25km (16 miles) N of Kalamata; 60km (39 miles) E of Pylos

Even though ancient Messene's walls and towers outshine the remains at many better-known classical sites, not many visitors come here. That's a shame, because between 370 and 369 B.C., the great Theban general and statesman Epaminondas built the sprawling city of Messene, much of which remains to be seen at the village of Mavromati. Epaminondas hoped that its almost 9.5km (6 miles) of walls below Mount Ithomi would check Sparta's power. Today, the defense wall, with its two-story towers and turreted gates, is the best-preserved classical fortification in the Peloponnese, a startling sight standing alone in the lush Messenian countryside.

To get here by car from Pylos, Kalamata, or Tripolis, take the main Kalamata-Pylos road to the modern town of Messini, where the road to ancient Messene is (imperfectly) signposted. The site of ancient Messene (also called Ithomi) is in the village of Mavromati, approximately 20km (13 miles) north of Messini.