Our house is small and simple with an open floor plan. We started renovating my mother’s house in the late 1990’s, removing the top floor of one whole building in order to create what is now an open, private courtyard. Natural---mostly local---materials have been used throughout: marble, slate, fir, pine, and unglazed ceramic tile. In 1922, Bill’s grandfather moved his young family into this house in Gythio from the tiny village of Marathea so that his children could attend school.
The courtyard is large and private. It overlooks the central part of the village and offers a view of the nearby harbor, which was the main seaport for ancient Sparta. The courtyard is partially shaded by a grape arbor and pomegranate tree and features an outdoor shower and an old sink, hollowed out from one solid piece of marble. Gythio, like many Mediterranean villages, is built up the side of the mountain. Prospective renters should be warned: our house is 45 stairs up from the main street and is not accessible by car. Parking is always available on the street at the bottom of the stairs.
We, the owners, Bill Mantis and Chris Trost, live for most of the year in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA. Our cottage in Gythio is managed by Pierros Thomakos, a long-time friend who oversaw the original reconstruction of our house. The Thomakos family restaurant and wine bar, in the nearby village of Karvelas, serves fresh, local seasonal dishes and sells their own olive oil and wine. Visitors should consider biking to Pierros’ place for lunch, which is approximately 10 km over country roads. Gythio provides bikes free of charge, available upon presentation of your passport.
Gythio (variously spelled Gythion, Gytheio, or Gytheion, or Yithio), located in the heart of Lakonia, is a working port for freight, cruise ships and commercial fishing craft. The town offers a vast array of bakeries and restaurants featuring Greek traditional home-cooking and local foods and wines. There are grills, tavernas, coffee shops and sweets shops, butchers, fish sellers, gift and tourist shops, and hardware stores selling camping and beach gear. Virtually all eateries offer wireless access to the internet, including Yanni’s “Fast Food” at the foot of the stairway leading up to our house. The pedestrian walkway along the waterfront remains active until well after midnight. The farmer's market operates until early afternoon every Friday throughout the summer.
A sandy, public beach lies a few minutes’ walk up the coast. Or Mavrovouni beach lies in the opposite direction, approximately 3 km south. It is popular with windsurfers and with foreign and Greek visitors. It is a long, broad swath of sand with beachside restaurants and campgrounds along its length. Further south are smaller, almost private beaches in Vathi (4 km) and Skoutari (7 km).
In town, you can relax in the amphitheater built by the Romans (the sculpted front row seats are the most comfortable.) or stroll over to “Cranae” Island (where Paris and Helen of Troy eloped) with its tree-shaded public park, a lighthouse, a small museum and a picturesque chapel. You can wander along the paths and stairways that hug the hillside, ending up in Mavromichalis Square for an ouzo and octopus and olives hors d’oeurves. Or make your way up through the pines and cypress to the highest point and the church, Agii Pantes, which overlooks the southern part of town. A few minutes’ walk inland will take you past olive and citrus groves, fig orchards, often with the sound of sheep and goat bells off in the distance. Or there are sparsely populated “ghost” villages within biking distance: Rachi, Diros, Thomianika, and Tsoumianika.
People with access to a vehicle have a vast number of sight-seeing options open to them. To the north is Mystras, once the center of the Byzantine scholarship; the fortified town, its fortress, palace, and monasteries have been collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sparta---both ancient and modern---is located a few km east. The village of Arna is an excellent destination for a mountain hike. The European walking path E4, which follows the Taygetos mountain range, passes just to the west of Arna. An alternative destination for hikers is the spectacular Anakolos Gorge, located further north of Arna and west of the town of Xirokampi.
South of Gythio is the small, tidy town of Areopolis. Further south: the caves of Diros, the fortified towers of Vatheia, and deserted landscapes; where an owl gazes from a silent stone tower, a goat munches olives from a low-hanging branch, a donkey slowly approaches to see if you’re bringing him a carrot. Along the east coast of the peninsula, scenic villages perch on hillsides, overlooking the sea below.
The easternmost “finger” of the Peloponnesos is equally inviting. Lovingly restored homes in Monemvasia, the white sand beaches on Elafonesos. Everything within easy driving distance from Gythio.
For more photos of Gythio and sights nearby, check out the links provided in the 'Manager Info' tab.