The island of Syros is the main hub for the Cycladic islands for good reason. It was known as the crossroads for international commerce linking West and East Europe by sea. The island had the advantage of being settled originally by Venetians, before incorporating with Greece in 1829. Gradually more Greeks settled on the island peacefully and together the Catholic Venetians and the Orthodox Greeks built the most commercially successful and culturally vibrant island in Greece. They didn’t stop there. They also constructed the most unique architecture in all of the Cycladic islands.
This period of growth coincided with the Romantic Era in public architecture in Europe. The main town Ermoupoli boasts glorious marble neo-classical mansions and grand tree-lined squares. The wealthy merchants and ship builders built their Cycladic summer palaces in Poseidonia, the favoured south west bay that is protected from harsh Meltemi winds and cold north winter winds.
The Palaces of Poseidonia
The elite of Syros created museums, Art galleries, Libraries and the famous Syros Social Club. It was the members of the Social Club who built themselves mansions in and around Poseidonia. Records show this privileged group operated much like the families on the Social Register of New York in the mid eighteenth century or the aristocratic families of the United Kingdom. They visited with each other, hired musicians for musical evenings, supported charities on the island, played cards, held grand dinners and were as genteel as any Jane Austen household.
The period when these mansions were built, 1822 – 1865 were key years for Neo Classical architecture. German and Italian architects flocked to Syros in these years, keen to design romantic buildings that incorporated classical Greek lines. At the same time as Ernst Ziller was building the City Hall and Campo, the Italian architect designed the mini La Scala, many other greek architects were building private homes and mansions in the same designs.
These wonderful old homes are still lived in by private families, their grounds gardened in Mediterranean style. They rise about the firs and olive groves overlooking the turquoise waters of Poseidonia, perfectly blending in with the landscape.