Known to locals as Zisimos’s, Ta Olympia café cum bar/sweetshop was a landmark in Corfu town up until 2013, as the only café on the Liston that had retained its prestige as well as its original pre-War atmosphere.
The Liston arcade, designed to resemble the rue de Rivoli in Paris, owes its name to a curious tradition: In the days before unification with Greece, only aristocrats whose names were listed in the Libro d’Oro or Golden Book compiled during Venetian rule, had the right to walk under its arches, protected from the sun or rain.
“Ta Olympia” opened its doors in 1928 under the ownership of Zisimos Papafloratos, as successor to the famous lounge of the Saint George Hotel. It was then that the hotel was at its most glorious, patronized by Oscar Wilde, the Durrells and dozens of other celebrities. The legendary billiard room may have ceased functioning but the eclectic décor and atmosphere retained the elegance of bygone eras, with the principal element the ceiling with its painted moulding, its mirrors and refined furnishings.
A place rich in memories. Who could forget the peerless Zisimos, the memorable Rena Vlachopoulou who as a girl of seventeen in 1938 first sang on a stage in front of the café, not to mention the veteran waiters always impeccably dressed with their green jackets and ties as they served coffee, sweets, and ouzo with superb appetisers.
Ta Olympia exists no more, a victim of badly conceived development, but the Liston’s atmosphere is embedded in the memory of the old timers as well as the appearance of the other establishments in the historic arcade which were very influenced by Zisimos’s café.