REGION: DALMATIA (DALMACIJA)
Croatia is becoming more and more appreciated around the world for its healthy climate, outdoor lifestyle, fresh food, clean water, and beautiful wines and spirits—and we can think of no better place to experience this Adriatic magic than on the island of Hvar.
Even before the arrival of tribes of Croats around the 7th century, some parts of modern-day Croatia were prized and even hotly contested by other cultures. It is known that Hvar was inhabited as early as the Neolithic Period, and later by Illyrians. Like many locations around both coasts of the Adriatic, a Greek colony called Pharos was established on Hvar at present-day Stari Grad. During Roman times, Hvar became part of the Roman province of Dalmatia and its name was changed to Pharia, the origin of its present-day name. The island was settled in the 7th century by Pannonian Avars and Croats, later coming under the control of the Republic of Venice, the French Empire, the Habsburgs, and others. To say the island of Hvar has been desired throughout history by competing monarchs and empires would be an understatement.
One of the reasons for the island’s desirability is location; situated along prime sailing routes, it has historically afforded opportunities for trading and commercial activities. The Adriatic waters around Hvar are crystal clear, and natural vegetation is plentiful. Add the Mediterranean climate, which offers warm and sunny summers with mild, rainy winters, and you will see why Hvar is considered one of the sunniest spots in all of Europe.
There is also a large fertile plain protected by UNESCO near Stari Grad, the ancient heart of Hvar. The Greeks set up an agricultural landscape in the 4th century BC, which is still in use today. Dry stone walls define geometric parcels, and a system of cisterns and rainwater recovery systems supply precious water. Crops today include grapes and olives, as in ancient times.
Wine cultivation began here by the 12th century, and today Hvar is one of the major wine regions in Croatia, producing both red and white wines. The scent of aromatic herbs which have thrived for generations, particularly lavender and rosemary, has contributed to Hvar’s reputation as a health resort. Hvar is often called the “island of lavender” and is home to some of the best lavender in the world.
We are proud to offer hand-cultivated herbs in our store from the Ćurin family, who have been tending their crops with the old techniques and same dedication as generations past. They have been growing lavender on their family farm in the village of Gdinj since 1955, and today they harvest wild and cultivated herbs and produce organic products such as olive oil and essential oils. Because of the natural terrain it is impossible to automate production, so the Ćurin family continues to use traditional techniques, including hand-digging and harvesting with sickles. When you open a bottle of Ćurin herbs, you experience the essence and fresh aroma of the Mediterranean, direct from the clean, natural environment of Hvar.
Of course no visit to Hvar would be complete without seeing the world-famous agave lace produced by the Benedictine nuns. Their skill and artistry has been passed from generation to generation in the monastery, and today the lace is listed by UNESCO as a “cultural intangible asset.” You can read more in our section on Traditional Croatian Crafts.
Hvar is one of the most visited islands in Croatia, loved for its healthy Mediterranean environment.
Explore the four unique historic and cultural regions of Croatia
REGION: DALMATIA (DALMACIJA)
You would hardly guess it wandering into the historic center today, but Nin is a town with a glorious past dating back 3000 years. The town was colonized by Liburnians, one of many ancient Illyrian tribes who settled the western Balkans. The Liburnians were seafarers who dominated the northeastern Adriatic coastlands and islands. Over the centuries, they gained a reputation for piracy in the Adriatic and fought naval battles with the Romans, who described their ships as swift galleys. When the Romans eventually defeated the Illyrians, the territory of the Liburni became part of the Roman province of Dalmatia.
Croatians colonized the area at the beginning of the 7th century. Nin achieved prominence as the first political, religious, and cultural center of Croatia; the oldest Croatian royal city; and the coronation site of seven kings. Beginning in the 9th century, Nin also became the seat of Croatian bishops—most notably Grgur Ninski (Gregory of Nin), who opposed the Pope and introduced the Croatian language in Glagolitic script into religious services in place of Latin. (Today Grgur is immortalized by a powerful statue by Ivan Meštrović, which stands in the town of Split.)
In the 1400s, Dalmatia was sold to the Republic of Venice. During the Turkish Wars, the govenrment of Venice ordered Nin to be burned and destroyed twice instead of allowing it to be captured and used as an Ottoman stronghold. Nin never fully recovered its former glory.
Only 18 km northwest of Zadar, the historic center of Nin occupies an islet of only 500 meters in diameter, linked to the mainland by two stone bridges. Today it is a tourist destination, valued for its remarkable history, sites, and artifacts.
One of the many reasons Croatia is so fascinating is that many ancient and historical sites have continued to be used over the centuries. Much like more notable examples—the 1st-century Roman Arena in Pula, which is used today as a music and entertainment venue, or 4th-century Diocletian’s Palace in Split, where people live, shop, and visit—the Nin saltworks are still in operation today just as they were in Roman times. The saltworks, called Solana Nin, are located on the ancient Roman salt pans directly adjacent to the town’s historic center and its two stone bridges, and the workers continue to hand-harvest natural, nutritious salt using traditional methods.
Salt has been a precious and protected commodity throughout human history. We know salt has been used medicinally since the 3rd millennium BC, and have learned from health experts the value of finding pure sources of this vital nutrient. Occupying 55 hectares, Solana Nin is in a pristine location close to 5 national parks, neighboring the famous healing mud ponds in Nin Bay, and surrounded by exceptional biodiversity. Adriatic seawater flows into pools, where the water evaporates and crystallizes from the natural processes of sunlight and strong bura winds from Velebit Mountain.
Still hand-harvesting once a year in the autumn by traditional methods, Solana Nin is the only saltworks on the Adriatic to have achieved “BIO” organic certification through the European Union and Croatian Ministry, with a product that is naturally rich in minerals including iodine, therapeutic as well as delicious. We are proud to offer gourmet salts from Solana Nin in our store.
The Croatian Royal City between the 7th and 13th centuries, Nin has one of the richest histories on the Adriatic.