Photo: © ALLOVERGREECE
Ampelakia is a traditional Greek village built amphitheatrically on the northwestern slopes of Mount Ossa (Kissavos) at the entrance to the Valley of Tempi. The village is famous for its beautiful mansions as it experienced great economic growth in the past, thanks to the processing and dyeing of red yarn produced by the processing of the rice plant. In the village, several well-preserved stone-built mansions, picturesque alleys and quaint old churches reveal earlier times of prosperity and make Ampelakia one of the most beautiful villages in the prefecture of Larissa.
The village is not precisely known when it was first established, however it is known that it became a settlement between 1454 and 1455, on the initiative of a Turkish tax collector, who gathered in the area villagers who did not have land and made them live and work in the fields of his area. The date appears in a document which is a census and tax record of Thessaly. As for the name of the village, more likely the village got its name from the many small vines that were once cultivated there (vineyards=ampelia in the Greek language).
During the Turkish occupation, Ampelakia was one of the lucky villages that had certain privileges. The village was not inhabited by Turks and the Greeks were able to cultivate their fields and carry out their craft activities more freely and for their own benefit. The inhabitants were only obliged to pay the servitude taxes and once this was done, they were completely free to govern themselves. This privilege allowed them to be engaged in multiple activities such as weaving, silk weaving, yarn dyeing and many other activities.
In the heart of the village, is the square, the bakery, the coffee shop, the tavernas and the church. A number of paved narrow alleys lead to the houses of the settlement, about 600, and they start from the main road at an acute angle to soften the great slope of the ground. The village has two significant churches, Agios Georgios (St. George) built around 1720 and Agia Paraskevi, built around 1580. Other important buildings are the Folklore Museum housed in an old mansion, the school and many two-storey mansions, built according to the Macedonian architecture. Famous mansions are those of Georgios Swartz built in 1787 - 1798, his brother Dimitrios Swartz, 1803, Efthymiadis, 1740, a great example of closed architecture, Solomos, 1744 and Krasoulis, 1797. The mansion of Georgios Swartz (or Mavros), was also the headquarters of the Joint Partnership and contained among others, the treasury the company’s vault on the ground floor and a meeting room on the first floor. Some of the old mansions have been restored and turned into hotels and guest houses.
At the end of the 18th century the inhabitants of Ampelakia, decided to co-operate to face external competition. Initially small cooperatives were created but in 1778 they were united into one. The president of the cooperative was Georgios Mavros. The following years, Ampelakia experienced great prosperity and development. The locals became richer and many mansions were built. The partnership lasted until 1812. The main reasons that led to the dissolution of the cooperative were the invention of aniline which produced the same effect as rice and was cheaper, the conflicts between the members of the cooperative, and the high taxation imposed on the inhabitants by Ali Pasha. At the same time, the cooperative received a big blow from the decline of the European economy due to the Napoleonic wars. After the end of the cooperative, the village began to decline.
Stroll the paved narrow streets of the village and admire the beautiful mansions, visit the mansion of George Swartz and the Folklore Museum, have a drink under the old plane trees or enjoy authentic Greek food in one of the tavernas along the main street and around the main square. The tour will travel you back in time and will give you the chance to see an authentic Greek village that flourished in the past. Ampelakia is just 5km from the highway that connects Athens to Thessaliniki. To reach the village is simple. Take the exit at Evagelismos and follow the signs towards Ampelakia. The road is very steep with many turns, so drive slow and carefully. After visiting Ampelakia, you can make a stop at the Valley of Tempe and visit the small orthodox church of Agia Paraskevi. The chapel is located in the center of the straits of the valley of Tempe and is linked to the National highway with a metal pedestrian bridge which passes over the Peneios River.