Stari Grad is a town on the northern side of the island of Hvar. It is one of the oldest towns in Europe, settled by the Greeks in 384 BC who originally named it ‘Faros’. Today it is known as Stari Grad which literally means ‘Old Town’
The town lies five miles deep into a bay surrounded by hills and mountains. The prime agricultural land and well protected harbour has made it attractive for human settlement but also has long been sought after by invaders.
It was liberation day, a national holiday in Croatia, and marching bands were performing as we arrived, I wasn’t expecting such a warm welcome!
After mooring on the harbour wall we walked along the Riva which is lined with grand buildings, palm trees, small fishing boats and kiosks selling local crafts.
The clock tower on this one reminded us of ‘Back to the future’!
We continued through a maze of cobblestoned narrow Venetian alleyways and streets which run through the pedestrian only town (you would not even get a Fiat 500 through these).
As we turned each corner there was something new to see including ancient archways, churches, and colourful bougainvillea. Many of the old stone buildings have been restored and now feature boutiques, souvenir shops, ice cream parlours and cafes.
In the centre of the town is St. Stephen’s Church which was the first Cathedral on Hvar island. This baroque style Cathedral was reconstructed in 1605 on the site of a 9th century church. A freestanding bell tower was built later in 1753, partly from stones pillaged from the cities old town walls.
Interconnecting the streets were pretty squares with ancient homes, staircases and flowers.
These entrepreneurial young children were selling their arts and crafts from a small table they had set up.
The most notable building in Stari Grad is Tvrdalj Palace which was the summer residence of the Renaissance nobleman and poet, Petar Hektorović. Born and raised in Stari Grad, his poems celebrate the ordinary lives of local fishermen.
He designed the villa himself and instructed building work to commence in the mid 16th century taking 40 years to complete. He was inspired by the idea that all creatures, including fish, birds, plants and people could live in a self-sustaining enclosed world.
The interior courtyard has an impressive seawater fishpond well stocked with mullet, as it was in Hektorović’s day. It is situated so that the colour of the water transforms between different shades of blue and green depending on the time of day.
The pond is encircled by a stone vaulted terrace offering shade to sit and relax.
Through the archways on one side is a large walled peaceful garden where Hektorović grew herbs and medicinal plants.
The living quarters all lead off from the pond, nowadays they are privately owned so we were unable to look inside.
Quotes from the writer’s work are inscribed on the walls in Latin and Croatian. The one above the toilet ‘alcove’ (a rare luxury for the time) translates to ‘Know what you are and then you can be proud’.
When the Turkish raids by the Ottoman Empire began, Hektorović fortified his walls and the building became a sanctuary for those seeking shelter from the attack.
In front of the fortress-home is a statue of Petar Hektorović.
This gajeta in the harbour was reconstructed for the 2018 film ‘fishing and fisherman’s talk’ based on one of Petar Hektorović’s best known works.
After the sun had gone down, we visited an Asian inspired restaurant which had been recommended to us and enjoyed a lovely dinner. It was a nice change to have something other than the ubiquitous Croatian grilled food.