Pyrgi in Pirgi, Greece

A walk through Pyrgi, an island town with a population around 1,000, is a colorful tour of geometric designs and motifs. As one of the “mastic villages” that once made the picturesque Greek island of Chios renowned and rich—the sap obtained exclusively from its mastic trees to make medicines, foods, liqueurs, and natural chewing gum was a highly valued product from the time of the ancient Greeks through the Ottoman era—it is little changed since medieval times. 

Mastic production remains a proud tradition and critical for the local economy, but it is Pyrgi’s xista, the sgraffito designs painted all around town on buildings’ facades, that draw a steady trickle of tourists. The technique is a legacy of Genoese Italians, who brought the layered approach to creating motifs with them, unexpectedly making this tiny town a highlight for those interested in a simple but beautiful artistic technique characteristic of the Italian Renaissance.

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