When a Rock Star Comes for Lunch… and Comes Back Again

Central Dalmatia is a destination for all budgets and ages, and its elite tourism sector is one which has attracted celebrities for decades. So much so, in fact, that even Hollywood blockbusters, such as Mamma Mia 2 are filmed in picturesque locations such as the island of Vis.

And while celebrity endorsements are a great way to promote a destination to the millions of fans of the famous guest, it is not all that often that a celeb will return to a spot. Unless they are really impressed, of course.

One of the biggest rock stars of them all, Bono Vox of U2, popped in for lunch on Palmizana two years ago, and was so impressed by the 10-course lunch of Dalmatian specialities, washed down with the finest Dalmatian wine, that he posted his appreciation on the official U2 Facebook page, a post which was liked and shared by hundreds of thousands of fans.

And it would appear that the memory of that lunch lingered long with the famous singer, for Bono was back on Palmizana again last month, enjoying one more Dalmatian culinary experience, just one more endorsement of the healthy Dalmatian Mediterranean Diet which has been inscribed as UNESCO intangible heritage. And you certainly don’t have to be a rock star to enjoy it.

To learn more about some of the culinary specialities of Dalmatia, click here.

Vrlika Tourist Arrivals Up 80%

Tourism is Central Dalmatia has traditionally been centred on the coast and islands. With exceptional beaches and some of the clearest sea in the world, the attractions are self-explanatory, but in recent years, big efforts have been made to open up inland Dalmatia to visitors.

Long overlooked in favour of the beach, inland Dalmatia has a wealth of cultural and natural treasures which tourists are beginning to take a greater interest in, including Game of Thrones set, Klis Fortress, the Red and Blue Lakes of Imotski, the 600-year-old mills of Grab, and the Alka knights tournament in Sinj.

Key to expanding the tourism offer has been the need to offer quality private accommodation to tourists in a region where there has been little history of tourism. And the results are extremely encouraging.

Leading the way in inland Dalmatia is the town of Imotski, which has seen an explosion in luxury villas with swimming pools in recent years, and there is also a nice story surrounding the town of Vrlika, which has no private accommodation for tourists at all just two years ago, but through gentle encouragement and education, Vrlika now has 9 private renters, offering 56 beds. A perfect place from which to explore magical Lake Peruca.

The numbers may be small, but the percentages are encouraging, and tourist arrivals are up an impressive 80% for the first 8 months of 2018, with some 567 arrivals bringing 2,427 overnight stays, with 84% of these being foreign tourists.

Small steps, early days, but yet one more encouraging trend in the development of the diversity of tourism in Central Dalmatia. To learn more about Vrlika, click here

Are Dalmatian Dogs from Dalmatia? A 17th Century Painting Speaks

They are some of the most distinctive dogs in the world, made even more famous by Hollywood, but where are they actually from?

Debate has raged over the origins of the Dalmatian breed of dog, with its distinctive white coast and black spots. With a name identical to this beautiful region, could they actually be from Dalmatia? One does see Dalmatian dogs walking around on occasion, but is there any historical evidence to show that the popular Dalmatian breed wandered the streets of Central Dalmatia in centuries past?

It seems that there is, and an increasing number of tourists are taking an interest in a Franciscan monastery in the coastal village of Zaostrog, whose treasures contain a 17th century painting of The Last Supper, painted by an unknown artist. The painting includes the distinctive black and white coat of a Dalmatian dog.

It is considered the earliest known evidence of the presence of Dalmatian dogs in the region, long before Cruella De Vil came across her 101 Dalmatians in the hit movie, and while it does not prove that Dalmatian dogs are actually from the region, it does suggest that their history here dates back several hundred years.

You can reach Zaostrog on the coastal road from Split to Makarska. Learn more about the destination here

Life in the Fields of Dalmatia: Harvesting Lavender

It is one of the most aromatic plants of all, and the gentle blowing of lavender bushes in bloom is one of the endearing natural experiences of Central Dalmatia, but what is it like to actually harvest this photogenic plant?

These days, tourists flocks to the island of Hvar in late June and early July to catch the famous lavender in bloom, and the island even has its own lavender festival in Velo Grablje each summer, but the realities of harvesting lavender are a little harsher.

Lavender used to be big business on Hvar, and at one time it was the 8th largest producer in the world, with its precious oil highly prized for its medicinal purposes, but the process of harvesting lavender and turning it into oil is hot, thankless work, but a wonderful tourism experience for those wanting to experience authentic Dalmatia as its very finest.

The key to harvesting lavender, which usually takes place in early July, is making a very early start, while the temperatures are still bearable. There is no shade in lavender fields, and once the sun gets up, the task becomes all the harder. Already by 7am, it is almost too hot, which is why you will find lavender pickers hard at work at the crack of dawn.

The blooming lavender is cut expertly with a scythe, as the picker grabs a bunch in one hand, then cuts it free from the plant. A skilled lavender picker can harvest a bush in under a minute, and the process is impressive to watch – check out the video below of a harvest on top of Hvar. From the fields, the cut lavender is transported in sacks to the distillery, from where the precious oil is produced. To give an idea of yield, this harvest of 300 mature plants below gave some five litres of pure lavender oil. Lots of hard work for a small return, hence the high value of lavender oil.

To learn more about Hvar, click here.

Meet the Indigenous Grape Varieties of Dalmatia: Vugava from Vis

There are quite a lot of wine varieties that are indigenous to various Croatian islands: for obvious reasons, there are a lot of Croatian islands to begin with, they’ve been populated for centuries and can be described as quite distant from one another, which explains why they would have their separate local varieties. One of the more distant ones is the island of Vis, the variety that holds the title of the local favourite is Vugava, a white grape grown almost exclusively on that island, which is believed to have been brought to Vis by the ancient Greeks. There is, however, no evidence of the variety existing anywhere else, so it might have been cultivated on the island by the Greeks during their colonisation.

The renowned French variety Viognier is believed to be linked to Vugava genetically, although the research has not unequivocally proven that. In the past the variety was losing its popularity (partly because, although high-quality and ideally with excellent yield, the vines are rather prone to various diseases and the yields are very dependent on the factors such as disease, weather, insolation etc.), and in the early seventies of the twentieth century it occupied less than 5% of the vineyards on Vis!

Nowadays people on the island understand the importance of having a local, indigenous variety preserved, as well as the qualities of the Vugava wine, so since then it has gotten more present. Usually grown on the stony and very sandy soils on Vis, the best wines coming from the vineyards on the hills, the variety ripens rather early and needs to be picked during a very narrow window of time, usually fully by hand. The grapes tend to have very high sugar content and relatively low acids and somewhat overripe aromas, and traditionally have been used to create dessert wine prošek or to be blended with varieties with lower sugars and higher acids, but nowadays some fresh dry varietal wines are also being made.

The wine is golden yellow, has a specific varietal aroma, fruity, reminiscent of green apple and apricots. It is less mineral then what you’d expect from a grape that has grown on the sand, and the dry wine that can be produced with careful vinification is well balanced, at around 14 percent alcohol content, nice acids and a flavour that is sometimes described “retro” and honey-like. It is not meant to be kept for a long time, and can be enjoyed on its own, as an easy drinking wine, or with shellfish, and meals made with lighter meats (chicken, turkey). The most notable producers of the varietal Vugava wine on the Vis island are Lipanović (probably the winemaker whose Vugava will be the easiest to find outside Vis, as he has the largest production), PZ Podšpilje and OPG. And, as an exception to the rule, there is a Vugava wine grown and made on the island of Brač, called Stina.

To learn more about the island of Vis, click here