This page gives access to a number of sketch maps of Mani from which one can select a location. There is also the Tour of Mani - which takes one from north to south starting at Kambos up near Kalamata and traveling down to the tip. There is also be a short gazetteer which will list many of the sites included in this web site ( it'll be a bit more useful when I get round to completing it and - yes - I know I've misspelt gazetteer it on the button bar). By the way if the place you're looking for isn't there then I've not visited it.



PLUS: A Bit of Mani Geography

The Mani is divided into three major areas, two nomia and historically has seen many variations on these borders and frontiers. Nowadays Mani is shared between the modern administrative nomia of Lakonia and Messenia. Messenian Mani stretches from just south of Kalamata down to just below Ag. Nikon, and just above Itilo. The watershed ridge of the Taygetus provides the east/west divide. Traditionally Mani is divided into three areas. Outer or Exo Mani, basically congruous with the present Messenian Mani, Deep or Mesa Mani, the area from Areopoli southwards to the tip of Cape Taenaron (or Matapan - its Italian name) and Lower or Kato Mani which is the area between Itilo and Githeon, although this often includes the eastern, or 'sunward' coast. A further area is sometimes included in the definition of Mani and is the area known as Vardounia (or Bardounia) which lies on the eastern flanks of the Taygetus to the north of Githeon.

The 'traditional' divisions of Mani and a physical map

The geography of the area is dominated by the Taygetus (or Taygetos) Mountains. This alpine ridge stretches from central Arcadia down to Taenaron. The highest section of Taygetus, called the Pentadaktylos (five fingers) is above the Exo Mani and its highest point is Profitis Ilias at 2407 metres. In the Mesa Mani the range is called The Sangias. The area is mainly limestone, like much of Greece, but the Exo Mani is far greener than the stark Mesa Mani. In the Exo Mani there is a distinct plateau area above the coastal fringe and before the mountains at a height of between 150 and 600 metres, which is covered with fields and olive groves. Most of the villages on the plateau hug either the base of the mountains or the top of the escarpment which falls to the coastline. The olive is an agricultural mainstay of the region and the whole of Mani stops in November and December as the olive harvest takes place. Other agriculture is of a basic level, smallholdings, cereals, bee keeping, fruit and goats, many, many goats. Few grapes are grown in Mani and it produces little or no wine. The Messenian peninsular to the west of Mani is the nearest wine producing area.

This agricultural pattern has hardly changed for centuries although cotton is no longer a major crop as it was in the 18th century. William Martin Leake wrote that in the early years of the 19th century the chief products were olive oil, of which the peninsula produced around 10,000 barrels of 48 okes a year (an oka or oke is a Turkish measure which approximates two and a quarter English pounds or a kilo) - so around 480,000 litres. Most of this, as today, came from the Exo Mani. Another product widely sold to this day was honey which Leake called "celebrated" and in those days was exported to Istanbul. The region produced a prodigious 10,000 kilos of honey. The naturally growing holm oak produced vallonea, a dye used in tanning and a red dye and in the 1800s there was a small trade in silk of 2000 okes per year.

The plateau is riven by a number of gorges and ravines running down from the mountains. These are dry beds for much of the year only filling with water in the winter months and during snowmelt. The climate of the area is Mediterranean with banana trees and other exotic plants weathering the winter in coastal locations where there is rarely snow or frost. These can be in stark contrast to conditions in the mountains, which rise extremely precipitately from the sea. The distance from Kardamili to the summit of Profitis Ilias is a mere 12 kilometres on the map - though it is a day's climb in real terms. The weather is generally clement. The summers dry and hot and good weather lasting often until late autumn. The winter months can be wet and, in the hills, cold - but spring comes early and with it a cornucopia of wild flowers. Storms in the area can be awesomely cataclysmic with dire results for crops and most people I know have lost fax machines and computers to lighting strikes to the telephone system.

Asphalted roads are a relatively recent introduction to Mani. Even in the 1960s the main way of moving goods was by boat and then by pack animal. There was a widespread system of tracks often paved or cobblestoned connecting the villages. These were called 'kalderimi' the routes of which probably date back to the mists of time. These were improved by local rulers or 'kapetani', especially during the late 18th and nineteenth centuries and are often of surprisingly sophisticated engineering prowess. Unfortunately much of this network has fallen into disuse or worse still, has been bulldozed up to make way for modern roads. Some misguided local councils have thought it prudent to concrete over the cobblestones - this makes them both nasty to look at and from a practical point of view merely turns the paths into surging torrents during rain. Shortsighted landowners have dug out rough tracks to get to remote olive groves. These scars on the landscape are both unplanned and an ecological disaster as they often destroy the natural watercourses and are swept away in heavy rains.

The relatively fecund landscape of the Exo Mani is repeated in Vardounia which boasts a rich red soil and the lower reaches of the Vardounia river in the area to the west of Githeon is nowadays under intensive cultivation of maize and fruit trees. By the way these are generally oranges and lemons - many look like limes as the lemons are green on the tree but limes are almost unheard of in Greece - a great pity for those of us who like to drink Gimlets. To the south of the gulf of Itilo the landscape is almost desert like in aspect. Olive trees struggle and the major plant to be seen is prickly pear and a rough maquis of scrub. Whereas the mountains in Exo Mani sport some afforestation the Sangias are unremittingly bare.

Mesa Mani - the Sangias Mountains - bare as the moon

Few water courses cut down to the sea a testimony to the lack of rainfall in the Deep Mani. The winds that sweep salt laden across the peninsula have scoured the topsoil and bent many trees into huddled shapes. Even so there is evidence of cultivation with many, now deserted, field outlines and terracing scraped out of the unforgiving earth.

Maps A number of sketch maps of Mani which you can click on locations

Gazetteer A list of places in Mani

Tour Starting from the north west follow a tour down the Mani peninsula