Mani is a peninsula in Peloponnese located between the Gulf of Laconia to the east and the Gulf of Messenia to the West. The place is haunted with history, legends and stalwart people. It is a mountainous area, atop the southern hills formed by the extension of Mount Taygetos towards the south. The first traces of dwellings date back to the Paleolithic Age. Since then, archaeological finds have shown evidence of ongoing human presence. One of the richest cities historically speaking, and probably the most ancient, is Oitylon. It served as an inspiration for many poets and writers, from Homer’s "Iliad" to Jules Verne's "Archipelago on Fire", a novel that begins with a ship arriving in the small gulf of the then pirate city. Mani was inhabited by the Mycenaean and Dorian people, and later became part of the State-City of Sparta. With the decline of Sparta the area was conquered by the Romans and then by the Byzantines. It fell into the hands of the Franks in 1249 and was later delivered, together with Mystra and Monemvasia, to Michael Palaiologos in the middle of the 15th century.
Mani never fell under the yoke of the Turks, as it remained self-sufficient and preserved its freedom after putting up a relentless defense. The Maniots (the name of the inhabitants of Mani) also heavily invested themselves in the Greek Revolution. It was in Areopolis that Petros Mavromichalis (also known as Petrobey) declared the start of the Revolution on the 17th of March 1821. After the success of the Revolution and up to this very day the Maniots are seen as people that is not very outgoing, having kept their own idiosyncrasies.
The towers of Mani, with their simple features, are well known for their architecture, standing as the proud guardians of the area's glorious history. There are currently approximately 800 towers close to many monasteries, castles and Byzantine churches. The historic city is Areopolis, where the Greek Revolution was declared. One of the most beautiful spots is the cobblestone square, called "17 March 1821". Some of the better-known towers in Areopolis are those of Maromichalis, Pikoulakis and Kapetanakos. At the far south of Mani is Cape Tenare, soaring proudly in front of the Mediterranean abysses.
The caves of Diros
After Aeopolis, towards the south, are the caves of Diros, among some of the most impressive in Greece. These caves have now been enhanced and attract thousands of visitors every year. There are actually three caves: Vlychada, Alepotrypa and Katafygi. These caves were explored by Kythera-born Ioannis Petrocheilos and his wife Anna in the mid-1950s. The caves can be visited throughout the year and it is suggested to tour the underground waters in a small craft. Items from the caves are exhibited in the Neolithic Museum in the village of Diros.