South of Rethymnon, and north of the village Chromonastiri (Χρωμοναστήρι) you will find a small verdant paradise that has all the necessary features for a perfect springtime excursion: the sound of running water, wooden bridges over the river, an abandoned village with ‘haunted’ houses, ivies climbing on the ruins of an old villa, trails for (easy) walks in nature, old watermills, cavernous chapels and a lush natural environment!
Until the 70s the village of Mili (Mills) inside the gorge was inhabited and was divided in two districts. The village took its name from the dozens of mills that operated here since the Venetian period and supplied Rethymnon with flour. Today you can still see the ruins of old mills along the ravine, and one mill has been renovated. The village was deserted in 1972 after a geological report suggested there was a serious risk of landslides. On one hand, it is a shame that a village inhabited since medieval times had to be abandoned. On the other hand, this is how the settlement you see today preserved its charm, hiding the remains of another time under climbing ivies and behind the rocky curtains of the gorge.
The trail is accessible to all and has signs that will lead you through the gorge without difficulty. It will take you to the cavernous churches of Agios Ioannis (St. John) and Agia Paraskevi, among others. You will cross wooden bridges and running water sprouting from nearby springs, and one of the trail branches will lead you to an “agricultural villa” (don’t miss it!) Even though we were not able to find much information for this villa, the architecture suggests that without doubt it belongs to the Venetian period. Scattered ruins trigger a ‘mind trip’, as you try to guess how this majestic villa rustica once looked, feeling jealous of the Venetian lord that resided here.
As you leave, you may want to continue your excursion to the village of Chromonastiri, a traditional settlement that still preserves many Venetian architectural elements, including the magnificent villa Claudio, which has been renovated and now houses the Military Museum of the village. The villa once was the summer house of the Venetian lords of Rethymnon and during the Ottoman period it became the house of a Turkish agha. Today, WW2 relics (including a helicopter and a cessna airplane) are lined up outside the Museum, contrasting the peacefulness of the landscape.