The Central West Coast
The road from Chios via Avgonyma meets the west coast road at 23km. This wild and dramatic coastline is regularly punctuated by cylindrical, mediaeval Genoese watchtowers, placed strategically on successive rises or promontories. The network gives a sense of the thoroughness and tenacity with which the the Genoese defended this rich outpost of their trading empire. (See box below, pp. 100–102.) The towers above the bays of Tigani (9km north) and Trachili (2.5km south) are well conserved and easily accessible. Another marks the entrance to the bay of Elinda, immediately north of the road junction. This protected and beautiful inlet of turquoise water, with a pebble strand, was the ‘harbour’ for Anavatos and Avgonyma: occasionally its colour is distilled for a fleeting moment in a glimpse of the kingfishers which sometimes frequent the bay.
Twelve kilometres to the north is the village of Siderounta, which straggles along an eminence above the west coast. A track to the west, just 50m beyond the turning into the village, descends steeply to the sea below (1.3km), where a spring of slightly alkaline water rises just above the shoreline. In the base of the valley formed by the seasonal torrents, 200m inland to the north, is the church of Aghios Ioannis, which still preserves late Byzantine (17th/18th century) paintings in its east end. The faces of SS John Chrysostom and Basil below the figure of Christ in the apse, are finely painted and well-preserved; the scenes of the Passion in the vault have survived less well. A further 2km north along the coastal track is the isolated church of Aghios Giorgios Prastias, on a rise to the east: here the paintings, which cover the whole of the interior, are substantially older (mostly 15th century), but in poorer condition—blackened, and in danger of detaching. The church was built in 1415 by Battista Giustiniani: but the reasons for a Genoese overlord to build a small, orthodox chapel in such a remote rural area remain unclear. The presence of a few well-cut and drafted blocks of limestone scattered around the area of both of these churches—with some blocks incorporated in the construction of the buildings—suggests a presence along the coast here which goes as far back as classical antiquity. North of Siderounta (at 17km from the junction with the road from Avgonyma) the west coast road joins the main Chios to Volissos road (see ‘Northwest of the Island’ for continuation of the itinerary from this point).
To the south from the junction with the road from Avgonyma, the coast road heads 11km south to Vessa (see next section), passing the protected and sandy bay of Lithi (6km) where there is a small harbour, good bathing and several fish tavernas, well-known for their fresh locallycaught fish. The bay is the alluvial mouth of a small fertile plain to the south which was the ‘kambos’ for the small community of Lithi, on the hillside to the southeast. The village has enviable sunset views. Andreas Syngros, the 19th century philanthropist and banker who was instrumental in financing the completion of the Corinth Canal in 1893, was from this village; his Athenian residence is now the Greek Foreign Ministry and the principal artery from Athens to Faliron and Piraeus, ‘Syngrou Avenue’, is named after him.
Chios Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island group
Central Chios and Nea Moni. The Central West Coast.