Portara, Naxos' landmark, is the giant gate of the Apollon Temple on Palatia Islet in Naxos Town. The temple was begun by portara-2the tyrant Lygdamis, who ruled Naxos from 545 to 524 BC, but it was unfinished at the end of his reign and never thereafter completed. All that remains today are the platform of the temple, some columns and architectural fragments, and the north-west portal made from three massive blocks of Naxian marble, with a clear opening 6.2 metres in height and 3.7 metres wide.

Naxos Town (or Hora)

castle-1Naxos Town on the west coast is the island's port and capital and it is the arrival point for all but air visitors. The town officially called Naxos, most books and residents call it Hora. The town feels like four towns joined together: the port with the waterfront, the Old Town with the Venetian Castle (Kastro), Saint George with the so named beach.

A long causeway, built to protect the harbour to the north, connects Naxos Town with the islaet of Palatia -the place where according to mythology, Theseus abandoned Ariadne on his way home from Crete- where the unfinished temple of Apollon, Naxos' most famous landmark lies. Portara, the huge portal of the temple, has greeted visitors for 2500 years.

Walking behind the waterfront and up to the maze of alleys, the street enters the north gate of the Castle's original seven, built by the conquering Venetians in 1207 when they also rebuilt the ancient sea mole in the harbor below to enhance their sea power.

The wood of the original door, for all its worn, rough appearance, feels as soft as velvet. Inside, the Kastro is quiet and noble, unchanged for half a millennium.

ln 1204 the Fourth Crusade, instead of freeing Jerusalem, conquered Byzantine Constantinople, the wealthiest city in the Western world. The Cyclades, rich spoils, went to the seafaring Venetians, and the doge's nephew, Marco Sanudo, established his rule in Naxos. \Vhen Venice refused to grant him independence, Sanudo allied himself with Henry of Flanders, the Latin emperor, and became duke of the archipelago, superior in rank to all the other Aegean barons. The Sanudi held sway from their capital at Naxos until 1383, when the Crispi (who now live on Paros) assurned power by assassination.

All over the Cyclades families bear Italian names Here in Naxos' Castle the names on the doors of the fine old houses -and the coats of arms over them- belong to descendants of the Venetians who ruled for nearly 400 years and who were until recently the landed, rich aristocracy. The Barozzi, who ruled Santorini; the Della Rocca, who ruled Athens; the Sommaripa, who ruled Paros-all are still here and attend mass at the 13th-century Catholic Cathedral on the Castle's uppermost square. The marble slabs in the church floor entomb their ancestors. Near the church are the massive Ursuline convent and the French school built in 1627, which now houses the archaeological Museum.

Infact, the Old Town divided into two historic neighbourhoods, Bourgos where the Greeks lived and Castle (Kastro) where the Venetian Catholics lived.