Eighteen kilometers southwest of Trikala a natural gate is formed between the mountains Koziakas and Itamos, linking the vast plain of Thessaly and Pindus Mountain Range. A small river, Portaikos, flows through the rocky sides of the narrow gorge irrigating the nearby lowlands with the snow waters carrying from the mountains. Here lies Pyli, a small scenic town of 2,500 inhabitants, built in the foot of the surrounding mountains and by the banks of the river. It took its name from the Greek word “pyli” meaning gate, because of its strategic position.
The town is the seat of the enlarged Municipality of Pyli including decades of neighboring villages. It has become popular because it serves as a passage to the highland resorts of Pindus or as a base for tours to the nearby villages and sights, including Plastiras Lake, offering a quite satisfactory range of hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, coffee places and bars. The main occupations of its residents are agriculture, livestock and tourism.
The Byzantine town Great Gate was built in the left bank side of Portaikos River, where now is located the settlement Porta Panagia, and during the Turkish possession it was called “Porta Pazar”. It is the birthplace of the metropolitan Vissarionas B΄ (1490-1540) who, later on, was declared the patron saint of Trikala, Kalabaka and Pyli. Due to its strategic geographical position Pyli has served as the field of many battles in the past. It has been destroyed by conquerors repeatedly while during the Second World War, and specifically in the 8th of June 1943, it was set on fire by the Italians.
Saint Vissarionas Bridge
Erected in 1514 by Saint Vissarionas, constitutes the symbol of the town. It is a single-arch stone bridge with 67 meters span and 2.5 meters width, while its maximum height reaches up to 30.5 meters and the arc development is 28 meters. Until 1936 it used to be the only bridge in the area connecting the plain with the mountains. Indeed, in the left bank, just after crossing the bridge, there are still retrieved parts of the cobbled trail leading to the highlands. Also, the existence of a small waterfall a little further down makes the water to foam while, in the right bank, a cozy cafe operates in the shadow of the perennial plane trees.
Built in 1981 to provide access to the Byzantine church of the Great Gates (Porta Panagia), it is a pedestrian bridge with 120 meters length and 2 meters width hung in two sixteen-meter pillars. It is the first chain bridge to be constructed in Greece.
Porta Panagia Church
Located in the left bank of Portaikos River, it was built in 1283 by Angelos Ioannis Komninos Doukas, illegitimate son of Michail Doukas B΄, despot of Epirus. It is a Byzantine church, dedicated to the Assumption, with the full body icons of Christ and Madonna, made of mosaics, put in the two sides of the temple’s Main Gate.
It rises between two imposing waterfalls, in Paleokaria Gorge, connecting Pyli with the neighboring villages of Aspropotamos. Built around 1550, it is a single-arch, stone bridge, with a span of 26, a height of 10 and an arc development of 19 meters. The crystal clear waters and the ample vegetation combined with the harmony and the tranquility of the nature, interrupted only by the perpetual roar of the waterfalls, compose such a fabulous scenery as inhabited by fairies and elves.
Saint Vissarionas Monastery (Dousiko)
Erected by Saint Vassarionas in 1535, it is dedicated to Jesus Christ. It dominates the eastern slope of mount Koziakas, in an altitude of 650 meters, 5 kilometers away from Pyli. In the years of its glory it was one of the biggest monasteries of Thessaly as, according to the tradition, it used to have 365 cells corresponded to the days of the year. During the Second World War the monastery served as the headquarters of the National Resistance’s troops of the western Thessaly, while in 1943 it was bombarded by the Germans. Today, it operates as a male abbey and women are not allowed to enter. It commands a large library and a collection of rare relics among which stand out the skull, the vestments, the testament and the stick of the saint.
Saint Vissarionas Pond
The overgrown eastern slope of Koziakas mirrors narcissistically in the sluggish waters of the small lake as if trying to outshine the white and black swans that swim proudly under the last rays of a timid December sun, just before setting among Pindus snowy summits. On the shore, a fisherman has set up his rods awaiting patiently some bites as a flock of wild ducks attempts to steal his prey, while along the waterside, a throng of gabby frogs keeps singing casually. The wooden picnic kiosk, dominating the mound as a lone observer, has already bid farewell the last excursionists who took a rest on its benches.
Time passes and the darkness begins to sweep across the artificial pond of Saint Vissarionas, located outside the homonymous village and 4 kilometers northern of Pyli.
It was founded in 1743 by chieftain Dimakis on a slope of mount Itamos, in an altitude of 640 meters, and it is dedicated to the Assumption. It is just 3 kilometers away from Pyli in a site with ample vegetation and beautiful view of the plain. During the Greek Rebellion of 1821, the monastery served as a hide-out to be looted by the Turks repeatedly while, in 1943 it was bombarded by the Germans. Nowadays, it is a fully operating female abbey.
Pyli is a climbers’ destination due to the numerous limestone cliffs unfold above the town, along the river Portaikos. Additionally, the area is great for hiking on the mountains Koziakas and Itamos, mountain biking and canyoning in Mega Rema, located in Mouzaki just 8 kilometers south of the town.
The area of Pyli is also known for the prominent onion varieties cultivated in Paleomonastiro. Though, there is a significant range of additional goods produced here such as, high quality meats, diary products, vegetables, herbs, honey, flour, tsipouro and wine.