Hvar, "the jewel of the Adriatic", is the second largest Dalmatian island, located between Split and Dubrovnik. see map of Croatia
Many excavations prove a human presence as far as in the neolitic period, in particular tribes of shepherds and fishermen.
In the Antiquity, the Greeks established a colony called Pharos on the current site of Starigrad. In the 4th century, the island was occupied by Illyrians,
then by the Romans who subjected all Dalmatia. Rich tradesmen let build summer villas on the site of Hvar and Jelsa.
At that time, the economy of the island was based on the culture of vine, fishing and trade.
During the decline of the Roman Empire, Hvar fell into the hands of croatian kings who then had to leave the place to the conquerors of the Serenissime Republic of Venetia
which established its authority on all Dalmatia without however succeeding to subject Raguse, its great rival, the actual Dubrovnik.
The golden age of the Venetian period saw the construction of the episcopal palace, the arsenal as well as the theatre and the franciscan monastery.
The island knew under the "pax venitiana" a long economic, cultural and commercial expansion until the fall of the Republic in 1797.
Hvar passed then under Austrian domination, then under French rule in 1806.
After the dismissal of Napoleon, the austro-hungarian empire layed hands on the area which then knew a relative stability during the 19th and the begin of the 20th century until the arrival of the Italian army.
At the treaty of Rapallo in 1921, Hvar was definitively integrated into the Serbo-croatian kingdom which became Yugoslavia after the Second World War.
After Tito's death, the different communities were engaged in a fratricidal war, ending in the creation of the Republic of Croatia on January 15, 1992.
Hvar was always the center of an intense cultural and artistic activity. It generated great writers and poets, the most famous being Petar Hectorovic (1487-1572) and Hanibal Lucic (1485 1553).
The theater, built in 1612, was the first in Europe.
The historical center
The central square, facing the Saint Stefan cathedral, is considered as the largest and most beautiful of Dalmatia. Paved with large stones at the end of the 18th century
and borded by the episcopal palace, that of the governor and by the arsenal, it was always the political, cultural and trading center of the city.
Around the square, beautiful white gray stone houses, capped with red tiles, are built in steps, with small secret gardens where bougainviliers, lemon trees and pomegranates grow.
The spanish citadel, perched on a hill overlooking the city, catches all the eyes. Built at the 16th century, it was partially destroyed by an explosion, then restored. It offers a amazing panorama on the city and the Pakleni islands.
The "Fort Napoleon", built in 1811 under the French occupation, offers the highest point of observation and the view from there is fantastic, especially at sunset.
In can be reached by taking the road of Brusje, then a small way on the right until the top of the hill. It has been transformed into an astronomical observatory.
Hvar is often named the Saint Tropez of Croatia. Not only because of the many yachts which accost here, along a splendid walk bordered with palm trees, but also thanks to the jet set and the VIP's of the whole world, from Tom Cruise, Sharon Stone, Stéphanie of Monaco to Benetton, Jack Lang and Romano Prodi who like to stay here.
In the summer, numerous young people come here to dance in the bars like the Metropolis and the Carpe Diem. The island is the most visited and the sunniest (more than 2700 hours per year) of Croatia . It was elected by the Traveller magazine as one of the ten most beautiful islands in the world with Capri, Bali and Mykonos.
Its climate is typically mediterranean, with not too high summer and mild winter temperatures and a beautiful forest (pines) covering the island. The culture of lavender, vine and olive-trees is widely developed here.
What impresses the visitor is the turkis blue color and the limpidity of the sea, offering small wild creeks where it is easy to practise naturism.
The main road between Hvar and Starigrad through the tunnel, continuing till Jelsa, is in good condition. The crest road Starigrad-Hvar has many curves
and its condition is not the best, but the panoramas are fabulous. The southern coast (Zavala, Ivan Dolac) can be reached through a long and
narrow tunnel whose crossing is an experience. At its extremity, the view is dazzling, hills falling down into the scintillating sea , vine growing on the slopes and producing the best wines of the country.
Many boats carrying cars connect Split to Starigrad and the catamarans bring a flood of travellers directly to Hvar.
From Italy, the most direct way is Ancona-Split, but also Pescara-Starigrad. The town of Sucuraj at the other end of the island is only 5 kms from the continent and many car ferries connect it to Drvenik.
Old stone houses
The lovers of old stone houses will find their luck in Croatia and particularly on the island of Hvar. From the small villages settled on the slopes
of the hills to the old districts of the towns of Hvar, Starigrad, Jelsa or Vrbska, you will be touched by the charm of these old Dalmatian houses
with their red roofs, some restored, other abandoned and invaded by wild grasses.
More than one foreigner coming here began to dream
in front of one of them, feeling the burning desire to become its proud owner and imagining to retire under the sun of Dalmatia.
But the people here already realized the passion caused by these houses, and the prices of the real estate dramatically increased these last years.
Furthermore, the steps for acquisition are not simple and time consuming. Enthusiasts be aware...