Arta is a city in northwestern Greece, capital of the regional unit of Arta, which is part of Epirus region. The city was known in ancient times as Ambracia. The population of Arta in 2011 was 23,863 inhabitants. Arta is located 375km from the city of Athens via the Rio - Antirio bridge. The region offers visitors all of the modern comforts and facilities of a modern city, yet the stunning landscape is one of a beautiful and natural environment.
The first settlement in the area of the modern city dates to the 9th century B.C. Ambracia was founded as a Corinthian colony in the 7th century B.C. In 295 BC Pyrrhus of Epirus, king of the Molossians, transferred the capital of his kingdom to Ambracia, which he used as a base from which he attacked the Romans. Pyrrhus managed to achieve great but costly victories against the Romans. In 146 BC, Ambracia became part of the Roman Empire and the province of Epirus was renamed Epirus Vetus, to distinguish it from Epirus Nova to the east.
In 1204, after the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders, Arta became the capital of the Despotate of Epirus, which extended up to Dyrrhachium and included all of northwestern Greece and regions of Thessaly and northwestern Macedonia. Its founder was Michael I Komnenos Doukas. After brief conquests of the city by the Italian dynasty of Orsini (1318–1337), Serbian Empire (1337–1359), Albanian clans (1359–1416) and Italian rulers (Carlo II Tocco, Leonardo III Tocco), the Ottoman Empire conquered it in 1449 and renamed it Narda. It was occupied by Venetians in 1717 and the French in 1797, but the Ottomans retook it in 1799. The city was eventually taken from the Ottomans and annexed to Greece in 1881 by the Treaty of Berlin.
The modern city is on the site of ancient Ambracia. Remains of the classic era include the ancient walls, the ruins of the ancient temple of Apollo, a small theatre, and remnants of the southwest cemetery.
The castle of Arta was built by Michael II Komnenos Doukas in the middle of 13th century. It is representative of Byzantine architecture and is well preserved. Worth to visit are museums of Arta – Archeological, Folk and Historical Museums of Arta.
The most important Byzantine church is the Church of the Paregoretissa, that was built during 1285-89 by Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas and his wife Anna Palaiologina Kantakouzene.
The church of Saint Theodora is another fine example of Byzantine architecture. It is dedicated to the protector of Arta and is the only surviving department of the abbey that was founded in the 13th century by the queen of the Despotate of Epirus, Theodora in honour of Saint George, functioning as a nunnery. After the death of her husband, Theodora herself became a nun, and was buried there and the temple is honoured in her name.
Other important Byzantine monuments include the church of Saint Basil, Monasteries of Kato Panagia, Hagios Vasilios of the Bridge, Panagia Vlaherna, Panagia Brioni in Neohoraki, Saint Demetrius Katsouri in Plisioi, the Red Church in Vourgareli, Panagia of Koronisia in Koronisia and the church of Pantanassa in Filippiada.
Arta is known for the medieval stone bridge – it is not the most beautiful of the kind, but the most famous. It is the most well-known multi-arch bridge over Arachthos river and one of the best-preserved monuments of Arta. It is a bridge whose great construction difficulty is fed by legends, stories, poems, paintings, music and theatre.