In the unlikely event that you are struggling to find things to do in Cyprus, consider taking a day trip to the village of Lefkara. It sits on the southern slopes of the Troodos Mountains at an altitude of about 600 metres and, with its red-tiled roofs and ochre walls of local stone set against the backdrop of the hazy blue peaks, is incredibly scenic.
The healthy climate of Lefkara, the hospitality of its people, the tradition of the embroidery craft and the unspoilt Cypriot naturalness and simplicity, are some of the many reasons why thousands of people from around the world come to visit, and it is undoubtedly one of the top attractions in Cyprus.
The soil around Lefkara is mostly whitish limestone – hence the village’s name, from Lefka Ori, “white mountains.” This soil is not at all fertile, and so commerce rather than farming has always been the only means of survival for the villagers. The narrow streets are full of workshops of busy silver-smiths. The women sit in groups on their doorsteps, chatting as they make the beautiful Lefkaritika lacework. The whole village represents a lively museum where visitors can feel and experience the past in every corner of the village.
Lefkara was the favourite summer resort of the Venetian ladies and the women of Lefkara profited from these visits. It is said that Leonardo Da Vinci bought an embroidered cloth in Lefkara for the altar of the Cathedral in Milan; he visited the village in 1481.
“The Holy Cross”, a church dating back to the 14th Century, is located in the heart of the village. Characteristic of the building is the wood-carved shrine, made in 1760. According to tradition, the big silver cross bearing a piece of the sacred wood is kept in the unseen crypt, located in the shrine.
The two hotels of Lefkara and the traditional houses in the centre of the village offer visitors a sense of tranquility and relaxation and the architectural style is kept traditional. The village’s restaurants are always open and ready to serve the visitors a variety of excellent dishes, such as the lefkaritiko ‘tava’ (the traditional dish of the village).
Many cultural events take place in the small municipality of Lefkara all year round. The most important event is the “Annual Festival of Lefkara” which is organised every year in August. Famous Cypriot artists perform, offering unforgettable evenings to visitors and traditional customs of the local area come alive through folklore dances, songs and plays.
Furthermore, with its picturesque surroundings, Lefkara is a great place to hold your wedding. Fishing can also be enjoyed by the any Lefkara visitor as two of the biggest dams of Cyprus are located a very short distance from the village.
With so many things to see and do it’s definitely worth taking some extra time to explore this captivating region and get to know its people.
During the Byzantine period, the art of weaving costly textiles for the European market, mainly for ecclesiastical use, was centered in Constantinople, but after the Crusades, when Cyprus became the only secular Latin stronghold in the eastern Mediterranean and a prosperous commercial centre, the tradition of making valuable textiles and embroideries became concentrated here.
It is, however, the period of the Venetian occupation (1489-1571) which produced “Lefkaritika”, a form of needlework which has survived and flourished in almost its original form to present day. This type of drawn and counted thread embroidery, famous all over the world, is made by the women of the village of Lefkara in the province of Larnaca in the south of the island. This village, high in the mountains, was the principal summer resort of wealthy Venetians and the local women would have come into close daily contact with their household linen. With their keen minds, sharp eyes and deft fingers, soon copied and adapted the old Italian white needlework containing the cut-work, drawn thread-work and reticella fillings common in Italy, particularly in Venice, during the 16th century. The local name of cut-work in the Lefkara embroidery is “tayiadha”, derived from the Italian “punto-tagliato”. The Lefkara women created beautiful bodices, dresses and cloaks, not only in linen but also in silk.
It is even reputed that Leonardo da Vinci, on a visit to Cyprus, was very impressed by the Lefkara women’s adaptation of Venetian embroidery. He is said to have taken a piece of work with the “potamos” design on it back to Italy to grace the altar in Milan Cathedral. This design is known today as the “Leonardo da Vinci design”.
Since that time the men of the village have traveled extensively throughout Greece, Europe and even America selling the work. Their wives, meanwhile, were left at home to embroider and to look after the family. Now, modern communication makes the men’s lives much easier, they no longer have to travel the world to sell their wares. Furthermore, tourism has created an obvious outlet for selling Lefkara lace.