Visiting the Dalmatian Coast

It is raining and getting cold, and therefore I like to look back with fondness at my summer travels, I reflect on what I saw that maybe I want to see again, or explore a little better.

I visited the Dalmatia coast, from Venice all the way down to the Peloponnesus in Greece. It was the beginning of October and still quite hot in some places, especially the most southward.

I must say that the Adriatic Sea’s high water quality, along with the immense number of coves, islands, and channels, makes Dalmatia an attractive place for tourism in general.

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EASTBOUND

Traveling east from Venice makes it an interesting trip, a somewhat different destination and a little off the beating path, at least some parts of it. 

The first destination worth stopping is the Miramare Castle (see Miramare Castle—A Dream Home), near Trieste. Trieste itself is a very interesting Mitteleuropean city not to skip, definitely worth a stop of a day or two (Walking with Joyce, Saba, and Svevo in Trieste to a Caffe).

And then off to Istria. I would suggest a stop in Porenč (Italy, Croatia, and Back in One day), a lovely little town with a magnificent basilica.

From, Porenč proceeding to the Dalmatia Cost—a narrow belt of the east shore of the Adriatic Sea—stretching to the Bay of Kotor in the south. Dalmatia became a Roman province, and as a result, a Romance culture emerged, and there are streets and sites as a testimony of Roman dominance. 

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After the Medival Kingdom of Croatia fell in 1102, its cities and lands were often conquered by, or switched allegiance to, the kingdoms of the region during the Middle Ages. The longest-lasting rule was the one of the Republic of Venice, which controlled most of Dalmatia between 1420 and 1797, with the exception of the small but stable Republic of Ragusa (1358–1808) in the south (see Dubrovnik is King’s Landing).

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Koper Claims the Birth of Carpaccio

Another shortstop would be Koper. A small town with a beautiful piazza with a clear sign of Venetian influence. There are lovely stores along the main street, and the possibility of a long walk along the coast next to the marina. Piazza Carpaccio there is also the homonymous house. According to legend, the Venetian painter Vittore Carpaccio was born here.

Piazza Carpaccio is located behind the San Marco warehouse. In the square, we find the well in the form of a capital dating back to the mid-fifteenth century. The well was brought here from Venice and was placed in Piazza Carpaccio only in 1935. The restorations of 1935 and 1955 allow us to enjoy today the beautiful example of Gothic architecture, embellished by Gothic windows on the second floor of the building.

Korčula Island Claims the Birth of Marco Polo

Next is the island of Korčula (Curzola on Italian), a surprisingly interesting town. Small but with a lot packed in the downtown. Korčula in 1409 became part of the Venetian Republic, it still declared itself subjected to Venice in 1420. Korčula had for years supplied the timber for the wooden walls of Venice and had been a favorite station Venetian fleets. 

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Korčula Island, and particularly the inhabitants of the town of Korčula (the island and the town share the same name), claim that  Marco Polo was born there. But Marco Polo’s alleged origins in Korčula town can be seen as some sort of “invented tradition” whose truthfulness is not overtly questioned because its tourist potential is quite useful. 

There are many signs to Marco Polo’s House, however, Marco Polo’s house is not worth visiting, as the house dates at least 300 years after Marco Polo’s birth.

It is more likely that Marco Polo was there at some point, particularly when the Republic of Genoa defeated Venice in the documented Battle of Curzola off the coast of Korčula in 1298 and Marco Polo, was taken prisoner and he spent time in a Genoese prison writing about his travels.

To visit the town it won’t take a very long time, but do plan a stop for lunch, or dinner “al fresco” in one of the many restaurants along the main street “Put Svetog Nikole.”  There are many restaurants to choose from, though many are unwilling to let you sit for drinks only, they prefer to have customers for lunch or dinner.

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The next down would be Dubrovnik, but I dedicate a special entry for this beautiful location already. 

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Kotor is for Cats’ Lovers

Kotor, in Montenegro, was a very pleasant surprise indeed!

