Villages of Naxos:Monitsia and Chalki

The first Sunday of April we visited Monitsia and Chalki village. We left our car at Chalki’s public parking place and we walked to Monitsia. From there we followed the path to Chalki village.

In recent years, an increasing number of people, including foreigners, have chosen to build their holiday homes in Monitsia –a pretty village with few permanent residents but still flowered courtyards, set amidst the olive groves and the lush vegetation of the Tragea valley.

Monitsia was mainly a potters’ village in times past and Capuchin friars once founded the first school on Naxos outside main town Chora.

A number of pretty Byzantine churches still stand in the area, such as the impressive basilica without a dome of Ai Sideros –in the upper neighborhood of Rachi- and Panagia Rachidiotissa, Agios Antonios and Ai Nikolas at short distances outside the village.

Inside the village there is the restored church of Agios Vassilios.

Heading for the Tragea valley from Naxos port the visitor is struck by the change in scenery.

The vast blue expanse of the sea, the sandy beaches and the dry Cycladic landscape suddenly give way to a lush valley: age-old olive, plane and oak trees, vines and fruit groves surrounded by towering summits –a landscape reminiscent of mainland Greece and dotted by eight beautiful villages.

Chalki, the head village, is the most alluring of them all.

Tradition has it that its name derives from a family of bronze smiths that were settled here by the Venetian rulers (chalkos=bronze).

Thanks to its position at the center of the island’s road network, the village of Chalki thrived and prospered as the commercial hub of the entire Naxos uplands district up until a few decades ago.

This is no longer the case but the wonderful neoclassical mansions with the large balconies, the adorned roofs and the paved courtyards bear witness to past prosperity. Its noteworthy sights –on a par with the village as a whole- include the Church of Panagia Protothroni, which has been in uninterrupted service since 1052, the imposing, 17th century Barozzi Tower and the pretty mansion housing the historic Vallindras distillery, which has pioneered the renowned citron liqueur.

New facilities have made the place even more attractive for visitors in recent years, including an art gallery, an excellent restaurant and an inviting snack bar-café at the square.

In terms of archaeological interest, the broader area of the Tragea valley has been described as the “Mystras of the Aegean,” after the medieval Byzantine citadel in the SE Peloponnese. The vast olive grove is dotted by some 30 important Byzantine churches with rare frescoes, inscriptions and sculptures.

The most prominent of these are Panagia Drossiani, Agios Georgios Diassoritis, Panagia Damiotissa, Agios Ioannis at Kerami and Agii Apostoli at Metochi.


Photos by Foteini Adelfoulakou