The winds of change have seen many different cultures and civilizations shape Zakynthos into the beautiful jewel it is today. The Venetians called it Zante, Fiore di Levante (Flower of the East), because their sailors could detect the scent of its flowering fields – particularly sea daffodils – from afar, before they could even set their eyes on the island.
Although the Venetians ruled Zakynthos for over 300 years up to 1797, the island had first been the envy of the Roman Empire and then the Byzantine Empire far before that. It was even known in Greek mythology as the place where the son of King Dardanus, from the nearby lands of the Peloponnese, settled on the island and gave it his name.
After the Venetians a number of world powers set their sights on Zante, including the Russians who ruled for about a year in the late 18th century, the French who also ruled for a couple of years around that time and the British who settled there for almost five decades, from 1809 to 1864. After the British left the island, Zakynthos along with the rest of the Ionian Islands united with the rest of Greece in 1864. Perhaps the dept-rooted fondness of the British for Zakynthos is what is once again attracting discerning visitors to the UK back here, as they find sunshine, serenity and superb enjoyment on this island on its stunning shores and majestic hills.
Travelers to the island today can visibly see and hear traces of Zante's recent history, from the outstanding Venetian architecture to the singing of the Kantades – a group of men singing and playing guitar with influences from Italy's popular songs and operatic arias dating from the nineteenth century. Also worth noting are the captivating Arekia songs, again with strong Italian influences yet interpreted in a more solo fashion.
Modern tourism began only in the early 1980s in the small settlement of Laganas due to the stunning beach on the island. As locals began building more vigorously and fiercely, there were fears that some of the huge hotel complexes that came into fashion in the 90s could threaten the delicate ecosystem of the island and survival of the endangered Caretta-caretta turtle, among other species. Luckily, with more environmental awareness of the local population, the trend has shifted once again to smaller family owned properties that show respect for nature and biodiversity, including the Maistrali Hotel.
Built with love and dedication to tradition by the Sotiroulis family, the delightful 56-room Maistrali Hotel was completed in 1997 to meet the needs of its guests while building in a scale that respects the island's nature, staying true to tradition and respecting the environment.