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Sami, on the east coast of Kefalonia facing Ithaka, played the leading role on the island for many years of in the early history of Kefalonia.

Remains of the ancient citadel can be found on the acropolis to the south-east of present Sami, near the Agios Fanentes monastery on the way to AntiSamos. At this time Kefalonia was not one entity but divided into four self-governing city-states: Same (Sami), Pronnoi, Krani and Palliki.
These ancient cities minted their own coins and conducted their own ‘foreign’ policy, e.g. Sami’s participation in the Trojan War.

The administrative areas still exist today, largely the same, although the Kallikratis changes of 2011 have merged the former local municipalities into one whole-island municipality.

Photo from the Municipality of Sami

The large, natural, safe harbour offered an ideal trading and military base between western Europe and the East and so the Roman Empire made acquisition of the island a main priority. Only the city-state of Sami offered much resistance, yielding in 188 BC after a four-month siege. During the Roman occupation Sami benefited from the construction of elaborate public and private buildings, supplied by aqueducts, and a breakwater around the harbour.

Following the demise of the Roman Empire, Sami remained an important port but, under Venetian rule, the fortress of Agios Georgios, outside Argostoli, became the capital of the island until the threat of marauding pirate attacks receded. Then, in 1757, Argostoli became the principal trading centre and capital.

Over the last decade or so, Sami has become something of a cultural capital of Kefalonia. Every summer Sami hosts the Eortia, the Sami Festival of performing and visual arts, featuring an extensive and impressive international array of talent alongside the work of local artists.

Present-day Sami is the island’s second busiest port, connecting Kefalonia with nearby Ithaka and with mainland Greece on both sides of the Gulf of Corinth, mostly importantly with Patras, the third largest city in Greece. In the high summer season Sami also connects Kefalonia with Corfu and various Italian ports via regular ferry services. The marina facilities attract a number of private and flotilla yachts and the large harbour attracts a number of cruise boats. In May, 2008 the Queen Elizabeth II called in for the first (and last) time before she retired.

As a working town Sami offers all the usual facilities: post office, medical centre, grocery and gift shops, tour and car offices in addition to tavernas, bars and hotels.

Between Sami and Karavomylos is a narrow beach, mostly pebbly but with clear, clean water; it’s a pleasant stroll from Sami, along the footpath, to the taverna by the duck pond and back.

A short drive away, about four kilometres either side of Sami, are better beaches; to the south the stunning white pebble beach of AntiSamos, the hills and valley behind it covered with deep green pine trees, while to the north is the small but pleasant Agia Paraskevi beach.  

Today, Sami’s main claim to fame is as the location for the filming of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, based on the novel by Louis de Bernières.

Based on the Venetian architecture still to be found in Corfu old town, present-day Sami (mainly the area from the port entrance to the Hotel Kastro) was very realistically transformed to resemble pre-war Argostoli.

When the filming finished the sets had to be removed but many of the locations, such as AntiSamos beach, the remains of the old village of Dikhalia and the monastery of Agia Fanentes, can easily be visited.

Also within easy reach of Sami are three of Kefalonia’s fascinating natural phenomena:

the huge Drogarati cavern, the subterranean Melissani lake and the pond at Karavómilos, the latter two naturally fed by seawater from Argostoli.


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