Climate and history are the two main factors that have shaped the architecture of Crete. Due to the island’s long history and many occupations from foreign powers, Cretan architecture varies a lot from place to place. Crete has been strongly influenced by the Ottomans and the Venetians who conquered the island in the 13th century. Arched gates from the Venetian era and sahnisi (protruding covered balcony) from the Ottoman era, are some of the features used even today.The Venetians constructed strong fortresses all around the island and established new towns, Chania and Rethymno being the most representative. Today the traditional architecture of Crete is better seen in the mountainous villages. In essence their architecture has remained unchanged through the years: the use of local materials – stone, wood and mud, especially in the mountain villages. The gathering points in a village are usually the church and the main square, where the ‘sell-everything’ shop, the cafenion and other commercial stores are the center of social life. Blending harmoniously with the traditional architecture are villas to rent offering high end amenities.