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South | Dhërmi

DHËRMI the precious stone of Riviera

First Impressions

When traveling south from Llogara Pass, the first twenty kilometers or so of the Riviera are experienced winding through a kind of vague terrain—a mixture of old and new buildings settled back within the trees and crowding up against the road. It is not until a sharp bend in the road, where the view suddenly opens up across a deep gorge, that Dhërmi is revealed, and one finally understands a primary sensibility of the Riviera: the iconic hillside village. Dhërmi is one of the gems of south Albania: incredibly rich in history, and due to its relative stability over time, more developed and a bit larger than other villages. Its geography is dramatic. From the national road the village seems impossibly stacked against the steep rock. The bell towers of centuries-old churches rise up in profile against the white fabric behind them, all of it interrupted in places by lush swaths of green overgrowth, anywhere it gets a chance. A stroll through the village though reveals a much more gentle landscape above—even wide swaths of flat space in a couple of lovely plazas. The village is organized as a kind of process to reach the church at the top. It is a lovely route that brings the walker across the various types of houses and smaller civic and religious buildings, and culminates in one of the more dramatic views of the entire Albanian coastline, set from within the yard of the church.

The People

The people – economic activity

Dhërmi residents are mostly indigenous, though some settled having come from villages in Labëria, internal migration being common here. Historically, the residents were involved in animal husbandry, as the limited land is rugged and rocky, making agricultural work difficult. Olive cultivation and processing is, however, carried out—and has been for centuries, as evidenced in the Ottoman tax registers of 1551 and 1585, where olive oil, wine, and scant wheat and barley production are noted. These documents also mention the cultivation of vegetables, fruit, and poultry. Currently, people in Dhermi live on tourism related activities. About 45% of total bedding capacity of hotels in Himara region is located in Dhërmi offers various types of tourism activities, such as nature tourism, agro tourism, culture tourism, etc, due to the richness in natural and cultural landscape, traditional settlements, cultural heritage sites, agricultural landscapes, beaches, canyons and mountain sites of great natural beauty.

The people - culture and tradition

The traditional attire of the residents of Dhërmi is the same as the attire of other villages of the province: the white kilt, cut to below the knee, long and wide sleeved white shirts, the vest crafted with traditional folk motifs using gold thread, and traditional socks and leather shoes with tassels. They wore a white hat, which continues to be worn. Their characteristic singing, as elsewhere throughout the coast, polyphony, is a “musical symphony,” where five or six musical lines perfectly come together and are harmonized in a single line.

The roots - the history

Dhërmi is the second largest village, after Himarë, in the province. Historical records suggest that this beautiful countryside of the Albanian coast has been continuously inhabited since antiquity. In the second century BCE, in one of the beautiful beaches of Dhërmi, Julius Caesar, together with his troops, came to Orikum in the bay of Vlorë to conduct military operations. It was here, in the fourteenth to ninth centuries BCE, across the shores of Himarë and Dhërmi, that Bulgarian Byzantine kings, the Normans of Robert Guiscard, and the last Ottoman invaders also descended upon the coast. In written Ottoman records, it is noted that Dhërmi residents were referred to as ‘derbend ‘meaning exempted from taxes and charges as custodians of road maintenance and safety. In the register of 1551, Dhërmi had forty-four houses, and later, in the register of 1582, fifty houses were recorded.

The setting – neighborhood structure

Currently, Dhërmi consists of three sections or neighborhoods that form the village. Hondraqi is the first section visitors encounter after coming down from Llogara, the second is Gjileka (Gjin Leka), and the third, the village namesake, is Dhërmi.

The setting - Urban fabric

On the western shoulders of the village rises the ‘Cika Mountain” also known as the “Peaks of Lightning”, mentioned as “infames scopulos Acroceraunia” by the Roman poet Horace. On the eastern side lies the coastline with small beautiful bays, including Gjipe, Dhrimadhes, and Palasa.

The setting - Urban fabric and architecture

Constructed on steep hillside 150 m above sea level, and surrounded on the western and eastern side by steep rocks the settlement of Dhërmi resembles and acropolis. Taking into consideration Dhërmi’s steep and rocky location above the sea, and the impression it leaves as if emerging from the rocks, the town is often compared with Amalfi in Italy. All the dwellings are built with carved stones taken directly from the local terrain and have characteristic shapes. The people of Dhërmi have proven to be masters and craftsman of construction, building their houses in solid stone, with the special care of assuring view the sea. The small town of Dhërmi, with the stone and white painted houses, pitched red roofs emerged into the dense greenery of the natural wild and cultivated vegetation, represent a typical Mediterranean setting.

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