The wider Kythira area is the western gate to the Aegean. Sailing around the coast was always dangerous and Cape Maleas, the cape of the eastern peninsula of Laconia, was the most difficult spot for sailors to navigate. Strabo’s words “Μαλέαν δε κάμψας επιλάθου των οίκαδε”, clearly state the danger: “if you pass from cape Maleas, forget you have a family”. The bay of the ancient town of Kythira along with the bay of Agios Nikolaos or Avlemonas offered a safe haven to passing ships in stormy weather conditions.
West of the Avlemonas harbor, the Venetians built the fortress of Saint Francisco (Kastelo) in the 18th century. The fortress overlooked the entire harbor and protected it from foreign raids. The architectural design is octagonal, with two levels and an inner balcony, and structural elements such as covered cannon windows, a central tower and warehouses. The cannons were part of the fortress’ defensive system and have been preserved. On the south wall, we can see the marble coat of arms with the winged Lion of Saint Marco and the emblem of the Most Serene Republic (Serenissima Republica in Latin).