Agios Stefanos v San Stefanos

‘What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet’

So spoke a famous Englishman about a young couple in love divided by a name, but when it comes to the name of Agios Stefanos and its being inappropriate called San Stefanos most people seem not to even care or notice that it is divided.

The name of San Stefanos was given to us without any pomp and circumstance by Thomson Holidays. I can’t remember the exact date this occurred but I would say around the late 80’s as the agency first started to operate in Agios Stefanos in 1984. They changed it to San Stefanos for no other reason than to make the lives of their reps (nowadays they are called Holiday Advisors) easier. Since the island of Corfu in Greece has 3 areas called Agios Stefanos, one in the north-west, one in the north-east and one down in the south, it became very confusing for those dear souls to differentiate between the three so they would be sending tourists taxi and buses to these resorts but not to the right ones! I’m sure once you arrived at your destination and were told your actual resort is 50 kilometers on the other side of the island, you would not be so happy!

Agios Stefanos Beach

One might then think why would the Greeks name 3 villages with the same name? Where they trying to confuse everyone or could they just not think of any other names? Well, certainly as some people might know Greece has more saints than sense and in this case, there are 3 Agios Stefanos in Corfu or at least 3 that I know of! So there is Agios Stefanos in the north-west which is part of the village of Avliotes and Agios Stefanos in the north-east which is part of the village of Sinies and the third in the south which is part of another village (I don’t know which one it is as I have never been there). All 3 Agios Stefanos are sort of suburbs of these villages. The resort of Agios Stefanos, Avliotes of course got its name from the church in the old part of the village that bears the same name and more than likely was built to protect the fisherman that went out from the little harbour below. Saint Stephen’s (Agios Stefanos) name is derived from the Greek Stephanos meaning ‘crown’. Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom for Christianity and one of its first martyrs.

Old harbour with waves smashing

So why would the Greeks give these areas the name, I can still sense some of you thinking! Well, why are there so many High Streets in the UK? Does not every town and city have one? Why don’t the British get confused? Because is there not a High Street in Gillingham, Kent and Orpington High Street, Bromley and Fort William High Street, Scotland? I could go one but then I would name every town and city in the UK but I think you got my point! At the same token, if your name is John you would not want to be call Juan just because there a few others Johns around you.

So why did Thomson choose the name of San Stefanos above others? Well, I will bore you a bit with a diction lesson. The word Agios from the Greek word Άγιος, also transliterated as Ayios , Aghios, Hagios meaning ‘holy’ or in our case the English-language epithet ‘Saint’, which by the way comes from the Latin word of ‘Sanctus’, thus ‘San’. The word ‘San’ comes from the Italian/Spanish masculine word for saint, as in San Francisco, San Diego and San José. So basically, Thomson has renamed this village into a Spanish village! I would not have minded if they had renamed the village using an English word like ‘Saint’ as it would be the translation of the Greek word into English . Saint Stephen or Stefanos would be appropriate as it is a UK company and it would not be offensive to me, but renaming us into a Spanish village does offend me!

Thomson Holidays is the major travel agent in the village with more than 70% of the accommodation under its wing and through the years San Stefanos became used in the village more than the actual name, Agios Stefanos. There is a Greek travel shop with the name, a top UK site for Agios Stefanos, and even a car hire firm. People using forums still call it San Stefanos even though the forum calls it Agios (St) Stephanos on every page they read and write on!

In business, you use all the tools that are available to get the people through your doors. Some of these companies do actually use Agios Stefanos but in parenthesis and thus implying San Stefanos to be the real name. I don’t blame these people for using the name as most of the people that come to Agios Stefanos know it as San Stefanos; I have used it on my site as well, as not using it would restrict the traffic to my site, Nor do I blame Thomson for all they are were doing was making sure their customers get to the right Agios Stefanos and their reps not getting mixed up, bless their hearts. I just think that a better name could have been used to represent this village: Saint Stefanos, Agios Stefanos North-West, or even Agios Stefanos Beach (as the other Agios Stefanos has only a shingle beach and not a sandy beach).

Of course one of the ironies in naming the resort San Stefanos is that if any tourist lands on the island and wants to drive to the resort of San Stefanos, on all the roads they look at, the name will not appear nor will they find any road with the name of San Stefanos, as it is a total fabrication. Having any roads signs is a treat regardless of which name they have! Nor do I see the Greek government changing the name of this resort in the near future. The resort having 2 names can only confuse people plus I don’t see us becoming known around the globe with 2 names! Just imagine Coca-Cola being advertised with 2 different names, it would be the greatest advertising blunder in the world!

This article is not to put blame on anyone, far be it from me to point any fingers as I am using it also, but to inform some people who are not aware that the actual name of this resort is Agios Stefanos and why it became know as San Stefanos. If you are a true Agios Stefanos enthusiast, admirer, supporter would you not want to call it by its rightful name and show it some respect? San Stefanos might still smell as sweet regardless of the name it has but I would still prefer it to be called by its real name—Agios Stefanos!

