The province of Messinía stretches from the western flank of the Taïyetos ridge across the plain of Kalamáta to include the hilly southwesternmost “finger” of the Peloponnese. Green, fertile and luxuriant for the most part, it is ringed with a series of well-preserved castles overlooking some of the area’s most expansive beaches. The towns of Koróni, Methóni and Finikoúnda and their beaches draw the crowds, but the pale curve of fine sand at the bay of Voïdhokiliá, near Pýlos, sandwiched between sea, rock and lagoon, is one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece. Messinía’s notable archeological sites, such as ancient Messene west of Kalamáta and Nestor’s Palace north of Pýlos, rarely see visitors in the quantity of the Argolid sites.
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METHÓNI is geared more conspicuously to tourism than Koróni and gets very crowded in season. The huge Venetian fortress here is as imposing as they come – massively bastioned, washed on three sides by the sea, and cut off from the land by a great moat. The modern town, stretching inland for 1km northward, is full of charming back alleys and it meets the sea at a small, pleasant beach just on the east side of the gargantuan citadel.
Once used to garrison knights on their way to the Crusades, Methóni’s vast fortress is entered across the moat along a stone bridge. Inside are very extensive remains: a Venetian cathedral (the Venetians’ Lion of St Mark emblem is ubiquitous), a Turkish bath, the foundations of dozens of houses, a strange pyramid-roofed stone structure, and some awesome, but mostly cordoned-off, underground passages. Walk around the walls, and a sea gate at the southern end leads out across a causeway to explore the Boúrtzi, a small fortified island that served as a prison and place of execution. The octagonal tower was built by the Turks in the sixteenth century to replace an earlier Venetian fortification.
- Pýlos and around