Rural Crete Observatory


The rapid developments of the past few decades have created a complex new global reality that inevitably requires the redefinition of both global and local systems. However, societies and institutions alike have been taken unawares, unable to provide any answers.

Global and local often appear to be two poles that both repel and attract each other. Threats and opportunities coexist as a result of these developments.

Reading this complexity correctly and, above all, handling it is the self-evident responsibility of actors and societies that wish to have a say in all that concerns them. Seeking answers, however, is directly connected to their determination, their abilities and the tools at their disposal, in order for them to act in a timely, comprehensive, informed and effective manner.

Why a Rural Crete Observatory;

The traditional tools and means at the disposal of Cretan public bodies and actors are no longer enough to ensure the up-to-date solutions the island needs. They must be enriched and supplemented, evolving and connecting with modern functions and approaches.

The RCO is a vital step in this direction, supporting the planners and decision-makers concerned with rural Crete, as a ‘new strategic tool’, state-of-the-art and capable of codifying and interpreting both the dynamics of the countryside and the threats it faces.

The basic aim of the RCO is the systematic collection, analysis, deciphering and translation of a large mass of data, followed by its processing and transformation into specific proposals and directions addressed to the actors responsible for planning the future of Crete.

The countryside as a strategic development scenario for Crete

Rural Crete is defined as the non-urban space of the island, comprising almost the whole of its area, and the villages it contains. A diachronic space of habitation, living, production and reproduction of human and other life, a supplier of food and raw materials, cultures, knowledge, feelings and emotions. Today the countryside seeks to take centre stage once more, based on prudent management, the limits of its exploitation ending where the need for its protection begins.

The necessity of the economic regeneration of Crete and Greece as a whole, the search for new development models, the redefinition of terms such as quality of life, healthy diet, free time, quality tourism, etc. bring the question of the countryside dynamically back to the forefront, arousing new interest in its revitalisation on modern terms.

The Crete of the countryside

Crete stretches from east to west, its mountains alternating with lowland and coastal areas, featuring natural harbours, welcoming and accessible or rocky coasts, gorges, caves and plateaux, sometimes isolated and sometimes spacious and open to communication. The geographical location of Crete, its size, terrain, history and high degree of self-sufficiency, have all contributed to the formation of a dense network of settlement in the countryside, oriented towards the cultivation of the soil and the production of surplus people and goods for the cities.

During the course of Cretan history, particularly from the 13th century, during the period of Venetian rule, the conditions were established for the development of a network of large and small centres in the hinterland, based on the need for agricultural produce, defence and movement to and from the ports. In the natural landscape of the island, farming and habitation led over time to the creation of a cultural space with its own distinct character, which can be described today as the Cretan landscape.