The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a young person. But sometimes it takes young people to raise up a village, and this is exactly what’s happening in the Laconian village of Vamvakou.
Located on the Peloponnese a few hour drive from Athens, Vamvakou went from having hundreds of residents a few decades ago to just nine permanent residents today. Yet the area still remains fertile ground for the cultivation of the chestnuts, nuts, potatoes, and herbs for which it was once famous. It remains nestled in an idyllic mountain setting, surrounded by opportunities for outdoor recreation. And its cozy homes remain ready for residents or guests.
Seeing the opportunity to write a new chapter in the storied history of the village, a group of friends with roots in Vamvakou began to shape a plan for bringing new life to the village.
Two years ago, they met with Andreas Dracopoulos, Co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), who suggested that the first stage of the revival focus on bringing new visitors to the village. With support from SNF, a business plan for the project was developed by Deloitte, and a search began for land and buildings in the village that could host vacation rental homes, a restaurant, a café, and a guesthouse.
In most respects, though, this project is a new sort of undertaking for SNF. Vamvakou is very special to SNF as the village where our Founder, Stavros Niarchos, had his roots. But it is not unique among Greek villages in being ripe for such a revitalization. SNF hopes that the project in Vamvakou can serve as a blueprint for other similar projects all across the country.
The second stage of the project will kick off in June 2019, when the village aims to welcome its first new visitors. June is also the occasion of SNF’s Summer Nostos Festival, celebrating a “return” home. The Vamvakou project marks, in its own way, a return back to the Foundation’s deepest roots, via a founder who transcended his local context to become an international force, then made it his mission to give back to local progress.
On December 12th, 2018, SNF representatives visited Vamvakou and met with locals to discuss with them the project and get their feedback and interest in becoming part of this new chapter for the area.