This week, I started a new adventure on a road…
It’s not how the song goes, but I’ve got Croatia on my mind.
The country is captivating, with its miles of beautiful Adriatic coastline, Roman ruins, medieval castles and fascinating history.
The major cities of Zagreb, Dubrovnik and Split are obvious standouts. But I found that the Mediterranean feel of the place really comes alive in the smaller cities and towns. They’re the kinds of places where life slows down; where you wander the cobblestone streets with no particular place to go, and where you watch the world go by from a table in the town square, while sipping your morning coffee, or evening wine.
I visited Croatia a few years ago on a tour with Peregrine Adventures, and I’m hoping that the road leads back to these charming towns again soon.
It’s the town with the Crown! (pictured above)
Pučišća is nestled in a cove on the island of Brač, one of Croatia’s least developed populated islands, about 1 hour’s ferry ride from Split. Tourists come for the island’s beaches, unspoiled landscapes and restaurants serving traditional food, especially locally raised lamb.
The island is known as the source of the white stone used in Diocletian’s Palace in Split and the White House in Washington. And, of course, part of the town’s charm is that all of its buildings are sparkling white. Visitors can stop in at the Stone Masonry School in town where this age-old tradition lives on through the generations.
With records dating back to 1066, Šibenik is considered the oldest native Croatian city on the Adriatic.
Its rich heritage is seen in the St. James Cathedral (also known as St. Jacob), a UNESCO heritage building, which is decorated with 71 sculptured faces of local people, thought to be friends of the architect. The city is framed by four fortresses, where visitors can learn about its embattled history, and now, in a country at peace, see children playing on the ramparts.
Founded in the 3rd century by the Greeks, wandering through tiny Trogir is like stepping back in time.
Just 16 kilometres from Split, the town features a wide seaside promenade lined with cafes, and in the summer, you’ll find plenty of street entertainers there. When you walk inside the medieval walls, you’ll discover a maze of worn stone streets, which lead from the waterfront to open air courtyards, where you can settle in for a beverage or a meal. With a strong Venetian influence in its architecture, it’s no wonder the town earned UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997.
Like most of these towns, the best thing to do here is to wander and get a little lost. The town is small, so you’ll find yourself at a sunny cafe in no time.
You don’t have to go to Rome to see a classic Roman amphitheatre. Dating back to the 1st century, the sixth largest Roman amphitheatre in the world is the main tourist attraction in Pula.
Local limestone was used to construct the amphitheatre, which is believed to have had capacity for about 20,000 spectators, seated according to social hierarchy. Gladiator fights, executions and hunting spectacles were held in the oval fighting ring. In fact, under the ring, you can see a chamber where the cages were kept for wild animals. It paints quite a picture.
Nowadays, the Arena is used for an annual film festival and open-air concerts, and is surrounded by a thriving arts and restaurant community.
Often referred to as the Venice of the Croatian coast, romantic Rovinj is located on the country’s northern peninsula, called Istria.
Something of an artists’ colony, Rovinj is home to steep pedestrian streets that are paved with sea-salt polished cobblestones and lined with galleries, quaint shops and fine restaurants. Most of the streets lead up to the Saint Euphemia Cathedral, and its crowning bell tower.
It’s a place to soak in the Mediterranean sun, the Italian-influenced atmosphere, and discover secret lane ways from another era.