When visiting the island of Chios you are going to hear about mastic, eat mastic, drink mastic, and likely buy some. The island has been the only place in the Mediterranean area for centuries, where the trees needed to make this product (pistacia lentiscus Chia) are grown; mastic has been at the center of the island’s history and it has been a lifetime work for generations of islanders. So, once you are here, it is a must to visit the Mastic Museum of Chios. The museum, open since 2012, is located in the central area of the island, near the town of Pygri, and it is an ideal stop for visitors to understand how the control, cultivation, and commercialization of mastic has shaped this territory and its people.
The museum’s intent is to promote the history of mastic cultivation and transformation; it does so by giving the visitors all the tools necessary: the exposition is organized with panels, screens, exhibits of old traditional harvesting and growing tools, examples of products, and video installations. Through these tools visitors manage to discover the know-how for traditional cultivation methods, understand how much the landscape has been effected by this (for example: many roads in the island are based on paths created by mastic farmers), discover an important aspect of Greece’s production history and learn about the many uses mastic has had and still has. Personally, I found it very interesting how each one of the main actors in the Mediterranean throughout history, first the Byzantines but then the Venetians, the Genovesi, and lastly the Ottoman Empire, have recognized the value of mastic and succeeded in exploiting, at least until 1912 when the island finally reunited with Greece. Moreover, the museum has an outstanding open-air sector: the field in front of the museum’s structure is filled with mastic trees (“skynos”, in Greek) where visitors can walk and explore freely, and try to get an idea of how it was and what it meant to dedicate their lives to this activity.
The museum is open everyday but Tuesday, from 10:00 to 18:00 from the 1st of March to the 15th of October. For the rest of the year, the closing time is 17:00. Standard ticket are 4 euros, special categories (students, pensioners, etc.) can get in for 2 euros. The museum is worth the visit and perfectly celebrates this tradition that, in 2014, was recognized by UNESCO as an 'Intangible Cultural Heritage'.
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