All the guides write it: Rhodes it is the place where the past meets the present. And for once the guides don’t exaggerate. Yes, because one cannot fail to be struck by a city that has 2400 years of history and takes pride in it. But in the meantime it offers more than modern tourist services. And it melts medieval wallspaved avenues of Italian imprint e resort for sea lovers who come from the deep north bewitched by a place where the sun shines 300 days per year. And in more deserted or crowded beaches – to your liking – villages to discover leaving the capital and many pleasant discoveries. So, if you want to write a guide on what to see in the ancient city of Rhodes, you have to admit that there is a lot of material. And maybe it’s best to start exploring.
Rhodes is the capital the largest and most important island of the Dodecanese and is basically divided into two parts: the Old Citynamely the medieval one and the new part. The Old Town is surrounded by majestic walls and is one of the largest and best preserved settlements medieval buildings of Europe. This fortified city must be walked slowly to discover the many buildings that testify to the past and the history of the island which, obviously starting from Greek antiquity, arrives atByzantine era then scollinando in the Middle Ages and in the period of Turkish rule. Without forgetting theItalian occupation. The new part of the city began to arise when the inhabitants who lived within the walls of the Old City built new settlements outside the walls, after the siege and conquest by di Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522. A long Turkish domination began which ended when in 1912 the Dodecanese became one Italian province. And the traces of this period here more than anywhere else are evident with parks and squares and avenues born from the desire to Italianise the island. The touristic part developed around it which in some points, in fact, appears quite clumsy, the result of excessive development in the wake of the great success of Greek islands in the Scandinavian audience. Consequently, in your wandering in search of what to see in the ancient city of Rhodes you will find everything: taverns with an almost old-fashioned air and fast food to avoid, junk shops and string of clubs to stay up late drinking beer and watching games of every sport. Choose what you want and enjoy the island of Colossus.
What to see in the ancient city of Rhodes: the palace of the Grand Masters
The point overlooking the historic center, at the top of the via dei Cavalierihosts the palace of the Great Mastersi, a stronghold defended by a triple enclosure of walls. Built on the site of an old one Byzantine citadel was wanted by Knights of St. Johna Catholic military order, which ruled the island from 1309 to 1522 (before moving to Malta). The building has a regular shape, around a large central courtyard, and for a long time it was used as a prison and then abandoned, falling into disrepair due to an explosion. Until, at least, the Italians restored it, greatly altering its appearance. In practice this fortress, which was then the heart of the largest fortress, represented the central point of the settlement wanted by the knights and, in extreme cases, the ultimate defense nucleus as can be understood from the original presence of towers and areas for combat. Now, while visiting, you can see ancient artifacts from Rhodes and from other islands, including Kos, including some splendid mosaics.
Going forward to discover the network of streets, admiring what is around and extending the list of what to see in the ancient city of Rhodes, you will necessarily pass in the via dei Cavalieri. This cobblestone street runs fromHospital of the Knights until the Palace of the Grand Masters and is flanked by stone buildings with Gothic arches that give the impression of not having changed too much since the days when soldiers in armor used to ride here. Along this road the knights had theirs “Inns” divided by languages: in practice, since at the time there were no states as we know them today, the Knights they met according to the languages spoken and these buildings, representative but also used as lodgings, were precisely the reference point for the different groups of French, Germanic, Italian and other languages. But when the Turks conquered Rhodes and the knights fled the houses were occupied by the residents and for centuries they were tampered with until the arrival of the Italians in the 1930s led to a complex, but it is not known how phylogical, recovery.
What to see in the ancient city of Rhodes: the walls
The walls, we have said, are a fundamental part of the Rhodes city and for centuries they have protected it. Now they have almost become its symbol thanks to their grandeur. They are very high, thick in some places too twelve meters, and extend for approx four kilometers. Access is through monumental doors and their number has obviously changed over time as has the space inside. In ancient times the city was divided into two parts: the one called Collacchium where the knights lived and that call Bourg which housed the civilian population including many Jews. Such a treasure is obviously protected – and is now part of the Unesco World Heritage Sites – and for those who want to find out what to see in the ancient city of Rhodes there is no better way than to follow the walls and then detour into the narrow internal streets stopping then in the most monumental squares such as piazza dell’Arsenale or square Arkirokastro.
What to see in the ancient city of Rhodes: the Archaeological museum
THE knights of Rhodeslike others, were part of a military and religious order who had, among others, the task of caring for the needy. To do this they built, between 1440 and 1489, an imposing hospital, which overlooks a beautiful courtyard, and which now houses the archaeological Museum. It is a large building, one of the best preserved of its kind in Europe, although during the occupation it was transformed into a barracks. The restoration was carried out by a Italian archaeological expedition in the 1930s. The building is now entered from Museum square from where you enter a courtyard with columns. Then you go up to some rooms, which were those of hospitalization, on the first floor that now house the museum where the artifacts found in the various sites of the island deserve to be seen, including several statues and stems although the most important piece is surely the Aphrodite of Rhodesa statue of the goddess depicted naked as she is about to take a bath.
Continuing the journey between what to see in the ancient city of Rhodes we arrive at the so-called turkish quarter with a particular and recognizable architecture. At its center is the famous Suleiman the Magnificent mosque – one of fourteen present in Rhodes – built in 1522 when the Turks took the city and based on the structures of an earlier church. The building, pink in color with an elegant minaret, was supposed to exalt the Turkish leader even if the most beautiful is the one dedicated to the Pasha Rejep Ibrahim. Not far away are the Turkish baths which can still be visited today.
Leaving the ancient center and going westwards, on a hill, there are the remains of the old agora of the city and you can enjoy a splendid view. The remains, recovered from Italian expeditions, show the presence of public and cult buildings built on steps. Among these are the remains of the temples of Athena and Zeus and you can still discover the signs of the theater and of stage. On the sea there is instead the Mandraki port and the current commercial port. The first has a long history: it was built in 408 to C. when the city was founded. To get there, you walk along a stretch of walls and then touch each other three old windmill now evidently unused. At the bottom are the remains of a 15th century fort and two columns which carry a deer and a doe on top, symbols of Rhodes. A detail: at the time of the Italian occupation a was placed on top Roman she-wolf. Always sticking to the symbols: it is obviously not at all certain but someone claims that the columns are located in the place where the mythical once stood Colossus of Rhodes. Excursion boats depart from Mandraki offering day trips to the neighboring islands of Symi And Halki it’s at Marmaris, on the Turkish coast. Not far away is the commercial port which is used by the ferries that sail to and from Athenstowards the other islands of the Dodecanese how Tilos or Kastellorizo, as well as from cruise ships.