Pyrgos city. The mayor of the city, Panagiotis Antonakopoulos, aims at the tourist recovery of the wider area of Pyrgos for the next five years, having already laid the relevant foundations during his current term. As he characteristically states in ExploringGreece.tv, "very important steps have been taken and, the visitor who will be here has the opportunity to admire a multitude of attractions, while he can participate in cultural events that returned after many years and specially upgraded, turning the town of Pyrgos into a pole of attraction". The investment in culture has paid off, but let's start the tour in the center of Pyrgos with the mayor of the city, Panagiotis Antonakopoulos, as our "guide".
Pyrgos: The reference point is Saki Karagiorga Square
"We have one of the most beautiful squares in Greece, Saki Karagiorga Square", he tells us and we saw it during our visit to his city. It is the reference point of the city and a meeting place for locals and visitors.
There is the Latsio Municipal Theatre, a neoclassical mansion with imposing architecture that houses services of the Municipality. Construction began in 1977 and was completed in 1985 after a significant donation by businessman John Latsis. Besides, the Municipal Theatre took his surname in his honor.
Another jewel of the city is the Archaeological Museum. The halls of the emblematic building of the famous architect Ernest Ziller host a treasure trove of knowledge and culture for the capital of the prefecture, as well as one of the most important neoclassical buildings preserved today in the wider area.
An exact copy of a painting by El Greco
At the same square, the tourist has the opportunity to visit the metropolitan church of Agios Nikolaos. In the past, it has been destroyed several times, most recently in 2008, one hundred and two years after its inauguration. Internally it has very important portable icons, most of which are donated by citizens and associations. Among other donations, you can admire the icon of the Crucifixion of Christ, which is an exact copy of the painting made by Dominikos Theotokopoulos in the 16th century. The donor Nakis Avgerinos, MP of the Democratic Union political party(1954) and of the Union of the Centre political party (1964), brought the exhibit from the Prado Museum of Spain where the original work is kept.
The most beautiful balcony in the city
The District Hall, which also adorns the square, has been described as "the most beautiful balcony of the city" as it has unobstructed views across the plain of Pyrgos. "This is our tourist kiosk," says Mr. Antonakopoulos. The hill of the District is an oasis of coolness as it has a small forest for picnic and relaxation areas, with a playground always ready to accommodate young children. It has views of the south side of the city, up to the sea. In the center of the urban fabric is also the building of the Bank of Greece, which very soon is expected to come under the management of the Municipality of Pyrgos and be transformed into a Historical Museum. All these landmarks are located in our central square, which is always crowded and lively.
A walk in Katakolon port
On a daily basis, hundreds of tourists go from Katakolon port, where cruise ships arrive, in order to walk in the square and the narrow streets of Pyrgos, visit the shops for shopping and enjoy their coffee in the dozens of cafes. Especially during the summer season, it is estimated that about 400 visitors go there by open-air buses, to see the sights and architecture of the commercial and administrative center of the wider area.
Raisins: The "black gold" of Pyrgos
Pyrgos is an area that flourished significantly in the first post-revolutionary years due to the wide production of good quality black currants. In fact, during the period 1851 – 1855, the development was so great that the then government established a Tax Office in the city in order to collect taxes more easily from the incomes of merchants and farmers. In fact, for the connection of Pyrgos with the port of Katakolon, in order to transport the "black gold" by ships around the world, the first railway line outside Attica is being constructed, which is also the first municipal railway in the country.
Pyrgos: From the Café-chantant to the Festival of Ancient Pheia
During the interwar period, growth continued. "In the city of Pyrgos at that time there were 5 café chantant while in Patras there were only two. There were also factories, banks, it was another tower," says the mayor of the city, adding that "we should not live with the memories and laurels of the past. We need to create the new tower." In this context, it is constantly upgraded at all levels, with emphasis on the cultural field. The creation of the International Festival of Ancient Pheia is a typical case of legacy in cultural events. Its official opening took place in the summer of 2022 at the marina of Katakolon port and aspires to become an institution. Spectators, locals, and tourists have embraced this festival enjoying top musical performances and cultural events on summer evenings.
Investing in Culture and developing the local community
Returning to where we started, in culture, "there had not been a cultural event in the Municipality for ten years", notes Panagiotis Antonakopoulos. The mayor of Pyrgos knows the dynamics of culture and how much it can change the local community and contribute to the increase of tourism. For Mr. Antonakopoulos, culture and tourism can - and must - have a common course. "Tourism is a dynamic parameter of the local economy," he says. The mayor knows that in this way, local products will be advertised, while production will be linked to visitors. Tasting festivals, and events such as the raisin festival or the sardine festival, create an economic cycle whose results remain in the local market, offering added value to the Tower. At the same time, the creation of the Aldemar Conference Center, with a capacity of 3,000 people, which will be ready in autumn, will give another space to the city and the wider region of Ilia.