Capital and chief port of the prefecture of Messinia is Kalamata, the land of the Kalamatianos dance and the silk kerchief. The city developed after 1205, when it became a fief of the Villehardouin family. In 1209 it was proclaimed seat of a barony and held by the Franks up to 1381, when it had been taken over by Navarrese and later liberated by the Paleologues. Turkish rule followed, except for an interval between 1685 and 1715, when it belonged to the Venetians. Kalamata had the honor of being the town first liberated during the Greek war of independence. After Kalamata was liberated a gathering of the liberation forces took place in the centre of Kalamata, at the church of Agioi Apostoloi, which Kalamatians hold as a center of the revolution. Eight days after the Maniot declaration, the rest of Greece officially joined the rebellion.
Today Kalamata boasts a Frankish Castle, and a railway museum-park, and all the modern conveniences. Kalamata International Airport is the gateway to some of the most spectacular and interesting areas of the southern Peloponnese.
The 13th century castle in Kalamata dominates the town. On the north side of the citadel there is a small Byzantine church dedicated to the Virgin of Kalamata, from which the town may have acquired its name. From the castle you can survey the expanse of sea below with its sandy and pebbly shores or turn your gaze upon the deep green plain, the "happy land" of the ancients. The old city is spread out underneath the castle.
This is where the Byzantine church of the Virgin Ypapanti and the convent of the Kalograies, built in 18th century, and where the nuns weave the famous Kalamata silk, is situated. There is also the Benakeion Archaeological Museum in Kalamata, which is housed at the Benaki Mansion and a folklore museum noteworthy for its numerous relics of the War of Independence of 1821, a fine arts museum filled with works by Greek artists and a library containing 60.000 volumes. There is also a Center for the Intellect, where various cultural events take place throughout the year.
There are many churches in Kalamata, the oldest being the historic church of Agii Apostoli where the Greek War of Independence against the Turks was formally declared on March 23, 1821.
Kalamata is one of the few areas in Greece where you will find native folk songs. For more sophisticated dance lovers, there is the International Dance Festival, taking place in Kalamata every year, in July, with widely celebrated participants from all over the world. In the region to the south of town, the region of Mani, there is also a tradition of funeral dirges that is unique in all of Greece, and has been covered by many books in both English and Greek.
The nightlife in Kalamata is alive, especially along the waterfront, which is lined with taverns, seafood restaurants and rotisseries serving local dishes and drinks. The offers of fresh fish, roast suckling pig and chicken, sausages, cheese, olives, retsina and raki are loved by locals and visitors alike.