Summer holidays in Croatia: avoid the august traps an make your best trip ever!
Welcome to Croatia…
part 1 of 2
Day 1 – 11/08
06.00 am – Milan Malpensa Airport
I leave Milan for Split with EasyJet, my favorite airline company when I am going to Ibiza or to Croatia. This summer I also decided to devote my free time to a constructive and concrete reading “Mi Merito il Meglio” (I deserve the best) by Lucia Giovannini, one of the first life coach in Italy. I hope I will come back to my country stronger, more loaded and more grown than ever. We all have a summer book! What’s yours?
Leaving at 07.20 am, so I arrive at 08.40 am after some technical problem during the take-off, but keep calm and relax: we are on holiday!
Anja my dear Croatian friend, companion of crazy adventures during my Bolognese years, picks me up at Trogir airport, a very nice city at 40 minutes from Split. I will describe it on the following days.
2.30 pm – Brela, Baška Voda, Makarska
I love when people throw me right away into situations, without having had time to breathe and find myself already on the road to the southern Dalmatian coast, eighty kilometres from Split, in front of the famous island of Brač. The season is very high and Makarska is the one of the best destination for tourists and locals. It’s hard to find quiet beaches, but being adventurous and leaving the beaten track, you can find amazing spots, swimming in translucent waters, with myriad shades of green, blue and emerald, surrounded by a rich and generous nature. It’s just wonderful! Many Croatian beaches do not have sand but pebbles and little stones, so if you have sensitive plantar like me, think about taking a pair of chic plastic shoes. This year I’ve found the best trendy models on Instagram!
I am with Anja’s fantastic friends, that I met again after a year. Here we are together again to reform our eclectic group of 5 enthusiastic and explosive personalities. It will be surely a crazy weekend, as usual!
Traveling with locals means living the everyday experience of their culture, discovering the true life of the country with its habits, peculiarities, differences, assonances, but it’s also going in the best places to eat and drink without being treating like a tourist and avoiding disappointing places. Follow us and discover the finest and honest place to be!
5.30 pm – Matrioska Restaurant
According to Branka, the best food experience connoisseur, Matrioska Restaurant is the best place in town, with its sea view and its highly trained staff. I have heard many different opinions on Croatian food. Sometimes very contrasting. For me it is impossible to not love it. And the wines are also remarkable. This evening I discovered the PZ Nerica Pošip 2017, a native wine from the island of Korčula that nicely accompanied our grilled tuna, our black cod with sauce and our delicate octopus salad. Our personal waiter, Milan, particularly complaisant with blond and foreign girls (!), gave us a bottle, a bucket and fives glasses to take on the beach to enjoy our first sunset. I must say that Croatian men have these ways of acting as true men, vaguely male chauvinist (because they are alpha men), and we woman love when men play men!
8.00 pm – Sunset on the beach
Words cannot describe the emotions experienced in our happy and carefree moment. We were so happy and amazed, that we were making toast and singing in the water “Jesus loves you. Jesus loves us ” (because even if you don’t believe in God, when you see in front of you such as a beautiful show of mother nature, you can’t imagine that was created from nothing!). This little refrain became our holiday motto. Every year we invent a new one!
22.00 pm – Damir Urban’s concert
Urban is a strange guy, one of those fancy ones. He is a very appreciated rock singer and songwriter, singing his time, his country, his people, and his values.
I suggest you this emblematic track “Budi Moja Voda” (Be my water), when he was leader of his group Laufer, just for you to make an idea of the spirit of this guy.
Day 2 – 12/08
09.00 am – Makarska
As soon as I woke up, I opened the window and I discovered just right in front of me a spectacular view of Mount Biokovo, the second highest mountain in Croatia. It is so big and it immediately transmited me its power that loaded me from the very first morning. How unusual it is for me the sea landscape mixed with the mountains one, and this is a peculiarity of this country that drives me crazy. Turn your head left: you see a huge mountain, turn it right: you see a transparent and infinite blue sea. It is really stunning.
We found Villa Paloma a very nice and “cheap” accommodation for the season (310 Kuna / 40 € approx.). We liked very much its three double rooms, each with their private bathroom. It’s a very clean place, well kept, with the pool and buffet breakfast included. August is unfortunately a very expensive moment to visit Croatia. You can’t hardly find apartments less than 100 € / night, but don’t worry, following me and my locals friends we will give you the best tips! A very funny thing is to see the old people sat on the street with their plates or written by hand sheets “Free Apartment”, trying to nail potential customers, like everybody does once upon a time, before the internet and Trivago era. I found it a very “romantic” thing, and that remembered me when I was a young traveller, rolling the world without any bookings, with the bulky road maps folded and unfolded, arguing with my boyfriend because I was unable to understand where we were and where we were directing. Lol! However, Google Map has not solved my natural weakness: I still lose myself with GPS!
