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Nafplio, the capital of Argolida Province, stretches along the west coasts of Argolikos bay and is 145km far from Athens. The town’s trademark is the castle at the port’s entrance. Bourtzi is a Venetian fortress that stands on a small stone piece of land. Its original name was Castello dello Soglio and was constructed by the Italian engineer Antonio Gambello, in 1473 on the island that was known as the ‘islet of St Theodori’.

Short History

In the 1st Venetian occupation, the governor of the town Pasqualigo ordered Cambello to fortify the island. The fortress was designed to fit the shape of the island and the 6m high rock was the perfect base for the construction. The fortress is composed by the central Tower, in the shape of a rough hexagon, with two covered cannon positions. The canons defended the town from sea and the pirates’ invasions. The big cannon position was located at the west and was composed of 7 arched rooms with a small cistern at the east tip. The second cannon position was smaller and consisted of 5 arched rooms in semi-circular order.

Externally the castle was surrounded by a wall made of limestone blocks. Internally it was divided into three roofs that were connected with movable stairs. The light and the air in every place inside the castle entered through openings on the roof. There were two entrances in the castle; the one in its northern tip and the other in its northeastern tip.

During the 2nd Venetian Occupation (1686-1715) the Venetians enhanced the fortification with minor projects, the most important of which were the elevation of the central Tower and the area’s filling with sea foundations upon columns.

During the Greek War for Independence and after two sieges the fortress was delivered to Greeks on June 18th, 1822. Bourtzi was a spot of high strategic value during the sieges. The Greeks were bombing with the cannons against Palamidi and Akronafplia (known as Its Kale). It constituted a shelter for the Greek government twice in 1826 when the rebelled people were mixed in a civil war.

It operated as a fortress until 1865 whereas much later in the period 1829-1830 it was used as a prison. From 1833 Bourtzi was the residency of the hangmen who worked in Palamidi prisons. Most of the hangmen were convicts and the locals did not want to co-exist with them due to their cruel occupation. In fact they were allowed to get out of the castle only when they had to perform an execution always on policemen’ escort.

During the ‘30s the German architect Schaeffer planed the fortress’ conversion into a hotel but the alterations changed significantly the monument’s character. In 1941 (World War II) the port in Nafplio was bombarded and consequently the castle suffered severe damage. It was restored in 1950 to operate as a hotel for the first time that hosted great, distinguished personalities. In 1992 it operated as a multi-purposed facility, a restaurant was added and the court yard was restored.

Occasionally many proposals have been made for the castle’s exploitation that included the construction of a casino or a hotel.

How to reach Nafplio

You can reach Nafplio through Argos, driving on the National motorway Athens-Tripoli and on Nemea interchange junction continue towards the road Nemea-Argos.

How to reach Bourtzi

You can reach Bourtzi with a taxi-boat from the port in Nafplio. You will cover a destination of about 10minutes on a 4€ ticket.


During the summer period many music concerts and cultural events are organized on the small Venetian castle by Greek and International performers.


© photo
© photo