and statues of Achilles, both in the main hall and in the lavish gardens depicting the heroic and tragic scenes of the Trojan war. The architectural style is Pompeian and has many parallels to that of the Russian imperial residence in Crimea. The Imperial gardens on top of the hill provide a majestic view of the surrounding green hill crests and valleys as the Ionian sea gleams in the background. Elisabeth used to visit the place often until 1898 when she was assassinated in Geneva by Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni.