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Seventeen kilometres from Vathy, Stavros is the main village of north Ithaca and the area’s commercial capital. Full of architecturally outstanding buildings and dwellings of the rich merchants from previous centuries, Stavros is an ideal holiday base for those wishing to explore both mountain and seaside locations.
The village’s central square has quite a unique character. We can find the Byzantine church of the Saviour, a lovely little public park with a bust of Ulysses and, quite surprisingly, a small reproduction of Odysseus’ Palace, a work by the Italian architect, Bruno Mazzali. Close by the square is a fine example of architecture dating back to the British occupation, a building known as the Palace of Tzani.
The restaurants and coffee shops in and around the square are scattered amongst the green pine and eucalyptus trees providing shade for those visitors sampling local traditional sweets and enjoying the traditional Ithacan cuisine. It is in this square, every year on 5-6 August that the island’s largest festival is held to celebrate the Transfiguration of the Saviour. Tourists, visitors and locals need two days and nights to properly enjoy this celebration!!
Pilikata hill, just north of Stavros, where the Archaeological museum can be found, is a designated area of Archaeological interest and value. In the opinion of W. A. Heurtley, it is here where Ulysses had his main palace and home and a good number of relics and remains found here have supported that argument.
Polis Bay lies just below Stavros at a distance of 1.5 km from the main square. This picturesque refuge for fishing boats is now also home to a long and organised bathing beach. But, there is plenty of cool shade provided by the tall pine and cypress trees which come so close to the water’s edge.
Polis takes its name from the ancient settlement which is to be found sunk in the bay’s waters. It is very probable that this group of buildings is the Jerusalem, which Anna Komnene refers to in her work, the Alexiad, and which collapsed as a result of a major earthquake in 967 B.C. At the northern edge of the bay are found the remains of the collapsed cave of Loizos. This cave was used as a place of worship, probably from 2500 B.C., but certainly from Mycenaean to Roman times. Archaeological findings confirm that this cave also served as a place of worship to Odysseus and his name has been found engraved on shell and clay remains as well as on fragments of a mask of a woman of the second century B.C. which contains the phrase ‘EYXHN ODYSSEI’ or ‘“Pray to Odysseus” .