The village of Loutses lies in a shallow valley, 300 metres above sea level. It is reached by a road which winds up from the coast and carries on into the mountains to its final destination of Ano Perithia. The area was largely settled by families from the mainland Venetian enclave of Parga who came to Corfu in 1817. They built settlements in folds of the hills where they farmed their olives but they conducted business and gathered together around the Church of Agios Athanasios, and the school, shops and tavernas that used to form the hub of the village. A hundred years ago, Loutses was a busy centre. However, for the last four or five decades, the village has been slowly falling asleep. Its population has shrunk, many people are retired, and the only public place is one taverna. The Church remains, of course, sitting on a high outcrop overlooking Loutses, embraced by cypress trees on three sides.
Peace and quiet is one of Loutses’s great charms, much valued by its residents. (This prevailing ethos has also attracted a handful of foreigners of various nationalities - many of whom are involved in the arts - who own homes in and around the village.) Life here is strongly connected to the countryside: many people still grow their own vegetables, keep chickens and bee hives, and make their own wine, oil and cheese.
Most villages on Corfu have a Paniyiri (All Saints) festival in the summer; the Loutses Paniyiri is widely held to be one of the best on the island and people come from all over to celebrate. A huge party area has been created under the cypresses next to the church. Here, the villagers set up barbecues and beer stalls and scores of tables. The church is lit by candles. A bouzouki band plays and the dancing carries on late into the night.
Loutses enjoys an advantageous position between two rather special villages – (Lower) Perithia and Ano Perithia. Ano Perithia (www.old-perithia.com ), a short drive up into the mountains, is an abandoned village dating back at least seven hundred years; it is now an EU-protected heritage site. The religious centre of the island, it contains 8 churches, opened only during religious holidays when a colourful litany winds through the ancient village. The frescoes within are currently being studied by art historians from Athens. In the old village square there are a number of truly wonderful restaurants, one being O Foros, voted the best restaurant on Corfu. Recently, a unique and luxurious bed and breakfast has been opened not far from the square (www.merchantshousecorfu.com).
There are many lovely walks in and around Loutses and Ano Perithia. The Corfu Trail passes nearby and a short but challenging walk takes you up into the solitude of the mountains to Loutses Cave, a huge karst cavern.
(Lower) Perithia is the village at the base of the hill, just in from the coast road. With a kafeneion, post office, two very good and reasonably priced family-run restaurants and two small supermarkets, it is a cheerful, bustling little place. Perithia lies halfway between the two large towns of Kassiopi and Acharavi which offer all manner of shopping, recreation, beaches, restaurants, bars, car rental offices etc.