In Areopolis, the typical Maniote tower houses begin to appear in earnest as spooky sentinels amid the harsh landscape. The town was renamed after Ares, the god of war, because of its role in kickstarting the War of Independence when local clan leader Petrobey Mavromichalis, then governor of the Mani, initiated the uprising against the Turks here. On March 17, 1821 he proclaimed a revolution and marched his men north to Kardamyli, where he met up with the other clans before joining the other Greek revolutionaries in storming Kalamata a week later. Today his statue stands proudly in the town square.
Areopolis now enjoys protection as a historical monument by the government, but although the town seems medieval, most of the tower houses were built in the early 1800s. The Taxiarchis (Archangels) church, which looks as if it has 12th-century reliefs over the doors, was actually constructed in 1798. Yet it's easy to slip into a time warp as you meander dark cobblestone lanes past houses with enclosed courtyards and low-arched gateways.
Spare a moment to visit nearby Limeni, just a few kilometers north of town. The village has long been the main harbor for the area, loomed over by the ruins of Kefala Castle, a Turkish stronghold built in the 17th century to remind locals just who held sway here. These days the pretty waterfront is more likely to be filled with fishing boats than warships, and has attracted many of the better restaurants in the area. The descendants of Mavromichalis have even turned the family’s seaside mansion here into a stunning small hotel.