The Old Town of Corfu is a monumental ensemble of particular historical and cultural value. The strategic geopolitical position of the island at the crossroads of the East and West determined its fortune since ancient times. From the end of the 14th century, Corfu passed into the domination of the Venetians (1386-1797), the French (1797-1799, 1807-1814) and the English (1814-1864). This long coexistence of the inhabitants with the western conquerors contributed catalytically to the creation of the island?s distinct physiognomy.
The Old Town is one of the most important fortified towns in the Mediterranean. Its fortifications constitute massive technical constructions and are among the finest examples of Venetian fortification architecture. The present form of this impressive ensemble is mainly the result of the works of the Venetians with modifications and additions made during the period of British Protection (1814-1864). The oldest fortification is the Old Fortress, which experienced all the stages of evolution of defensive art since the Byzantine era. Its final form was associated with the personality of the great architect and military engineer of the mannerism Michele Sanmicheli. At the end of the 16th century, the enormous work of fortifying the city was completed with the construction of the New Fortress at its northern edge and the defensive line that isolated the city from the countryside and the sea. This ensemble is one of the best examples of the defensive architecture of the era, which proved its effectiveness by rejecting the repeated Turkish attacks.
The defensive works of the Venetians contributed decisively to the formation of the town within the walls. Its civil structure has preserved to a remarkable extent the town planning and the dense multi-storey building. The architectural entity with the intense baroque and neoclassical influences on public and private buildings, the rich mansions and the numerous temples constitute an excellent example of creative mixture between artistic and cultural elements of the Eastern and Western Mediterranean.
The cultural significance of this monumental ensemble resulted in the listing of the Old Town of Corfu in the Unesco World Heritage List in 2007. The registration was accompanied by a comprehensive and documented management plan, which was compiled for a World Heritage Site for the first time following the Unesco's instructions. The drawing up of the management plan is a successful example of close co-operation between all the relevant stakeholders with provision for the active involvement of the local community.