KEFALONIÁ (also known in English as Cephalonia) is the largest of the Ionian islands, a place that has real towns as well as resorts. Like its neighbours, Kefaloniá was overrun by Italians and Germans in World War II; the “handover” after Italy’s capitulation in 1943 led to the massacre of over five thousand Italian troops on the island by invading German forces, as chronicled by Louis de Bernières in his novel, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Virtually all of its towns and villages were levelled in the 1953 earthquake and these masterpieces of Venetian architecture had been the one touch of elegance in a severe, mountainous landscape.
Until the late 1980s, the island paid scant regard to tourism; perhaps this was partly due to a feeling that Kefaloniá could not be easily marketed. A more likely explanation, however, for the island’s late emergence on the Greek tourist scene is the Kefalonians’ legendary reputation for insular pride and stubbornness, plus a good measure of eccentricity. There are, however, definite attractions here, with some beaches as good as any in Greece and the fine local wines of Robola. Moreover, the island seems able to soak up a lot of people without feeling at all crowded and the magnificent scenery speaks for itself.