LOCATION: The small, traditional village of Fyti can be found off the E712, about 20 kilometres from Polis. Due to an altitude of 680 metres, Fyti’s summers are cooler than the low-lying surrounding villages. Average rainfall is about 640 millimetres, which makes the cultivation of vines, vegetables, cereals and fruit trees ideal.
POPULATION: In 1881 the population totaled about 225. More recently in the 2001 census, this number had dwindled to just 97. Walking around the village there is evidence of renovation work taking place on some of the old stone houses and this will increase the population as more and more expatriates aspire to live in a traditional house in a peaceful, rural village.
ORIGIN OF NAME: So where does the name Fyti originate? According to the older locals, the village has been in existence since medieval times and at the start of the 19th century was a spiritual and educational centre. Children from the surrounding villages would come to Fyti’s school to study and ‘foito’ is the Greek verb for study, hence the name. Sadly, the village school with its two schoolteachers closed down in 1985 as there were only 20 pupils in attendance.
AMENITIES: At the heart of Fyti is the paved square where you can relax in one of the two taverns of the village. The Phtyi Village Tavern at 200 years old is probably the oldest building in the village and was formerly a boys’ school. If you’d like to sample their fantastic Sunday lunch, you need to call Maria to book a table, as it is extremely popular with villages and tourists alike. Across the road from here is the Fiti Pefkos Restaurant, which takes its name from the old pine tree standing at its entrance. The walls of the indoor seating area of the Pefkos Restaurant are adorned with colourful textiles called fythkiotika.
Next to the Pefkos Restaurant is a bronze bust in memoriam to the village’s benefactor, Constantinos Foitides, who brought water to the village in 1938. He brought the water from a spring belonging to the Holy Monastery of Panagia Chrysorrogiatissa (Our Lady of the Golden Pomegranate) and transferred it to the village. Up until that time, Fyti was supplied with water by wells. The garden encompassing the memorial is awash with terracotta pots full of marjoram, basil and colourful flowers, and walnut and pine trees shade the wooden benches. There’s also a stone fountain and an old, preserved olive press in the garden.
Next to the memorial is the Fyti Museum of Weaving and Folkloric Art, built in 1947 and housing a display of traditional clothing, farming implements and donkey equipment. Charalambous Mavrellis, a retired schoolteacher, is the curator of the museum and is extremely knowledgeable not just about the village’s weaving tradition but on the general history of the village as well. The main attraction in the museum is the traditional weaving display, including a fully operational spinning wheel - ‘anemi’. The decorated textiles manufactured here are known as ‘fythkiotika’ and the weaving tradition goes back as far as medieval times. The weaving is done making geometrical patterns and each design is representative of some activity. Charalambous’ wife can also be found at the museum producing fythkiotika that are available to buy.
The 19th century church of St. Dimitris, situated in the village square, was constructed in 1857. The altar screen is dated 1854 and doesn’t look as if it has aged at all, the colours still looking vibrant and fresh. Above the screen is an ornate cross with two green dragons smiling outwards from its base. In the centre of the church is a huge crystal chandelier and from the upstairs balcony you can gaze down on the magnificent splendour of the whole interior. There are many other churches to visit in the area around Fyti: Agios Georgios church is located on the border of Fyti and Anadiou; Agia Marina church is to the southwest of the village; the small chapel of Agios Symeon can be found in elementary school yard. The chapel is actually a circle of stones placed under a turpentine tree. The stones were moved about 40 years ago so that the school's playground could be built. At the end of the school yard there's a wooden box containing the saint's icon.
In the western part of the village is the ruined forester’s mansion with its large arches. This was reputed to be the most expensive house in the village partly due to its unique architecture. Either side of the arches is a long, narrow room with an arched doorway at the end that leads you back into the main room. The room on the left has a large fireplace of which only the top part can be seen due to the debris that has fallen on top of it over the years. The identical room on the right of the entrance may have been the bedroom. At the rear of the building is a large courtyard with an oven and a water basin. Even now the forester’s mansion is an impressive structure and is on the local council’s list of buildings to be restored. Once restored it will be maintained as a cultural centre.
On the way out of Fyti towards Lasa and up a very narrow single-lane track there is a region called ‘Agrikou’. Here you can stumble across an ancient oak tree where the local women would go to wash their clothes. According to a local resident, the women would go inside the tree (yes, it is big enough) and divest themselves of their clothing and then wash with water from the basin adjacent to the tree. The water still runs into the basin from the mountain springs.
Renovation projects planned for Fyti include the replacement of the village’s entire water supply network, the renovation of two, old stone fountains originally constructed in 1900 and the conversion of the old primary school into a community park, community offices, and a multi-purpose area for various events and activities.