Rethymno has a beautifully picturesque old town, with its Venetian and later Turkish influences, and centred around a pretty inner harbour and the dominating Venetian fortress high above. We were really lucky to discover a boutique hotel right in the heart of the old town centre, the Palazzo Rimondi, set within an old Venetian mansion house.
Our first day was spent exploring the narrow alleyways of the old town, the bustling old harbour area, and of course finding somewhere to eat! Rethymno must have hundreds of tavernas of varying qualities and price points, so we narrowed down the options somewhat based on various reviews both on- and off-line, the location, and the tried and trusted method of seeing how popular a place was with other diners. Some highlights and observations…
Taverna Minares, the real star of the show. A one minute walk from our hotel, on a main pedestrian thoroughfare, and with a stunning view of the Nerantze Mosque Minaret. Food is of a really good quality compared to some of the more mercenary enterprises around town, service is exceptionally friendly, and the menu prices are very affordable.
To Pigadi. One minute’s walk in the opposite direction, this taverna is set in a walled courtyard with an old well. Good food, good atmosphere, maybe a little bit pricier and lesser quantities, but one we would gladly go back to!
Avli. All the reviews suggest it’s the very best restaurant in the town, however I have to say we were bitterly disappointed. A deathly atmosphere with some jazz background music more suited to a three-in-the-morning suicide. Everyone speaking in hushed reverential tones based on the reputation. Our food was bland and uninspiring, the prices outrageous, and the service indifferent. I managed a cute picture of a kitten working the tables for scraps though!
Various tavernas along the main thoroughfare from the Venetian Loggia to the Rimondi Fountain and beyond. Lots of waiters touting for business along the pavement. We tried one, which is hardly a statistically significant sample. But I would hazard a guess that all of them produce very average food, with rapid turnover their real objective.
Anyway, enough about my stomach! There were far more interesting reasons for us to be visiting the area. A few local points of interest, before we moved on to the main sites we wanted to see at Iraklio…
The Archaeological Museum of Rethymno. Previously sited outside of the Fortezza, the museum is now temporarily homed in the St Francis Church, Agiou Fragiskou Street. An aperitif for one of the must-see’s on our trip, the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion. A well-presented museum, albeit on a much smaller scale to Heraklion, with displays covering the Paleolithic through to the Venetian period.
The Fortezza, or Fortress, built by the Venetians during the 1500’s and later adopted by the Turks in the late 1600’s. Sadly, not much survives within the walls of the old fortress. But the few buildings which do survive, along with the impressive and commanding views over the harbour from the walls, give an indication of what life may have been like for these medieval defenders.