The pretty village of Gastoúri is the dreamy setting for a neoclassical neo-Pompeiian villa called the Achilleíon, built in 1890 by the Empress Elisabeth (‘Sissi’) of Austria after the tragic death of her only son Rudolphe. The villa itself was used as a location for the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (it played the casino).
The villa was named after Sissi’s passion for the hero of Homer’s Iliad; Sissi fancied herself as the immortal sea goddess Thetis, with Rudolphe as her son Achilles, idealized by a large statue she had made of the Dying Achilles for the garden.
Ten years after Sissi was assassinated in 1898 by an Italian anarchist, Kaiser Wilhelm II purchased the Achilleíon and made it his summer residence from 1908 to 1914, and, true to character, removed Sissi’s statue of the poet Heinrich Heine (a radical, a democrat and a Jew) and had the Dying Achilles replaced with a huge bronze: Victorious Achilles, with the inscription ‘To the Greatest of the Greeks from the Greatest of the Germans’. Among the bevy of more delicate statues, note the Grace standing next to Apollo, sculpted by Canova using Napoleon’s sister Pauline Borghese as his model.
Images by Andrea Tosatto, wiseguy71