Up to the mid 19th century, the fear of pirates and their looting prevented the overwhelming creation of coastal towns. The island was restricted in having just three great rural centres - that is Heraklion, Chania and Rethimnon. The latters’ location was strategically chosen so as to offer maximum control of the movement of ships while the rest of the island’s population was building their homes at the mountainous areas of Crete. The traditional village would be built amphitheatrically and at its heart one would find the village’s square, the church and the ‘kafeneion’ – the coffee shop the local men would gather to have a drink and discuss everyday issues.
From the 15th to 17th century, Venetians and Turkish invaders have influenced the architecture of the island and many buildings of this period are still standing today.
For defensive reasons, Venetians fortified a lot of villages and towns, using skilled Italian engineers. They also built a series of superb castles in strategic points as well as numerous towers that can be found today all over the countryside of the island.
In addition, the Venetians adorned many towns of Crete with sumptuous monuments such as grand public buildings, homes for the officials, palaces, fountains, loggias, clocks and squares that can still be admired today in Rethymno, Heraklion and Chania.
The economic growth brought forward the creation of more coastal rural centres. To this day, a lot of effort has been put in saving and restoring a number of buildings with special architectural interest from these periods.