Written by Missy Johnston

Assos village in Kefalonia, Greece (

Assos Village in Kefalonia, Greece

With a history of wars, pirate raids, various conquests by invading forces, and even an earthquake, the island of Kefalonia has had a tumultuous past. These conflicts and struggles have resulted in a modern-day melting pot of cultures, which is apparent in the arts, music, and architecture on the island today.

This is an island with a very interesting past, but also a lively present that can be experienced when visiting Kefalonia on an Ionian Islands private yacht cruise.

The Origins of Kefalonia

Assos beach in Kefalonia, Greece

Assos beach in Kefalonia, Greece

During the Paleolithic Era, Kefalonia was known as Tetropolis, which translates to “Four Towns.” Local history has it that the first king during this period was named Kephalos, and it was from him that the island got its modern name. His four sons—Sami, Pronnoi, Krani, and Pahli—were the inspiration for the names of the four cities founded during Kephalos’s reign.

The Persian and Peloponnesian Wars may have been the first times Kefalonia went to battle, but they wouldn’t be the last. In fact, the location of Kefalonia was so integral to ancient battles that the Romans used it as a naval station and as a defense against pirates.

After the 4th century AD, pirate raids worsened which kept the Kefalonia naval station active. By the 11th century, however, the island’s greatest threat was once again invaders looking to conquer and capture the island. A sampling of the nations and empires that ruled Kefalonia at some point during this period includes the Romans, the Normans, the Orsinis, the Andeans, the Toccans, the Turks, the Venetians, the Spanish, the French, and the English.

Finally, in 1864, Kefalonia joined the rest of the Ionian Islands as territories under the control of Greece. However, that didn’t stop the German-allied Italian forces from invading and staying on Kefalonia during World War II.

Kefalonia In Modern Times

village in Kefalonia, Greece

Village in Kefalonia, Greece

The island’s modern culture is influenced by the variety of different civilizations that have occupied it over the centuries.

Sadly, most of the island’s villages were completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1953, but vacationers today on a Greece luxury yacht charter are still treated to many remnants of the past in the forms of literature, music, theater, and dance. Locals have also carefully restored many buildings to their former architectural glory.

When in Lixouri, keep an ear out for a traditional “Arietta,” sung by fishermen in the village. These songs are a cappella arrangements sung by trios or quartets and are a lovely reminder of the musical traditions still alive and well in Kefalonia.

Many festivals and traditional dances also promise immersion in local culture. If enjoying a traditional Kefalonian dance sounds appealing, seek out one of the local dance groups and enjoy their lively productions. It is easy to see the busy history in architectural remnants still seen in the landscape on the island while enjoying modern village life which is ongoing with a distinctive character that is only found on Kefalonia.