I used to go to Stari Grad at least once a day in the heady days of Croatian real estate when I had my own agency.
The reason was simple – it was part of my sales tactic. A morning’s viewing around the island, then lunch at Jurin Podrum – back then it was run by Damir, who has since decamped to Kod Damira on the entrance to the old town. It was open all day, always had a warm welcome and excellent food, accompanied by half a litre of wine per client, and as soon as lunch was over, I would show the property I thought they would most likely buy. It worked in many cases.
With all my commitments on the mainland and Munich these days (and let’s not forget Liberland…), I rarely make it out of Jelsa these days, and so it was a pleasant change to spend the day on business in Stari Grad. Much of the day was locked in meetings at gorgeous Apolon, which has done much to raise the standards in the island’s oldest town.
There was a great atmosphere in town, and as I wandered along the new riva, which was packed with sailing boats (and here we are in early May), I reflected on the potential of this pretty little town, which has been living in the shadow of its more famous neighbour, Hvar Town. Whereas Suncnai Hvar got a facelist, the hotels in Stari Grad have remained at the more affordable end of the scale, with facilities to match the price, although the hotels are exquisitely positioned on the beach.
But for all the bad fortune of the exisiting hotel, the story is about to change with the announcement that Four Seasons Hotels will be opening a luxury resort very close to the town, with a reported 120 beds and 60 villas. Not only will that raise the fortunes of Stari Grad, but it will lift the whole of central Hvar.
Walking along the riva, looking for a bar to continue our conversations, I smiled at the difference between Hvar Town and Stari Grad, which cater to completely different clientele, and if Stari Grad’s authorities plan well, these could be very times indeed for the island’s former capital, as the city does not possess the glitzy party image of Hvar Town, but it does have the potential to be every bit as good, albeit perhaps for an older and more discerning clientele.
And then I saw it. The recently re-paved square in front of the Hektorovic Tvrdjalj, with the bust of the great man himself relocated from a less prominent position to take centre stage in front of his fortress home.
The square looked magnificent, and unlike on previous visits, it felt as if Stari Grad finally had a central square. And gorgeous it was too.
These are very exciting times for Stari Grad, and if they can make the appropriate choices, it has the very real potential to be the shining star of tourism on the island. It will be interesting to watch from the sidelines.