Kalamata is a modern city with a very long history. Homer says that Pharae – Kalamata’s ancient name – was one of the seven cities Agamemnon offered to Achilles to assuage his anger during the siege of Troy.
The first reference to the town under its current name appears during the 10th century AD, in the Byzantine era, and Kalamata’s importance grew after the Fourth Crusade (1204 AD) and the Latin conquest of much of the Peloponnese. After the Franks controlled the town, the Turks occupied Kalamata in 1459. In subsequent years the Venetians and the Turks alternated in ruling the city, with the Turks conquering it in 1715 and holding it until the Greek War of Independence.
Kalamata’s proud mayor, Athanasios P. Vasilopoulos, told The National Herald that
Kalamata was the first town to be liberated during the War of Independence against the Turkish Occupation, and called it the most important fact in Kalamata’s history.
“On March 23, 1821, after forcing the Turks to surrender, the Greek forces met in Aghi Apostoli (Holy Apostles) church (built around the 12th century), where priests blessed the revolutionary flags, and the first revolutionary government of liberated Greece, the Messinian Senate, sent the text titled, ‘Warning to European Royal Courts from Kalamata,’ explaining the purposes of the uprising. In a second document, the ‘Proclamation to the American Nation,’ the Messinian Senate called for the assistance of the Americans. Both documents were broadly inspired by the values of the Enlightenment, which reflected Ancient Greek values,” he said.
Asked about the city he now governs, Mayor Vasilopoulos said, “today, Kalamata is a city with a well-designed city plan and infrastructure, fine old buildings, and effective waste and sewage management. It is an attractive city for someone to live in or visit. The Natural environment is beautiful and the sea is crystal clear. Kalamata is also a service industry center and is becoming the center of economic activity of the southern Peloponnese. The agricultural sector is strong and tourism is growing dynamically.”
The word ‘Kalamata’ is perhaps most familiar due to its renowned olives. “Kalamata has lent its name to a variety of table olives (a Protected Designation of Origin product according to European Union standards), which possess a high content of oleuropein, a substance that contributes significantly to maintaining good health. Kalamata PDO extra virgin olive oil has a well-balanced sensory profile. Extra virgin olive oil is not just tasty. It is noted that the United States FDA and the European Union both accept extra virgin olive oil’s significance as a cardiovascular protective factor. One can find those products easily in the United States. Choosing them for one’s nutrition is a healthy investment.”
Asked if gastronomy is one of the strong points of Kalamata, the mayor replied, “this is absolutely correct. The Kalamata-based diet is in fact a Mediterranean-style diet. Our visitors can find out more in our traditional tavernas and fancy restaurants.
I have to point that the diet is just a ‘pretext’ for acquiring necessary ingredients of food for a long and healthy life, and I note that recent scientific research has proved that our extra virgin olive oil is particularly rich in oleacin and oleocanthal, which belong to the greater family of polyphenols. Oleacin is an anti-inflammatory and neuro-protective chemical substance and oleocanthal is the most powerful anti-oxidant substance in olive oil. Scientists now say what our fathers and mothers have known for centuries: extra virgin olive oil is, truly, a medicine, not just a food. And it has also a great taste and aroma.”
In addition to Kalamata’s delicious food, Vasilopoulos stressed two points for potential visitors.
“Kalamata is a beautiful and safe city. Its climate is mild and one can swim for 10 months a year in its crystal clear sea. Guests can walk on a single 5 km pedestrian walkway from the castle to the beach. Also, within half an hour, people can enjoy beautiful Mount Taygetos, with an altitude of 1,400 meters. They have the opportunity to walk around the Historic Centre, but also to stroll through the city squares, visit its churches and historic monasteries, as well as its museums, to which the brilliant Museum of Traditional Greek Costumes has recently been added. It was established by the Lyceum Club of Greek Women in a building provided by the Municipality of Kalamata and it is comparable to the best in the world.”
Nightlife is another vibrant aspect of Kalamata and its suburbs. Bars and cozy little tavernas are open in the Historic Center during the winter months, while during the summer nightlife shifts towards the clubs and the beach bars located by the sea.
“The nightclubs of neighboring Verga, with their incredible sea and city views, are ideal places for a special evening out,” Vasilopoulos said.
“Kalamata is also a city of culture. The Municipality of Kalamata organizes major cultural events: each year, the International Dance Festival is dedicated to modern dance, and every two years the Kalamata International Choir Competition and Festival is organized in cooperation with Interkultur. Various cultural events are also held very often throughout the year. Visitors can also stay in Kalamata and take excursions to ancient sites like Messini, Pylos, and the great sites of Mycenaean civilization located nearby. Koroni and Methoni, with their medieval castles, are beloved sites, and there is the always unconquerable Mani region with its towers, and fascinating Byzantine site of Mystras.”
The mayor reiterated that, “Kalamata is the economic, commercial and cultural center of southern the Peloponnese,” and he concluded with a heartfelt invitation: A visit to Kalamata will satisfy even the most demanding visitor. It can be the experience of a lifetime.”
A message from the Mayor of Kalamata
Dear friends, dear compatriots,
On behalf of the Municipality of Kalamata, I send you best regards!
The history of Kalamata goes back to before 1,000 BC and continues, uninterrupted, to this day. The ancient Greek poet Homer, the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, mentions Kalamata and refers to it by its old name, Pharae.
Today, Kalamata is an economic, commercial, and cultural centre of southern Peloponnese.
A city of many natural, architectural, and cultural attractions, Kalamata is situated at the heart of a region with a rich history and world-renowned monuments that one can visit. Kalamata also has four remarkable museums.
Its rich past finds its continuance in a dynamic present. Kalamata is a modern seaside city, active and booming year round, a city where 100,000 people move daily. It has a modern regional hospital, an international airport, and a new motorway links it to Athens in just two-and a-half hours.
Cultural events, historic and religious monuments, museums, an impressive mountain right next to the sea, fine local products – pillars of the Mediterranean diet – define the character of the city. The nightlife of Kalamata and its surroundings is also vibrant.
We are expecting you here, so that you enjoy the unparalleled hospitality of Kalamata’s people and discover one of Greece’s hidden gems!
Athanasios P. Vasilopoulos
Mayor of Kalamata