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A tour of Romas Mansion – on Zakynthos

I wrote in my introduction to Zakynthos, that this Greek island is more a place for sun and relaxation than for culture, but at Romas Mansion in Zante town I found the exception to the rule.

At Romas mansion in Zante town

Romas Mansion is one of the few old house in Zante town that survived the earthquake of 1953 and subsequent fire which destroyed practically the whole town. It is the home of the aristocratic Romas family and was opened a couple of years ago to give a glimpse into the life of one of the leading political families on the island.

At Romas mansion in Zante town

The Mansion was built in the 1660s by the English Vice consul on Zakynthos and during the period of the English Protection (1814-1864) was used as the English Governor’s Residence and seat of government on Zakynthos. In the 1880s the house was bought by Alexander Romas, Government minister and President of the Greek Parliament and has remained in his family to this day.

Landing in Roma's Mansion in Zante town

When I visited Romas Mansion with my sister, who lives on Zakynthos, I was surprised by the beauty and elegance of the house and its contents. I had a preconception of people on Zakynthos living as farmers or fishermen, but this house gives a peek into the gilded and affluent lifestyle of the aristocracy on the island. Here were beautiful furniture, family portraits, leatherbound books and furnishings which would not have looked out of place in a stately home in England.

Roma's Mansion in Zante town

Included in the €5 entry fee was a guided tour of the house, by a guide who spoke excellent English. He pointed out that the house and nearby chapel were built at least a metre below the current street level, as the whole town had been rebuilt at a higher level after the 1953 earthquake, on top of the rubble of the buildings destroyed. The house looks directly onto the sea, but where you now have to cross the busy harbour road, the house once had private access to the beach. Although the house was badly damaged in the earthquake it was rebuilt, albeit without the top floor and side wings, as we could see from the old photos on display.

Church beside Romas Mansion

The family still live in the mansion, closing their private rooms when the house is open to the public, although when we chatted to the daughter of the house who was manning the gift shop, she told us that it was not really very comfortable for a modern lifestyle. I couldn’t really imagine inviting my friends round and having a riotous time there either but it was a great place to get an insight into the history of the island before taking in a coffee in the main square just round the corner.

Romas Mansion, Louka Carrer 19, Zante town, Zakynthos, 29100
Tel +30 26950 28381 Website www.romas.gr

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16 Comments

  • Reply
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    January 1, 2009 at 7:46 pm

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  • Reply
    gordon smith
    December 6, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Am writing a book ( my 4th) about early Queensland History. Our first Governor (1859) had a wife named Diamantina Roma from Zante.
    Have you any idea where the Roma family lived in the 1840s….until I read your page I had thought it was in the Mansion you describe.
    Most important question…was her home above the sea? Or down by the harbour?
    Reason it’s important is that the book is entitled Lady Bowen’s Stairway and the steps etc become the central metphor in my historical fiction. cheers

    • Reply
      Dennis
      August 4, 2017 at 11:13 am

      (A little bit late for this comment) Hello, I am from Zakynthos and because I have read a bit about Romas family I believe she lived in another mansion of the Romas family at this time. Before Alexander Romas settle in the mansion we see in this post, the family was based in another great mansion at Agios Loukas (Saint Lucas) square. It included great pieces of art and a collection of ancient antiquites from the island of Dilos. The house was sold in the late 1890’s to my grandmother’s family but it was badly damaged during the 1953 earthquakes and totally destroyed from the fire followed. It was not facing the sea but it was close enough. Some of the built-in ancient marbles are now kept in the Byzantine museum of Zakynthos but they are ruined by the fire.
      I hope I helped you!

      • Reply
        Heather Cowper
        August 4, 2017 at 11:16 am

        @dennis Thanks for this extra information – what a shame the house was destroyed, I’d have loved to see those wonderful art collections.

  • Reply
    Heather Cowper
    December 6, 2009 at 7:51 pm

    @Gordon Smith
    I would have thought that could have been the case, but you could contact the Romas Mansion to find out more on the history of the family.The website details are on the post

    The mansion is indeed right by the sea. Now there is a road between the house and the sea shore which skirts the town, but it was only build after the earthquake in the 1950s. Before that, you could walk directly from the house, to the shore and it’s a pretty rock stretch – there could well have been some steps down.

  • Reply
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  • Reply
    Darlene
    June 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    My Romas line traces to Bucharest, Greece by submission of My DNA testing as I was at a loss in finding records. I have submitted some research on ancestry.com. I do not know but I would enjoy learning if my line connects or if you might know of this family line. My William G Romas married Malinda and the earliest record in the US early 1800. They had many children. Thank you for your time and your help in connecting Romas family.

    • Reply
      Heather Cowper
      June 7, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      @Darlene If you are interested in checking the connection you could e-mail the family who own this house on [email protected] – they have a whole library of old books in their house.

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