Imagine a “doll town” located on the shore of the Adriatic Sea. Its coastline is replete with cypress and pine trees, which have thousands of cones growing on them. The water of the sea near the shore looks like as if someone has expressly ladled out emerald and turquoise dye. There are no crowds of tourists, rumpus, traffic noises, long queues. There are only appeasement, Mediterranean charm, and plenty of sunny days. This town of dream is very little, yet it is absolutely self-sufficient. You’d find here everything to feel love from the first sight: beautiful architecture, beaches, picturesque nature, villas, churches, shops, narrow streets.
The town we’ve just asked you to picture in your mind is not a figment. On the contrary, it’s quite real and bears a name of Cavtat (pronounced ‘tsavtat’). You can discover it in Croatian South Dalmatia around 18 kilometers away from Dubrovnik, the city where every day thousands of tourists polish local streets with their shoes, while in Cavtat you have the reign of life serenity. No wonder this place is loved by wealthy Croatians and artists.
Cavtat can serve as an excellent base during your luxury yacht charter passage from Montenegro to Croatia or vice versa. Unless you cannot wait to get to Dubrovnik as soon as possible or to sail to the unrealistically beautiful bay of Kotor, you will not regret if you decide to make a stop here in Cavtat.
The town isn’t crowded not because it’s vapid here. It’s just that Cavtat isn’t for everybody. The town will be appreciated by those who enjoy living unhurriedly, love every moment, who dont need much to feel happy. It is one of those places which you choose intuitively if you are not attracted by cities full of infinite motion.
The history of Cavtat started in the fourth century BC as a town called Epidaurus founded by Greeks. The settlement had strategic location where many of the trade routes crossed. It made Epidaurus a “bonne bouche” for everybody at that time. Eventually the town fell under the Roman rule and became its colony few centuries later. At the beginning of the seventh century AC it was invaded by Slavs and Avars. The brunt was so severe, that most locals fled the town and found another home which now is known as Dubrovnik. That’s right, historians write that if not people from Epidaurum (the name was slightly changed by Romans), ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’ might not exist today. Nevertheless, the centuries were changing, so were the rulers. It was in the fifteenth century when a place we are talking about right now received name ‘Cavtat’ and became a part of Dubrovnik Republic.
Thankfully the restless days are long gone. Today it is quiet and peaceful here. Now Cavtat is a home to secluded walking paths through pine-covered trails around peninsula where it’s located, where you occasionally find bathing platforms on a seaside promenade and little cafes to recharge your batteries. Ibidem you spot little private vineyards, villas, benches where you can sit and enjoy the calmness of the living Arcadia.
Yes, the setting of Cavtat is not less than lovely. It is backed by imposing green hills. When you sail closer to the bay where the old town is located, on your left you notice a small cliff side bathing area looking very bohemian, while behind there is a curtain of Mediterranean greenery and a stunning private villa. Farther you see a beautiful town with renaissance architecture appearing in front of you which twists around a marvelous and colorful levee community. The waterfront is lined with mega yachts, and sailing vessel of all sizes and restaurants with terraces where visitors watch how the world goes by.
Architectural heritage of Cavtat includes building of renaissance style with elements of gothic, and baroque. Once you are here, pay a visit to Saint Nicholas Church, Monastery of Our Lady of the Snow, and the Rector's Palace where you can find an impressive and unique library of more than twenty thousand books, a collection of rare graphics, letters, engravings, coins. This is a merit of Cavtat’s famous 19th-century intellectual, cultural activist and a lawyer - Baltazar Bogišić.
One of the town’s most popular sights is the Mausoleum of the Račić family located on the hill of peninsula. There’s not much information about the family on the “English-speaking” websites. It is known only the Račićs were the wealthy ship owners living in Cavtat. The mausoleum is a work of art with octagonal white dome, massive bronze doors guarded by gargoyles of animal creatures. It was built in the early 20’s of the last century on the site of the former Chapel of St. Rocco by Ivan Mestrovic, renowned Croatian sculptor.
The town’s pride and its most famous son and of course a citizen was Vlaho Bukovac, the painter whose works are renowned far beyond Croatia. He lived and created in the second half of the 19th century – beginning of the 20th. The birth house of the artist was turned into a memorial museum, which is an inspirational place to visit.
Cavtat is not only a cultured destination, but a culinary hub for gourmet lovers. Here on small territory cuisines from all over the world perfectly cohabit with the local one. Perhaps, you won’t fancy a dish of typical “heavy” Dalmatian meal during the day, but in the evening with a glass of wine it may feel just right. We are talking about lots of meat, fish, all kinds of soups, vegetables, olives, cheese plates. And don’t forget about desserts - almond filled ravioli, pies, and cakes. Ath the end of the day that’s what vacations are for.
And it’s important to note, you’ll find menus in the restaurant at least in four languages, including English, German, Italian and French, or even make it five with the Croatian.
However, what you won’t find in Cavtat is car traffic. It simply doesn’t exist here in the old part of the town. Many streets are either closed for the transportation, or they’re too narrow for any vehicle except a bicycle to fit in. It’s a big advantage for those who want to take a rest from being surrounded by non-stop traffic all day long. Plus, Cavtat is very easy to get around it by feet. While wandering around nothing will disturb you from soaking in the epoch which is not there anymore but is still felt in this old town.
Culture, history, architecture aren’t the only attractions here. If your hobby includes sending post cards from the places you visit to your friends, relatives, or even yourself, you should do it in Cavtat too. Here you don’t need to run around the town and look where the post office is hidden. It’s just around the corner in the right part of the harbor near St. Nicholas Church.
Mostly shopping is also concentrated on the thoroughfare by the sea. It’s not a vacation if you didn’t buy any souvenir, is it? In Cavtat you’ll find all these cute little things you’d want to buy without any particular reason. Every shop has a sign which proudly informs tourists that all the products sold are local and “made in Croatia”.
Diving is another kind of entertainment in the near-by waters. The Adriatic Sea safekeeps here the remains of shipwrecks. Who knows, maybe if you’re into diving, you can find debris of previous civilizations. After all, part of the ancient Epidaurus was once destroyed by the earthquake, and its part vanished underwater.
If you sail in this area early September, check the dates and visit famous music and art event which is held in Cavtat annually - Epidaurus festival. It attracts artists and musicians from around the world. Just imagine listening to classic and jazz music in such scenery. It can be a very atmospheric experience.
We’ve visited Cavtat in various months of the year. And every time this town contrives to show us its different mood, which is always beautiful, even when it’s cloudy and rainy in the off-season, and the clouds play its drama around imposing hills. Last time we came here was in the middle of June aboard the luxury motor-sailing gulet ‘BLUE EYES’ that we feature. Even though we spent in harbor not more than one hour, it was enjoyable time to watch some of the beautiful vessels next to us, sunny weather and absolutely leisured and smiley mood of the travelers who watched the deckhands tying the ropes, and the port agents coordinating the yachts’ mooring processes.
Having the yacht traffic, Cavtat still seems to be a world away from any disturbing noises and fuss. There is only one type of sound which you may find sometimes loudish– it’s when birds sing their Ode to the beauty of local nature while sitting on the palms by the waterfront. But isn’t it a pleasant meditative melody which fills the body and mind with contemplative and positive energy? It is, an Ode to life indeed.
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