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.
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.
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.
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.
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