After a rich breakfast, we headed out of town searching for less crowded beaches. It’s not difficult! Just be a little bit more adventurous than average people and passing the beaches teeming with families and shouting children, you will find a succession of small coves, like private beaches, and where the FKK is allowed. FKK is a German acronym that I ignored which means Freikörperkultur, where nudism is allowed. Obviously the best places are for those who get up in the early morning to conquer #theplacetobe.
There are also rainbow beaches.
6.00 pm – Dinner @ Villa Riva
We ate at this 4 star hotel restaurant. It was not bad, even if it was not excellent. The quality of food was fresh and good but I was not impressed, even if the black dumplings intrigued me a lot and I liked them. The risotto with mushrooms was very average. As an almost Italian native, I barely appreciate pasta, pizza and risotto out of Italy, but I have to admit you can find some good ones there too. Interesting instead is the reinterpretation of Pavlova, a very famous and appreciated dessert in Croatia. I consider myself a dessert addicted, but I totally ignored the existence of this dessert born in New Zealand (or in Australia depending on the legend), and invented by a chef in honour of the famous Russian dancer Anna Pavlova, who was on tour there in 1926. Poking about the dancer, I found out that her last request before she died prematurely of pleurisy was to hold tight her swan stage costume. These little anecdotes always feed my tender and romantic soul.
8.00 pm – Walking in the city and…
Wandering around, we discovered an old disused cave, a former disco bar with an amazing sea view. There are the remains of the Deep Club closed since 2014 according to the latest reviews I found on trip advisor. Inside, along with the pungent smell of the lost lovers’ urine, we can see a transparent dance floor right above the sea and the skeleton of a retro style counter. It did not take long to put our creative minds into action and imagine ourselves being the new owners of this exclusive place for exclusive people, with a fix price first drink at € 10,000, and every day a schedule of the best performer artist and musicians of the world. We already found the name: Grottesca, a Fellinian homage in perfect agreement with the place, and our crazy and extroverted imagination! Meanwhile, it is legitimate to dream. But however, keep in mind this name: Grottesca! ☺
Day 3 – 13/08 – Split
Split is a city to which I am very affectionate with, famous for its beaches and the Diocletian’s palace, full of cultural events, concerts and bars scattered in the narrow and crowded streets of its historic centre.
After a fantastic breakfast at Dvor, a delightful little place with its wrought iron tables & seats placed under the shade of centenarian trees, and where you can enjoy the silence admiring the infinite blue sea, we headed towards the most famous city’s attraction, the Diocletian’s Palace.
The Diocletian’s Palace is one of the best-preserved monuments of Roman architecture. In 1979, it has been introduced in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built between 300 and 305 by the emperor who wearied the same name, as a synthesis of a magnificent imperial villa and a Roman military camp (castrum), divided into four parts by two main roads. The colossal structure is a rectangular construction (about 215m x 180m) with four large towers at the corners and four smaller ones, and a gate on each wall. To visit it entirely you will need half a day. The site includes the Cathedral of St. Domnius, four gates (Aurea, Argentea, Ferrea, Aenea), the vestibule, the Temple of Jupiter, the Peristyle and the undergrounds. The emperor was a great admirer of Egyptian culture, and it seems that he imported sphinxes of black marble (12 were found) that he had placed in its fortress. Today only two are visible.
In the evening, be kind with yourself and enjoy an aperitif in one of the many bars of the historic centre. I’ve chosen Pikulece that inspired me so much, and one of my friend’s favourite bars. Pikulece sounds like the Italian word “picolezze”, just like the Italian delicacies that you can combine with a good autochthonous wine, like Zlatna vrbnicka zlahtina for example that differs from the other wines thanks to its distinctive and fresh bouquet and its pleasant and lively taste. After that you can return to admire the Diocletian’s Palace by night.
Day 4 – 14/08 – Šibenik, Grebaštica
10.00 am – Going to Grebaštica
Guba, a friend of Anja’s husband, comes to pick us up direction Grebaštica, a delightful little bay, 80 km up north between Split and Zadar and nearby Sibenic (15 km).
Today it’s raining (but rain is not usual during august; in fact it rained only one day out of 15), so we couldn’t appreciate in its full shinny light the particular scenery that usually offers this bay chosen by families and trekking lovers. There are a lot of trails and cycling routes that extend from the coast until the inland where you can try olive oil, wine and dried figs. This is an ideal destination for those who are looking for a peaceful holiday
20.00 pm – Šibenik
Tonight, we go to see Róisín Murphy in concert. I love her wavy voice and her extravagant and refined style.
