Pylos, historically known under its Italian name Navarino, is a town in Messenia, Peloponnese. Nearby villages include Gialova, Eaiofyto, Schinolakka, and Palaionero. The town of Pylos has 2,561 inhabitants, the municipal unit of Pylos 5,402 (2001).
Old Pylos and New Pylos are distinct settlements and castles, several kilometers apart. Old Pylos (Navarino Vecchio) is located on the northwest of the bay, while New Pylos is located in the southeast.
The bay of Pylos was the site of two naval battles:
• the Battle of Pylos, in 425 BC during the Peloponnesian War
• the Battle of Navarino, in 1827 during the Greek War of Independence.
• The soil about Navarino is of a red colour, and is remarkable for the production of an infinite quantity of squills, which are used in medicine. The rocks, which show themselves in every direction through a scanty but rich soil, are limestone, and present a general appearance of unproductiveness round the castle of Navarino; and the absence of trees is ill compensated by the profusion of sage, brooms, cistus, and other shrubs which start from the innumerable cavities of the limestone. The remains of Navarino Vecchio, or ancient Navarino, consist of a fort, covering the summit of a hill sloping quickly to the south, but falling in abrupt precipices to the north and east. The town was built on the southern declivity, and was surrounded by a wall, which, allowing for the natural irregularities of the soil, represented a triangle, with the castle at the summit—a form observable in many of the ancient cities of Greece.
Bay of Pylos
Pylos’ bay is formed by a deep indenture in the Morea, shut in by a long island, anciently called Sphacteria or Sphagia (modern name Sfaktiria), famous for the defeat and capture of the Spartans, in the Battle of Pylos during the Peloponnesian War, and still showing the ruins of walls which perhaps formed their last refuge. This island has been divided into three or four separate sections by the violence of the waves, and boats could pass from the open sea into the port, in calm weather, using the channels so formed. One such section contains the tomb of a Turkish saint, or santon, called the Delikli Baba. This same section also contains a monument to the French sailors who died at the Battle of Navarino; the monument to the Russian dead of the same battle is on the island of Sphacteria, while the monument to the English dead is on another very small island near the centre of the port. Monuments and tombs from the Greek War of Independence are on the island of Sphacteria, the most important being the monument to the Italian philhellene Santorre di Santa Rosa.