Olive oil capital of the world
First mentioned by Homer, Kalamata is the city that was founded in the heart of the Messinian Gulf, near the ancient city of Farai, 60 km west of Sparta and 238 km from Athens.
Today, it is the capital and chief port of the prefecture of Messinia, and home of numerous superior-quality products that are exported worldwide (such as rich-tasting olive oil and succulent olives, fine silk kerchiefs, sesame seed bars, and sweet figs), as well as host to numerous important cultural and sport events and exhibitions that are each year organised in the area.
A city of about only 55,000 inhabitants, Kalamata is the envy of the modern-day metropolis: small, easily-accessible, with a beautiful position on a 4 km coastline that features sandy beaches, clean waters, lovely cafés and restaurants, and many wonderful shops and good stores. The city has an international airport and, as well as by air, can also be reached by bus and ferry.
Quite unlike many other Greek cities, Kalamata does not date back to classical times. It became important during the Byzantine and post-Byzantine era when, because of its ideal location, the Franks and then the Venetians came to govern it, developing maritime trade from its port—a place of enormous economic and strategic relevance. Later still, Kalamata was the first city to be liberated from the Turkish occupation by Greek rebel forces.
It was eventually rebuilt, and its port became one of the most important in the Mediterranean sea (the 2nd oldest Chamber of Commerce in the Mediterranean, after that of Marseille, is found here), but due to political issues after World War II, most of the Peloponnese was excluded from government development plans which instead favoured northern Greece, and this for a period resulted in the decline of the city. During the 1970s and the 1980s, however, development and growth finally brought a wind of change to the forgotten capital of Messinia, and Kalamata has now developed into a modern provincial capital, with a great cultural heritage and many facilities and amenities, as well as one of the most modern hospitals in Greece.