Hvar: Piazza’s & Pizzas
Calling Hvar the new St Tropez (which many do) is doing it an injustice. OK, it has lavender fields, a pretty harbour with gin clear water and it’s firmly on the map of the gliteratti. But this small island on the east coast of the Adriatic has its own identity: the vibe is more relaxed, more contemporary and less glitzy than St Tropez. Effusive and vibrant in the summer, peaceful in the winter, this is a year-round sailing destination but it has the old world charm of the Greek island of Symi combined with the elegance of Venice. In summer, Hvar harbour swells with beautiful yachts and beautiful people, who gather after supper at Carpe Diem, the mothership of Croatia’s coastal clubs, to dance through the honeyed night until dawn.
If you are awake with the sun, discover hillsides blanketed in olive groves and vineyards, idyllic little villages along the coast and larger towns like Jelsa and Stari Grad, the oldest town of Croatia, ripe for exploring. Hvar Town is the largest and most fascinating in Croatia. A maze of cobbled streets and shuttered villas spreads out from the Renaissance harbour and central piazza while the imposing fortifications remind visitors of the island’s history. The port of Hvar is a favoured starting point to sail around the Adriatic Islands on your chartered yacht, and if you avoid July and August, you will have your pick of empty coves and bays to drop anchor, or stroll through town and enjoy a plate of fresh calamari or a crispy pizza without worrying about booking.
At sunset, walk up to the 16th-century Spanjola Fortress, for atmospheric views of the town and Adriatic.
On the stairs towards Fortica, do not miss rustic Konoba Menego – staff wear traditional outfits and food is prepared the old-fashioned Dalmatian way – as they say “no grill... no coca-cola!”
Embark on a guided sea kayaking adventure (4hrs) from Hvar Island to the beautiful Pakleni Islands where Jacques Cousteau, the marine biologist, said he'd never seen such clear blue water and the air is heavy with fragrant pines