Central and southwestern Naxos
FOUR ITINERARIES: see map (Chora = 0.0km for distances in text.)
The valley of Potamia is the confluence of several springs, and its upper reach is a sequence of burgeoning orchards, mills and plane-trees. The village itself straggles almost 2km down-stream from the main spring at Ano Potamia. Coming from the port, the village begins as the valley firstbegins to narrow at Kato Potamia, 7.5km southeast of Chora. At this point, the church of Aghios Giorgios (C), with large areas of 13th century painting, lies just to the north of the road. To the south of the same point, a road descends, crosses the watercourse, and continues south wards as a rough track for a further 2km as far as the impressive ruined church of *Aghios Mamas, or of the ‘Pan aghia Theoskepasti’(6). This is one of the most romantic ruins in Naxos , lying in a fertile valley, surrounded by mountains on the horizon: the summit at Epano Kastro is visible through the collapsed eastern vault.
When it was built in the 10th century, this was one of the largest and most important churches on the island, and may at one point have been the seat of the Metropolitan in the 11th and 12th centuries. The dedication to St Mamas, who was the protector of shepherds, is appropriate to the deeply rural set ting far from the sight and ravages of pirates. The church is of an elegant and spacious, domed, cross-in-square design. There are finely carved fragments of 5th century bc, marble cornice with palmette design, visible over the south door, and immured to north and south of the sanctuary. Other pieces of Ancient masonry and some Early Christian mullions suggest that the building had predecessors on the site or in the area. The belfry and double-vaulted narthex were added probably in the 13th or 14th century—the latter entered either from the church or from a doorway-like aperture in the west wall which is almost impractically high because of the steeply sloping terrain. Above the church to the west is an impressive abandoned house, with fine gateway and cistern.
Between Mesi Potamia and Ano Potamia (10.5km), in stead of following the road, it is particularly worth navigating the network of paths that border the stream bed. The route runs through orchards of pomegranate trees, small weirs, and at one point passes the 16th century ‘pyrgos’ and mill-house of the Venetian Cocco family which, although abandoned, still preserves its beautifully carved door-frames. The mill-machinery is also still in situ. At Ano Potamia, a spring of excellent water flows year round and is the origin of the dense vegetation of the valley. Beside it is one of the best tavernas on Naxos .
Naxos Island is part of the Cyclades Island Group, Greece.