Perched at an altitude of 3,280 feet (1,160 metres) above sea level, on the slopes of the Pindus mountain range in Epirus, the small town of Metsovo is one of the most picturesque mountain villages in Greece. This is a destination with a rich history, and the birthplace of some of Greece’s most prominent national benefactors, who helped create the modern state of Greece after the war of independence.

A brief history of Metsovo

The village’s name is generally believed to come from the Bulgarian word мечка meaning “bear”, while a less likely version links Metsovo with the Greek word mesovouni, meaning “in the middle of mountains”.

Metsovo was under Ottoman rule from the mid-15th century until 1912, when the Greek army seized it few days after the city of Thessaloniki, during the First Balkan War, which saw large parts of Epirus united with the Greek state. The town of Metsovo experienced a major economic boom from the mid-19th century onwards. The local economy was based on trade, stockbreeding and crafts. Local merchants, who had grown rich in Europe, the Danube principalities and Russia, built public buildings, bridges, churches and schools.

Metsovo is the birthplace of important Greek national benefactors such as Michael Tositsas (or Michael Tossizza), Nikolaos Stournaras and Georgios Averoff. The Foundation of Baron Michael Tositsas, established in 1947 to preserve the cultural heritage and promote the economic development of Metsovo, has played an important role in the region’s development. In the 1950s, a large number of projects were implemented, producing what has been called “the modern miracle of Metsovo”. The Foundation continues its activities with the same objectives, adapted to the needs of the region.

A stroll through the city

At the heart of Metsovo lies the central square, famous for its sculpture of two bears. The Averoff Garden is a green oasis, featuring all the tree species of the Pindus mountain range. The town is also famous for its around 20 fountains, many of them named after famous local figures. It is also worth visiting the 15th-century church of Agia Paraskevi in the town center, and the two monasteries near the river Metsovitikos: the monastery of Panagia and the monastery of Agios Nikolaos, with 17th-century frescoes.

The Averoff Museum is the most important museum of the town, boasting an impressive collection of paintings and sculptures by the most important Greek painters and sculptors of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Nikephoros Lytras, Nikolaos Gyzis, Konstantinos Volanakis, Konstantinos Parthenis, Yannis Moralis and Panagiotis Tetsis. The bulk of the museum’s collection consists of 200 works by Greek artists, which belonged to the museum’s founder, Evangelos Averoff-Tositsas, a native of Metsovo coming from two of the villages most important families.

The former home of Michael Tositsas, a 17th-century building, houses the Metsovo Folk Art Museum, offering visitors an insight into the town’s history. Exhibits include jewelry, clothing, decorative tableware and silverware, among others, as well as collections of weapons and swords dating back to the Greek War of Independence in 1821.

A culinary destination: Katogi Averoff vineyards, local cheeses and truffle hunting

Representing Metsovo’s winemaking tradition, the Katogi Averoff vineyard was founded by Evangelos Averoff, who had the idea of introducing Cabernet Sauvignon to Greece by planting vines on the steep slopes of the Pindus mountain range. Visitors can tour the cellars, learn about traditional and modern winemaking techniques, and taste local wines.

In addition to its wines, Metsovo is also known for its cheeses: the Metsovone PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) smoked cheese, the Metsovela semi-hard cheese, the local graviera and Rezzana Tossizza (a Parmesan-like type of type), just to name a few.

Visitors can also take part in truffle hunting in the forest surrounding the town, not only to learn about the world of truffles but also to taste delicious dishes based on truffles and wild mushrooms.

Outdoor activities to discover the magnificent natural landscape

Thanks to its unique geographical location on the slopes of the Pindus, Metsovo offers an unparalleled range of outdoor activities in stunning settings. The Anilio ski center is just 4.5 km from Metsovo, while a 40 km trail invites visitors on a hike or bike ride in the Pindus National Park, to explore one of the most pristine landscapes in mountainous Greece.

In the heart of northern Pindus, between the Pindus National Park (Valia Calda) and the Vikos–Aoös National Park, at an altitude of 4,429 feet (1,350 meters), lies the artificial lake Aoös, a lake of fascinating natural beauty, rich in flora and fauna.

Translated from the original article which appeared on Grèce Hebdo; Photos: © Discover Greece (1,2,3,5,6c), © Foivos Papastratis/ Discover Greece (6a) ,© Dimitris Ziannis/Discover Greece (6b), © Averoff Museum (4), © Epirus for all seasons (7), © Tossizza Foundation/FB (8)

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