Yiannis Pilavakis was the last professional clay craftsman left in Phini and he made the last pithari in 1972. His brother, Theophanis, established the Pilavakis Pottery Museum in the village. In 2004, Theophanis decided to try and make the largest pithari in the world to earn Foini a place in the Guinness Book of World Records and in memory of Yiannis who died in 1996. Theophanis succeeded with a pithari that has the capacity of 2,000 litres! Both pots are now on display in the museum which is situated in the familys 400 year old home in the heart of the village.
Over the years, Phini village has also been well known for its loukoumia Cyprus Delights which are made in several other villages too. The Foini sweets were first made in 1919 and are flavoured not with the traditional rosewater, but bergemot and taste delicious, and in the village museum, visitors can see the traditional equipment used to make these popular sweets. The third handicraft that Foini has been well known for has been the traditional Cyprus chairs with the woven rush seats.
If you are on holiday on the island of Cyprus why not visit the village of Phini village, a great day out if you are exploring the Troodos Mountains.
Phini Village (Foini) is a lovely traditional village on the holiday island of Cyprus that can be visited en route to the mountains as it lies just five kilometres from Kato Platres at an altitude of 910 metres. The village history stretches back to the 9th century when a monastery was founded there in 1006. Very early on the residents discovered that the land in the area was fertile and good for crops and that there was a ready supply of red clay locally that was perfect for pottery, and the community soon prospered.
During the 14th century, Phini became part of the feudal estate of Jean de Finioun and it is thought that the village name was derived from his as was often the case. During the following centuries the village continued to flourish and it became the most prosperous one in the area. By 1912 it had also become the largest and had to have a proper main road constructed through the village. The village was well known for its red clay pottery particularly the pitharia (huge clay storage jars) which was used for storing wine, olive oil and vinegar. The main family that made the pitharia was the Pilavakis family and for generations, members of the family travelled far and wide making the pitharia.
The pitharia were particularly used for storing fermenting and maturing wine but because they were too large and heavy to transport, the craftsmen from the village would travel all over the Limassol and Paphos district to make them in situ. They would travel for several days with their donkeys laden with the red clay. The construction of a single pithari was a laborious task as the walls were built using coils of clay and only three centimetres in height could be built each day as the fresh clay had to be left to dry totally. Once the pithari was finished, the craftsman would either decorate the waist of it with his trademark pattern or cut his initials and the date into the clay. The pithari was allowed to dry before it was roled into the kiln and enclosed by wood which was lit. The pithari would be fired for three days before being cooled completely. Once completely cool it was lined with tar to make it waterproof before being sunk up to its waist in the soil if it was going to be used for wine storage as this ensured that the wine did not get too hot.