Thessaly is a traditional geographical region of Greece, comprising most of the ancient region of the same name. Before the Greek Dark Ages, Thessaly was known as Aeolia, and appears thus in Homer's Odyssey.
Thessaly became part of the modern Greek state in 1881, after four and a half centuries of Ottoman rule. Since 1987 it forms one of the country's 13 peripheries and is further (since the Kallikratis reform of 2010) sub-divided into 5 peripheral units and 25 municipalities. The capital of the periphery is Larissa. Thessaly lies in central Greece and borders the regions of Macedonia on the north, Epirus on the west, Central Greece on the south and the Aegean Sea on the east. The Thessaly Periphery also includes the Sporades islands.
Thessaly occupies the east side of the Pindus watershed, extending south of Macedonia to the Aegean Sea. The northern tier of Thessaly is defined by a generally southwest-northeast spur of the Pindus range that includes Mount Olympus, close to the Macedonian border. Within that broken spur of mountains are several basins and river valleys. The easternmost extremity of the spur extends southeastward from Mt. Olympus along the Aegean coast, terminating in the Magnesia Peninsula that envelops the Pagasetic Gulf (also called the Gulf of Volos), and forms an inlet of the Aegean Sea. Thessaly's major river, the Pineios, flows eastward from the central Pindus Range just south of the spur, emptying into the Thermaic Gulf.The Trikala and Larissa lowlands form a central plain which is surrounded by ring of mountains. It has a distinct summer and winter season, with summer rains augmenting the fertility of the plains. This has led to Thessaly occasionally being called the "breadbasket of Greece".The region is well delineated by topographical boundaries. The Chasia and Kamvounia mountains lie to the north, the Mt. Olympus massif to the northeast. To the west lies the Pindus mountain range, to the southeast the coastal mountains of Óssa and Pelion.Several tributaries of the Pineios flow through the region.
The alluvial soils of the Pineios Basin and its tributaries make Thessaly a vital agricultural area, particularly for the production of grain, cattle, and sheep. Modernization of agricultural practices in the mid-twentieth century has controlled the chronic flooding that had restricted agricultural expansion and diversification in the low-lying plains. Thessaly is the leading cattle-raising area of Greece, and Vlach shepherds shift large flocks of sheep and goats seasonally between higher and lower elevations. The last decades, there is a rise in cultivating dried nuts such as almonds, pistachios and walnuts especially in the region of Almyros. Rise in the number of olive oil trees have been also observed. The nearly landlocked Gulf of Pagasai provides a natural harbor at Volos for shipping the agricultural products from the plains just to the west and chromium from the mountains of Thessaly.
The Thessaly region was established in the 1987 administrative reform. In everyday use, "Thessaly" is identified with the administrative region, although the historical region extended south into Phthiotis and at times north into West Macedonia as well.With the 2010 Kallikratis plan, the powers and authority of the region were redefined and extended. Along with Central Greece, it is supervised by the Decentralized Administration of Thessaly and Central Greece, based at Larissa. The region is based at Larissa and is divided into five regional units (four were pre-Kallikratis prefectures), Karditsa, Larissa, Magnesia, the Sporades and Trikala, which are further subdivided into 25 municipalities.
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