(Go to our Your View Matters page and vote for what it should be called!)


17 thoughts on “Agios Stefanos v San Stefanos

  1. I love the bit about road signs being a treat! So true. But I think it’s because of the road signs and maps that we’ve always known it as Agios Stefanos, also as there’s plenty of other Agios’s on the island and no other ‘San’.

  2. very interesting !!! next chapter please, coming home logging on and getting an education thank you my lovely xx

  3. Agios of course – let’s get everyone using the real name.

    In the 80’s Thomson was a British company now its part of the German Tui group. If they wanted to rename Agios today they may have used the German word for saint – Heiliger , Heiliger Stefanos – its got a ring to it Speros !!

  4. Very interesting article. I always wondered why it was sometimes referred to San Stefanos and – though I have always thought of it as Agios Stefanos – had previously been under the impression it was rather like the Zakynthos/Zante situation; maybe re-named by Italians at some stage in the past, perhaps in WW2 (though then I guess it would have been Santo Stefanos!) Many thanks for enlightening me and others, Speros.
    Wish I was there!

  5. Kalimera. Totally agree, Spero! To be fair to the forum, we are trying to put some weight behind using the correct name for the village. Somehow, though, I think the force of habit will rule. I dare you to ask Noula to rename San Stefanos Travel 🙂 Is the proper name for the island, Kerkyra, going to be enforced locally? I doubt it! If I remember rightly it was the Italians who renamed it. The international symbol for the airport is CFU, not KER.

    Thomson’s will never change. Loads of Brits will fly off for Spanish holidays in “San Stefanos” and never notice that they are in Greece.

    I have a suggestion. When people come to eat the excellent food at Nafsika and you take the order, ask them “What is the name of this village?” If they answer correctly, give them a 10% discount. Word will soon spread. Even the Thomson Reps will find out about it eventually. You will be fully booked every night. Dimitris and Mixalis will be forced to use “O Mikro Priykipas” instead of “Little Prince.” You will make lots of money.

    We will be eating in Nafsika on July 9th. If this plan is working, can we have a 20% reduction?


    • Kalispera Jim, My first intention was for people to know why it is being called San Stefanos and that its real name is Agios Stefanos! I think I have surprised a few (if not many) people with the truth. I never intended for Noula or anyone else to change their business name. I would want them though, that they use Agios Stefanos when they are talking about this area as San Stefanos does not exist. I too think the force of habit will rule but I also think that ignorance is bliss!
      I look forward to your July 9th visit to further this conversation, Speros

  6. Hi Speros, I always knew it as Agios Stefanos, Avliotes, but drifted with everyone else over the years since my first visit in 1983.
    I call it SS on the forums – but I will try to reign myself in and revert to Agios in future – but as you say – it’s widely known to the newer visitors as SS, so it’s difficult!
    Nice blog – – see you in August this year – Yammas! Tony and Linda

    • Hello Tony and Linda,
      You’re right it will be an uphill battle but I think if some of us start calling it by its real name the others will come around, albeit slowly! I also find SS rather macabre for the obvious reasons since it is just as easy to type AS as they are near to each other on the keyboard.
      Thank you for joining the ranks of Agios Stefanos fans! C u in August!!

  7. Hi Speros,
    As you can see I have had a look at your Blog. Congratulations it has got some very interesting info. and I was pleased to see you have included some receipes. What a cheek! How dare Thompson’s change the name of Agios Stefanos.
    Although I must admit it is a little confusing having three different places with the same name of a fairly smallish island. In any case once you’ve been to the “right Agios Stefanos” you never forget where it is, so it doesn’t really matter. Roll on September …


  8. Kalimera Speros,

    Thanks for telling me about your blog. Great stuff and thoroughly enjoyable reading. I will join forces with everyone on here in agreeing that the village is of course Agios Stefanos. I found it confusing at first having two names and then found out the truth so have always referred to it in the original Greek way.
    The recipes look mouth watering but then Theodora’s food always melts in the mouth. As you know, Yvonne and I never go anywhere else for evening meals.
    I hope you will not mind if I make a couple of small spelling observations? In speaking of the name of the church and the village you say it ‘bares’ (as in naked) whereas it should be it ‘bears’ (as in holding up or carries). Also ‘transliterated’ should be ‘translated’. I only notices these things due to my lifetime career in printing but hey, no need to worry, your blog is still good and I shall be keeping a look in regularly now.
    Love from Yvonne and I to you, Theodora and George.
    Tony Ostermeyer

  9. Fantastic article. Imagine i am local and i did not know all these details Spiros and i used to call all the time the place San Stefanos, but not any more. Continue the good job 🙂

    • Thank you Kosta, the question is not whether we call it San Stefanos but that we should not stop calling it Agios Stefanos! Especially, we who grown up there. I for one, would like to call it Agios Stefanos Beach!!! As this name brings to mind all the right images for the place! 🙂

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