In Central Dalmatia rising out of the Adriatic off the southern coast of Croatia is the island of Korcula, with its low mountains, pine forests, olive groves and scent of wild herbs. At 47 km (29 mi) long and 6 to 7 km (3.7 to 4.3 mi) wide, it is one of the larger of Croatia’s thousand islands. The island is hilly, the highest peak being Klupca just above the village of Pupnat at 568 m (1,864 ft). The southern coast of the island is steep and eroded, while the northern shore, facing the mainland, is tamer and boasts little pebble beaches. In the far northeast of Korcula, near the village of Lumbarda, there are some lovely sandy beaches.
The main draw on this enchanting island is the town of Korcula, a beautiful medieval walled town on a promontory of land protruding out into the Peljesac Channel. The city was surrounded in the 14th century by thick defensive stone walls punctuated by 12 imposing towers, many of which remain today. The island has changed hands several times over the centuries, but the architectural legacy left by the Venetians between 1420 and 1779 is second to none and is most apparent in the town.
Inside the walls, the narrow lanes branch off the main street like the bones of a fish, planned in this way to reduce the effects of wind and sun and make life more comfortable for the inhabitants.
Built-in the 15th century, Revelin Tower forms the present-day Land Gate which is the main entrance into the Old Town. There was once a drawbridge here, but it was replaced by stairs when the threat of invasion was reduced. The view from the top of the tower is lovely and offers a 360 panorama of the town and its attractive rooftops.
The Sveti Marko Cathedral (Cathedral of St Mark); built in the 15th century in the Gothic-Renaissance style is probably the most important building in the Old Town. The main pool, built by Bonino of Milan in 1412, features Adam and Eve on either side and St Mark above. There is a beautiful fluted rose window in the centre of the facade. The Renaissance interior was carved by a famous local stonemason, Marko Andijic, and contains treasures such as an early Tintoretto.
Venetian architecture is most obvious in the streets around the Cathedral of St Mark, where there are various Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque palaces built for Korcula aristocrats. Opposite the cathedral is Arneri Palace, with its lovely Gothic facade and Renaissance-Baroque cloister.
Next to it is Ismaeli Gabrielli’s Palace, built in the Renaissance style in the 16th century, currently housing an art gallery and the Town Museum with exhibits relating to shipbuilding, seafaring and stone masonry. Also, close by is the 17th-century Bishop’s Palace, which holds the town’s treasury with a collection of paintings including works by Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Carpaccio, Bassano and Tiepolo.
The town of Korcula is famous for Moreska, a traditional sword dance which was common throughout the Mediterranean in the 12th and 13th centuries and became popular in Korcula in the 16th century. The dance probably originated in Sapin, inspired by the conflict between Moors and Christians. In Korcula, its popularity was probably liked by the struggles against the Ottoman Empire. Through the centuries Moreska vanished from the Mediterranean and now it is only performed in Korcula.