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Unearthing the little-known ancient theatres of Greece's Epirus region

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Unearthing the little-known ancient theatres of Greece's Epirus region
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Greece's Epirus region hosts 5 of the country's most important ancient theatres. Some are famous, but others little-known. Now, a European-backed project will restore these architectural treasures from antiquity and weave them into a brand new tourist trail.

The circuit includes the sites of Dodona, Gitana, Amvrakia, Kassope and the Roman theatre of Nikopolis. From its inception, this project has been backed and co-financed by the European Union.

One region, 5 archaeological sites and 2500 years of history. This is the cultural route of the ancient theatres of Epirus in Greece.

Though key to the project, the team's ambition goes beyond just renovating these ancient landmarks for people to observe.

"We are used to archaeological sites being extensive ruins that must be discovered. Yet, theatres are constructions that have, an inherent sociability. An ancient theatre can be used to teach theatre; it can be used for educational purposes," explains architect and engineer Georgios Smyris. "People can meet and interact. The goal is not only to see but to use. This is the great challenge faced."

The Epirus region joined forces with the Diazoma association to launch this project called "The Cultural Route of the Αncient Τheaters of Epirus".

It boasts 5 archaeological sites, 344 km of trails to travel, 2,500 years of history. The project has a total budget of 24 million EUR of which 80% comes from the EU.

The aim of this trail is to attract Greek and foreign visitors who are interested in archaeology, history and the arts. To support this vision, a business cluster has been created with the participation of hotels, restaurants, tourist agencies and local producers.

"The cultural route will succeed when the visitors taste and feel the current culture, the daily culture of the region they're visiting," says Nikos Karabelas from the project's monitoring committee. "The tourists should have the chance to taste our excellent olive oil, sample some herbs that grow throughout Epirus and get some honey. In short, to experience Epirus' warm, authentic hospitality".

From Antiquity to Modernity

The region of Epirus is bursting with stories to tell. Τhe Ottoman castle of Ioannina and the silversmithing museum are some other gems on offer. Tourists delving into the world of antiquity at the renovated amphitheatres will also have plenty to experience on Epirus' modern side.

"The cultural path follows the trend at European and international level. The visitor wants to come and experience a holistic product. The visitor wants to get a complete, unique experience", Epirus Development Agency Historian Georgia Kitsaki asserts. "The impressive ancient theatres of Epirus are only the beginning. It is a journey back in time that finally leads you to Epirus' charming and multi-faceted present".

When pandemic restrictions permit it, the Region intends to launch an advertising campaign to attract tourists from European countries and beyond.

Journalist • Jim OHagan