Souda islet is located near the entrance of Souda bay, which is a natural port protected by the high mountains east from Chania city. Souda is located northeast from the port of Chania city. Before the islet was fortified, there was only a church of St Nicolas on it and it was called “Fraronisi”.
Fortezza is a Venetian fortress built on Souda islet in 1571 in order to control the entrance in the bay. For the Venetians, Souda was not a port of great importance. They used the ports in Chania and Handax (Heraklion) where they had built their shipyards because their ships were light and could sail in shallow water. However, Souda was recognized as a safe port and for this reason it was protected by the fortress on the islet. Even today, Souda is used as a naval base of great importance. Visitors and taking pictures are not allowed in Souda area. Souda remained a Venetian possession even after the occupation of Crete until 1715.
Sources mention that in 1630 the fortress was armed with 44 cannons of various caliber and 9185 metal balls. Strong defensive walls surrounded the islet. Martinengo and Michiel bastions were built on the northern side. Between the two bastions, a small gate led to the lower part of the island, where the cemetery and the semibastion Mocenigo was. The barracks were located on the eastern side. Near the barracks, there were three cisterns, storage rooms, gardens and the small church La Madonnina. On the southern side, there was the Orsino bastion and the fortress gate and on the western side, three cisterns, ammunition dump, shooting range and a windmill.
The Turks occupied Crete in 1669 but the fortress on Souda islet remained a Venetian possession and sheltered Cretan rebels until 1715, when it was occupied as well. A smaller, round-shaped islet is located northwest from Souda islet. This small islet is depicted on Venetian maps under the name island of the rabbits”. In ancient times the two islets were called “Lefke", which in Greek means white. According to Greek mythology, the Sirens competed with the Muses in a music contest. The Sirens were defeated and were so sad that they lost their wings, became white and fell into the sea, where these small islets were created. (Stefanos Byzantios)