The fortress of Acronafplia, the city’s oldest fortress, is built along the homonymous rocky peninsula above the old town of Nafplion. It consists of three different castles, but they are not entirely preserved. It was first inhabited in ancient times and its construction was completed over the years by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Francs, the Venetians and the Turks. In 1822 the Greeks regained it and in 1828 Kapodistrias founded a military hospital and a temple there. From 1884 to 1966 the fortress was turned into a place of imprisonment for military and political detainees. Over the past decades the barracks and the hospital were demolished to give to the construction of the luxurious hotel.
Across Bourtzi and next to the hill of Palamidi stands the city’s third and most ancient castle, Acronafplia.
The rocky peninsula of Acronafplia is joined to the east side of the city through the alley of Arvanitia. It is built on three different levels, each one of which constitute a separate wall 900 m long, 400 m wide and 45 m high. Because of its unique geographic position it played a significant role for the city’s security in all times, from the ancient years until today.
The first signs of life were traced in the Prehistoric Period. In the 4th century B.C. the first fortification of Acronafplia was observed; it was constructed with polygon walls made from sculpted stones of the same rock, and spread along the peninsula, starting on the northwest side and ending up on the east side. In the beginning there were two entrances, a main east entrance that was protected on each side by two semicircular towers and a second subsidiary one on the west side. In the Roman times another semicircular tower was added and the gate was transferred further south. Later, in the times of the Byzantine Empire Leon Sgouros proceeded to a reinforcement of the walls and turned Acronafplia into a big commercial center. However, in 1212 the Francs took over the city and divided Acronafplia into two castles, the Castle of the Greeks on the west and the Castle of the Franks on the east. Between these two castles a wall and a square tower were constructed in the middle of the hill, so the Francs could control the communication. On the east side of the Frankish castle stood the so-called Gate of Peace, decorated with byzantine style murals. Thereafter, during the first Venetian rule (1470) the superintendent Vettore Pasqualigo fortified a third castle at a lower part of the hill named “Castle of Toro” on the northwest side of the peninsula. At the same time on the west he created a bastion with five big cannons, also known as “Pente Aderfia” (“Five Brothers”).Around the same time another work- the so-called Traversa Gambello- reinforced the Castle of the Franks. This work constituted a second transverse between the Castle of the Franks and the Castle of the Greeks. Back then the walls used to be decorated with relief lions. In 1540 Acronafplia came under Turkish rule until 1686. They changed the name of the castle to Ich-cale (interior castle) and repaired the walls. This was the period when lay people started residing in the fortress, but in 1686 the Venetians with Morozini took over the city once again and allowed only soldiers to reside in it. They reinforced the walls, constructed the Sagredo gate, north of the Castle of the Greeks, and the Grimani bastion with a relief Venetian lion sculpted on it. In 1715 the Turks returned, but in 1822, a few days after the liberation of Palamidi, Acronafplia returned to Greek hands. In 1828 the then governor I.Kapodistrias had the destroyed parts repaired and founded a military hospital and the St. Anargyroi chapel. During Otto’s reign the fortification repairs were completed and military storerooms were constructed. From 1884 to almost 1966 the fortress was used as a place of imprisonment. In the 1960’s the prison was replaced by a big hotel known as «Xenia Palace», under the administration of the Greek National Tourism Organization.
The visitor can reach the castle by car, following the road that starts from Staikopoulos Park and goes all the way to the top of the fortress, or through the stairs of the Cathlolic church that leads to the gate of the Castle of Toro. However, no matter which route the visitor will choose the view of the Arvanitia Gulf and the other side of the city of Nafplion constitutes the greatest reward.