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One of the major reasons why the island of Santorini stands out is its distinctive architecture. Along with its other special characteristics they compose the extraordinary beauty that makes Santorini unique. It shares the same features with the rest of the islands that lie in the Aegean Sea, especially the Cyclades, with the typical whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches and paved paths. Nevertheless, the potential and the peculiarities of the landscape have played an important role in its architectural style and formed its particular characteristics.

Santorini is defined by the simplicity and adaptability of its buildings. The main building materials are, of course, volcanic which are abundant thanks to the well-known volcano; volcanic dust, black igneous rock, red rock and pumice stone. Two basic architectural characteristics of the island are the domes and the cave houses, whose construction is easy and inexpensive. They were used as residences by poorer inhabitants due to their low cost, as they made use of what nature provided. Some settlements of Santorini are built on the edge of the caldera cliff, others extend outside the fortified castle-towns, known as kastelia, to various directions and the rest of them are nestled in the rocks. The five castles and their ruins are among the attractions of the island. These fortified settlements were constructed from the 14th to the 18th century as a means of protection from the incessant pirate invasions. Their special architecture was of purely defensive nature.

The houses of Santorini are categorized by their structure and style. According to their structure there are three types; the common cave houses, called yposkafa, which are dug entirely into the volcanic rock, houses partially dug into the rock with exterior additions and regular residences constructed on the ground. Typically, they are long and deep with narrow facades, windows and they are usually covered by domes in all sizes and shapes. The living room is at the front where there is more natural light and the bedrooms are in the back; in between lies the traditional kitchen usually accompanied by a fireplace and the bathroom is situated outside the house. In the lovely whitewashed yard there is a water tank that gathers the rainwater which is essential since Santorini is arid.

The second categorization classifies them in farmers’ homes, urban family homes and stately homes or captains’ homes. The farmers’ homes are common on the fringes of a settlement or in the fields. They possess a large courtyard, a water tank, many storage spaces, a barn for the animals and a stone oven. Their main trait is the canava, a winery with impressive arched doorways, which is built underground. Santorini has a rich tradition in wine making and its wine varieties are famed worldwide. This is due to the rich volcanic soil and hence there are canavas and vineyards all over the island. The urban homes, on the other hand, are built close together in the center of the villages and therefore there isn’t much space for them to extend. These are usually multilevel buildings, in uneven shapes and they own some extra storage spaces with simple furnishings including only the essentials. During the 20th century the prosperity of the population enabled the captains and the nobles of the island to build exceptional residences under the influence of the Renaissance and the Neoclassical Architecture. Today these elegant buildings grace the villages and are accordant with the surroundings. Some neighborhoods in Santorini have exclusively stately homes. The captains’ homes were spacious, multistoried with domes and had large yards with big tanks. The manor houses, in general, own domes, imposing spaces and arresting facades and are built in the center of the settlements. They are known for the awe and amazement they provoke.

In Santorini, like in the rest of the Cycladic islands, visitors will come across the characteristic whitewashed windmills. They are round buildings with joined roofs and wheels with sails that convert the energy of the wind into rotational energy.

Regarding the churches of Santorini, which constitute an integral part of the inhabitants’ lives, their vernacular architecture is attuned to the prevailing architecture of the island. There are glorious monasteries that are notable for their size, grand cathedrals with admirable frescoes, simple churches and tiny chapels. Only a small number is dug into rock. The majority of them are square, white edifices with white or blue domes. Finally, the religious monuments of Santorini boast adorable yards, arches and bell towers, some of which are really elaborate and overwhelming.

The dominant white and blue colors of the Cycladic architecture are a symbol of Greece as they represent the colors of the Greek flag. What is more, they are in total concordance with the vast Aegean Sea that encircles the Cyclades and the bright blue sky creating a breathtaking, harmonious setting.

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