Fourni is an archipelago of several islands south of the channel that separates Ikaria from Samos , of which only the two largest—Fourni and Thimaina—are properly inhabited. Strabo had rightly called Ikaria ‘alimenos’, or ‘harbourless’: but Fourni, its neighbour, is the very op posite. Its several islands protect one another from the winds, and their coasts are so heavily indented that there is any number of natural harbours. These coastal waters have always been remarkably rich in fish, and the island’s economy is based almost solely on its fishing-fleet. Its plentiful catches (predominantly lobster and red mullet) are shipped to Piraeus. The land, however, is in no way as rich as the water, having been almost entirely deforested over a century ago by charcoal burners, leaving a sharp profile of hills and a largely bare shoreline at the sea. The modern name, Fourni, meaning ‘the furnaces’ probably derives from this large-scale charcoal production.
In Antiquity the island’s name was Korsiai, and its fame rested on the quality of its superb marble. One of the best preserved ancient marble quarries in the Aegean is in Petrokopio Bay, where many well-formed architectural elements in pure white marble still lie discarded by the shore awaiting a delivery journey that never materialised. The quality of the stone, remarkably free of veins and faults, was so good both for building and for sculpture that it was widely used on Ikaria and Samos , and at Ephesus in Asia Minor, as well as further afield.
Today the island is a pleasant and quiet retreat, with a delightful chora and attractive plateia at its centre, and a waterfront where good, fresh fish and lobster can often be enjoyed from the same day’s catch. Fourni is best visited in the spring when it is a carpet of minuscule wild flow ers: or else, after a long dry summer, when the first rains come in September and the whole atmosphere of the archipelago lifts with what seems like the scent of honey.
Fourni Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.