The organic olive grove ‘Sarakina Estate’ is located at the village of Pantokratoras, at the southern part of the beautiful Ionian island Zakynthos, in Greece. The Estate is filled with centuries-old olive trees primarily of the Koroneiki but also of the ‘Ntopia’ (local) and wild-olive variety which harmonically coexist with other elements of Zakynthos’ biodiversity.
Its size is today approximately 50 acres and its history begins with the onset of the 19th century. It is around that time that the construction of the red neoclassical mansion is dated, the renowned Sarakina, of total size appr. 1350 m², located strategically within the vast land that consisted its surroundings.
Built on top of a hill, facing the bay of Laganas in the East and the village of Pantokratoras and the Big mountain of Zakynthos in the West, the italian-style mansion Sarakina was a typical architectural example of the island’s venetian past. The main building had two distinctive facades with symmetrical neoclassical lines that granted the villa with a strong essence of elegance.
The villa’s external walls were once upon a time decorated with statues and marble emblems of the Lountzi family. Two monumental stone staircases led to the master verada at the West, while in the East the owners and their guests could relax in more but smaller verandas and hanging gardens facing the sea.
According to the italian standards and the time’s customary law, the nobles would keep both a townhouse and a countryhouse; Sarakina however in particular, was more than just a luxurious mansion in the country.
It also stood as the center of a multi-functional farm that architecturally embodied and combined its agricultural production with the elegant serenity its owners were looking for. The very differences between the external spaces of the East and the West side of Sarakina bares witness to this dual quality of relaxation and productivity at the same time.
The red villa, once the symbol of the emblematic social and artistic representations of an entire era, was facing in the East towards the peaceful and harmonious private park of the Estate,completed with an astonishing background view of the bay of Laganas. This was clearly a place of recreation and leisure, located within the confines of this beautiful park with planted cypress trees, italian and greek pine trees, eucalyptus trees and more; With a great main entrance for the horse carriages and discreet stone paths and stone benches so that the visitors could enjoy some quiet time among the company of the forest’s melodic birds and captivatingly beautiful peacocks.
On the opposite west side of the building, one could see the -kilometer long- paved country road called “maistra”. Maistra run through the estate and provided easy access to the people, animals and products of the farm ultimately towards Sarakina’s ground floor symmetrical wings, were the horse stables, the wine cellars and olive oil barrels were located, along with other storage rooms for the many products of the farm.
At the top of the hill, right in front of the mansion’s west side, stood the old threshing floors structured as amphitheatrical flat surfaces which, after the dramatic changes that the earthquakes of 1953 brought to the Ionian and Zante in particular, were planted with olive trees, as the farm slowly started losing its multifunctional character and turning almost exclusively into an olive grove.
As for the name “Sarakina”, the one the mansion itself and later on the entire area was given, there’s an interesting story going around, explaining its origin. It is known that during the period in which parts of Greece where held by the Republic of Venice, the infamous Sarakinian pirates, as the locals called them, were ravaging the Mediterranean sea. The island of Zakynthos of course was no exception. It is therefore most likely that the pirates held a hideout on the island, a place where they could hide their stolen goods, and perhaps an ancestor of the Lountzi family had come to know about it. Given the dangers of their profession, the pirates might have not come back to claim their treasure and the family’s ancestor probably welcomed the fact and took the treasure for his own.
With his newfound wealth, the story concludes, the lucky ancestor built the spectacular mansion and named it after his known or unknown benefactors.
Furthermore, Sarakina is known as the favorite private resort of Ermannos Lountzis (1806-1878), one of Zante’s renowned historians and intellectuals who also happens to be Kristy’s and her brothers’ great great grandfather. Ermannos spent a great part of his life reading and writing in the quiet confines of the mansion and the estate, where he signed his work with the characteristic line “nella mia villa di Sarakina”, meaning “in my villa Sarakina”.
The uninterrupted since the onset of 1800 and busy everyday life of the house, the estate and the whole island in general were violently interrupted on August 1953. The earthquakes and their catastrophic consequences changed Zakynthos forever, both socially and aesthetically. A great part of the local population left the devastated island, seeking for a new start within the comforts of urbanization either in Athens or even bigger cities of the world.
Amongst them, the last residents of Sarakina, who had to leave their home for safety reasons and, while always maintaining strong connections with the island, permanently move to Athens. The farm itself was slowly transformed almost exclusively into an olive grove, a cultivation which the younger urban generations of the family could manage relatively more easy, by coming and going.
Sarakina might have not collapsed immediately with the 1953 earthquakes, it was however deemed uninhabitable and was eventually left alone to face Time’s inevitable decline. The size itself of the spectacular mansion rendered the restoration expenses impossible for its latest heirs and despite their excessive efforts to save the Mansion as an essential part of Zakynthos cultural heritage, sadly no actions were taken.
Today one can see the spectacular ruins of Sarakina, namely what is left of the island’s ever-present earthquakes and those who took what could be taken.
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