The concert is taking place in St. Michael’s Fortress, a magical and intimate place overlooking the sea.
Day 5 – 15/08 – Šibenik
Šibenik is a pretty medieval town on the sea, very characteristic with its narrowed streets going up and down, typical houses built in Venetian style but with the stone of Brač, used in many buildings on the Dalmatian coast, including the Diocletian Palace in Split.
What to see in Šibenik? First of all, the Cathedral of St. James (Unesco World Heritage) built entirely of stone without the use of any wooden foundation. You will for sure remain impressed by the contrast that it offers during the sunny days without clouds, with its milky white façade vs. the intense blue of the sky. Next to the Cathedral is the Large Loggia, witness of the domination of the kingdom of Venice in the middle Ages. There are as many as 24 churches in the city. Lose yourself in its maze, and do not miss the fully restored San Lorenzo Mediterranean Garden that re-opened in 2007. The garden is shaped as a famous medieval layout: a crossroads and a sapling in the middle. In four fields there are medicinal plants and various herbs. The garden is more beautiful during spring and summer when the roses are in bloom. And then, finished with the visit of the San Michele’s fortress.
Day 6 – 16/08 – Pelješac
10.00 am – Towards Pelješac
We are on the roads again, along the Dalmatian coast, to discover the Peninsula of Pelješac and its neighbouring island: Korčula.
You have two possibilities to get there: by sea taking a ferry from Ploče or by road following the direction to Dubrovnik passing a little portion of Bosnia and Herzegovina (about 10 km) to get to Ston, the first town on the peninsula. Do not forget your ID and to turn off the roaming option on your mobile phone because Bosnia is not part of the European Community!
Pelješac is seventy km over the sea and is divided into four municipalities: Orebić, Trpanj, Janjina and Ston.
11.00 am – Metković – Opuzen – Komin – Ploče
We were enchanted by the breath-taking landscapes that we stop to enjoy the view along the road, where the Neretva river crosses these places of the Narenta valley for twenty-two kilometres, and then continue on its way to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Continuing your ride uphill, you will also find on the edge of the road, a lot of coloured shakes, where artisans sell their handmade delicacies, like jams or fresh mandarin, lemon and orange juice, candied orange peel. In fact, the area is renowned for its citrus fruits. I also bought figs jam, which I’m crazy about.
2.00 pm – Mali Ston (Small Pond)
It is the first place you meet while you are arriving to Pelješac peninsula. This tiny locality is characteristic for its five km rampart, the longest on the European continent, rising on the flanks of its hill, but it is also famous for its saltpans.
At lunch we stopped Bota-Šare, even if usually my friends go to Kapetanova kuća, but today it was full. All these restaurants are famous for the mussels and the oysters that are fantastic even out of season. The Croatian oyster is sweet, fat and its taste of the sea is balanced. I appreciated them very much. We accompanied them with a sparkling rosé, Tomac Brut méthode traditionelle, a little bit too dry and rough for my taste but it leaves anyway a good aftertaste that dries the fatness of oysters. We continued our lunch with a good selection of Pošip, an autochthonous white grape that mainly grown on the island of Korčula, even if you can find small quantities produced at Pelješac peninsula too, and it is one of the best Croatian wine regions. But I will open a wider wine chapter later on.
4.00 pm – Looking for the perfect sunset
and as usual we found it. In Žuljana, a small village of two hundred souls, on the left bank of the Peljesac peninsula, we found our little paradise, which these photos are commenting by themselves. An everlasting bath, kissed by a golden light, then a small aperitif on the pier before taking the road and reach out our final destination for the night: Orebić.
10.00 pm – Zorica Kondža’s Concert
I discovered Zorica with whom I also became a friend!! She’s amazing and reminds me very much Tina Turner! She is a Croatian “pop” singer from Split. The particular thing is that she never recorded an album. She is performing almost exclusively at parties, weddings or festivals.
01.00 am – Hotel “Villa Julija”
I would have loved to sleep at the B & B Camera with a view (they don’t have a website and you can’t find them on tripadvisor, but believe me, it’s a little jewel. Please send me an email and I will give you all the info), a magnificent colonial house held by an old couple of Croats who speak perfectly Italian. Unfortunately, the high season did not leave much choice and we ended up at the Villa Julija, a bit ‘old (I hate hotels with fitted carpet), but the rooms have a magnificent view and the breakfast on the terrace facing the sea make you forget all the rest!
…to be continued…
click here for part 2 of the article.