San Stefano Estate

Benitses, Corfu

history

San Stefano was built in 1782, by a member of the great Venetian Giustiniani family.

corfuemblem

It passed by marriage into the Flamburiari family, and more recently was given as a dowry when Lily Flamburiari (the current owners' grandmother) married Petros Manessis. It has a unique place in Corfu's history as the visitors' books show. Elizabeth of Austria and Kaiser Wilhelm 2nd both visited, and a photo on the landing is a gift from Queen Alexandra. More recently Vivien Leigh, Gerald Durrell and notables in many fields have enjoyed a drink on the balcony whilst watching the sunset.

I loved San Stefano, the house and its heritage ... and the spectacular view from the balcony. Sitting with a glass of wine before supper and looking out over the sea, with views to the Greek mainland and our own private church just below us was very special.

The dining room displays a fascinating dinner set which was given to the family by the British High Commissioner Sir Frederick Adam who stayed in the house while supervising the construction of the waterworks which finally supplied Corfu Town with mains water (around 1850).

The furniture shows the family links with Venice, England and India (where Lily Flamburiari was born in 1896), as well as with Greece. The present generation have a cosmopolitan inheritance on both sides, as the Manessis' produced a notable Victorian philosopher-diplomat Sir Peter Vraila-Armeni, who gave Elizabeth of Austria his villa at Gastouri which enabled her to build the Achilleon Palace. He was a highly respected Greek ambassador in St Petersburg and at the Court of St James - indeed when he died Queen Victoria was so upset that she instructed one of her warships to bring his body home to Greece.

It is set in five acres of land - citrus trees, olive groves, and gardens so there is total privacy, and they can be enjoyed by everyone staying at the house. The views are spectacular, looking across the Corfu Channel to mainland Greece. In front of the house is the private chapel of St Stephen, and to the side are the old farm buildings, with an interesting history of their own, as over the centuries they have been rented to monks, nuns (the aunt of Tsar Nicholas 2nd brought her nuns there and donated a fine icon to the church), and during the first world war they housed the British staff of a field hospital.