Located on a beautiful bay (that I could not stop photographing), on the coast of Montenegro, Kotor is a city steeped in tradition and history, with remarkable scenic views. Kotor has one of the best-preserved medieval old towns in the Adriatic, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the old city was built between the 12th and 14th centuries and is filled with medieval architecture and historic monuments. 

The old Mediterranean port of Kotor is surrounded by fortifications built during the Venetian period. Kotor and its surrounding area form an impressive landscape. The town has been fortified since the early Middle Ages, like Korcûla, also Kotor acknowledged the suzerainty of the Republic of Venice in 1420. Four centuries of Venetian domination have given the city the typical Venetian architecture, that contributes to make Kotor a UNESCO world heritage site.

It is home to numerous sights, such as the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon in the old town (built in 1166), and the ancient walls which stretch for 4.5 km (3 mi) directly above the city. 

Kotor has a large population of cats that have become a symbol of the city. The city has several cat stores and a cat museum, as well as the Cats’ Square (Trg od mačaka). Water and food are left throughout the city for the cats to feed on, and cardboard boxes are often arranged as a place for the cats to sleep in.

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Corfu—The Grand Lady 

Corfu, the Grand Lady of the Ionian, is characterized by a series of mythical images: Nausica, the daughter of King Alkinoos, the man who saved Odysseus when he was shipwrecked in the Country of Phaeacians.

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Equally majestic is the town with iconic city mansions, the Liston Arcade and Spianada Square. Venetians, English, French, Russians, Greeks all lived and flourished here, and left their mark on the island’s numerous sights and attractions. 

UNESCO has declared the island’s historic center a world heritage site. The stately buildings with neoclassical influences will dazzle you, particularly those facing the sea.  In the famous alleyways of Campiello, with washing lines hanging above you, and many, many stores and restaurants, with tables & chairs in the most improbable places!

Where the Olympic Games Started

Katakolon—for those visiting the Greek Islands there is a reason you are stopping at the small port town of Katakolon and that is because it is the closest deep-water port to the site of Ancient Olympia. The Olympic Games, all for the pleasure of Zeus, they started back in 776 BC, where it all began in this gentle, wooded valley of the Alpheios River in the Peloponnese. In his honor, every four years, this was the scene of an event in which the whole of the Greek-speaking world took part. 

The Olympic Games were more than just athletic competitions. They were panhellenic festivals and took precedence over everything else occurring at that time, even wars. During the period of the Games and allowing for travel time, any hostilities between the normally fractious Greek city-states were suspended and the Olympic Truce imposed, this was an accomplishment we would do well to emulate.

In western Peloponnese, Olympia became the most important religious and athletic center in Greece. Here we can see the ancient gymnasium of Olympia (from where the word “gym” comes),  adjacent to the palaestra (and palestra is the word used in Italian for the gym). Here athletes practiced track and field and the pentathlon. 

Nafplio by the Son of Poseidon

According to mythology, the town was founded by Nafplios, the son of god Poseidon and the daughter of Danaus (Danaida) Anymone. The town’s history traces back to the prehistoric era when soldiers from here participated in the Trojan War. The town declined during the Roman times and flourished again during the Byzantine times. Frankish, Venetian, and Turkish conquerors left their mark in the town and strongly influenced its culture, architecture, and traditions during the centuries. 

This magical little town is an ideal destination for all seasons. Unlike the islands, which usually begin hibernating come November, Nafplio can be a fun autumn and winter escape thanks to its mild climate. Tavernas, museums, and other monuments are still open, and there is nothing better than enjoying a refreshing walk in the small streets bordered by neoclassical houses and picturesque cafés. The Old Town’s heart, with its maze of narrow streets, hidden squares, and stunning neoclassical mansions, is as enchanting as one could imagine. I could not have enough of the gorgeous bougainvillea!

The most photographed spot of Nafplio is Bourtzi, the Venetian small fortress standing on the rocky islet of Agioi Theodoroi. During the Venetian rule, it was connected to Akronafplia (sorry for the unpronounceable names, … but this is Greece!), through a huge metal chain that secured the port against enemy ship attacks. 

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I lived the most part of my life in Washington DC, now in Italy getting to know again my country. Plenty of surprises, for good and bad, and lots of nostalgia for DC.

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