A Brief History & Background of Stari Grad
Without any doubt, the town of Stari Grad is something special. Specific combination of historical events that helped shape the place together with physical evidence that serve as a proof of turbulent past makes this town so unique and unlike any other place on Earth. They say when soul is leaving this world something remains – some form of energy, a spirit of some kind. In Stari Grad Town you can feel the spirit of the past on every single step. If you listen very carefully and with an open heart, every stone will tell you an interesting story.
The town of Stari Grad was a rather popular place throughout history, a “good catch” so to speak and many a people wanted a piece of it.
Illyrians, Greeks, Romans, Slavs, Venetians, Turks and Austro-Hungarians all walked upon this tiny fraction of a land located right under the bright Mediterranean sun. Some of them came to bring progress; some of them came to destroy it but all of them left something behind. And their traces can still be seen upon the city’s contours – in its monuments, in its more or less modest residential architecture, upon its streets and around its squares.
However, some places have an aura stronger than others.
One of the main town’s attractions is Stari Grad Plain also known as Ager or Hora. Greek colonists from the island of Paros founded a polis (independent city-state) in the year 384 BC at the place of today’s Stari Grad and called it Pharos
The most probable reason for founding a polis at this particular place is that the land in hinterland of the site was extremely fertile.
What is left from the Greeks to this date is preserved division of the field with its paths. In fact, Stari Grad Plain presents the best preserved cadastral plan in the whole Mediterranean area and because of that it has been UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008.
The other probable reason for polis being here is the perfectly and naturally sheltered 5 nautical miles deep bay located in the western part of the island. That same quality is recognized even today what caused the town of Stari Grad being a popular nautical destination for all those who are not into the whole “seen and be seen” scene so typical for town of Hvar, island’s capital.
Another “must see” place is the church of St. John. Stari Grad people declared themselves Christians in the 5th century and they build the church in the same place where today St. John’s church stands. The most magnificent version of the church was, however, built in the 6th century when twin basilica was raised together with baptistery and some other auxiliary facilities. The remains of this architectural edifice, with its ruins and early Christian mosaic can still be seen inside and around today’s church of St. John.
When talking about monuments and architecture, the “brightest star” of Stari Grad Town is, in fact, the palace Tvrdalj with its fishpond and garden located inside the complex. Tvrdalj is for sure the most romantic manmade place in Stari Grad Town.
The complex dates back to 15th century and it is the idea of the Renaissance poet, erudite and architect Petar Hektorović. “Tvrdalj” represents this humanist’s life philosophy transferred into stone structure that was supposed to be a safe haven for all of God’s creatures – fish, birds, plants and humans.
Architecturally speaking, this is a structure that combines leisure and defensive architecture what resulted in this special form of fortified Renaissance leisure villa. The villa consists of a residential area and salt-water fishpond with a porch and garden. The entire complex is dedicated to the “Creator of all things” – Omnium Conditori.
However, Hektorović is primarily a poet. His most important work is “Ribanje i ribarsko prigovaranje” (Fishing and Fishermen’s Talk). It is a pastoral and narrative poem in which Hektorović describes his three-day voyage from Hvar to Brač and Šolta islands accompanied by fishermen. It is the first Croatian literary travelogue in verse.
One other site that we strongly recommend is a parish church of St. Stephen and Dominican Monastery of St. Peter.
Other hidden jewels of Stari Grad Town we will let you discover yourself…
Rich history, numerous churches, museums and lovely little art galleries (as “Maya Con Dios” or “Fantazam”) make this town a popular destination for artists and both culture and history enthusiasts. If you are among those it is imperative that you visit the Biankini Palace. Inside the Palace there is a rich maritime, ethnographic and archaeological collection same as the art collection of Juraj Plančić.
Juraj Plančić was a painter born in the town of Stari Grad and educated in Split, Zagreb and Paris where he died of TB at the age of 30. Although there is an obvious influence of Parisian museums and galleries in his work there is also a very visible joie de vivre of Mediterranean atmosphere so typical for Stari Grad Town.
There are numerous cafés and a quality gastro offer in a variety of restaurants where value-for-money is implied.
As far as the gastronomy goes, we would like to pin out “Pinetta”, a great restaurant in the old town, as well as a charming place called “Antika”. For the more affordable meals in the homely atmosphere check out the restaurant/pizzeria “Marko” or enjoy the busy atmosphere at “Kod Damira”. If you prefer a dinner by the sea in the old town area then restaurant “Kod barba Luke” will be a good solution and if you prefer a romantic dinner by the sea take a little stroll to the restaurant called “Eremitaž”.
Make sure you taste the exceptional locally made honey, traditional Paprenjak biscuit and surprisingly delightful lavender cake.
Don’t miss out on local olive oil and some nice, refreshing, high quality wines made out of white grapes such as respectable Bogdanuša variety or aromatic Pošip. Both varieties come from vineyards in aforementioned Stari Grad Plain.
A winemaker Pavino from Stari Grad is famous for his biodynamic method of winemaking. He uses grapes exclusively from the Ager vineyards and his whites made from aforementioned Bogdanuša sort, together with his reds – Plavac and Merlot, are the crucial part of the local enological offer. We heard it through the grapevine that his Merlot is the best.
When talking about Bogdanuša or Pošip variety we must also mention 2012 Carić’s Bogdanjuša that won a silver medal on The Balkans International Wine Competition in 2013, as well as Plenković’s Zlatan Pošip that won numerous medals on Decanter World Wine Awards, one of the most prestigious competitions in the world.
The town of Stari Grad is a great place not only for culture and history enthusiasts but also for divers, cyclists, fishermen, passionate walkers and all others who enjoy beautifully calming and relaxing ambiance.