Want to stop the world and get off for a while? Hole up in a bishop’s palace in the walled town of Korčula, Croatia
We find a parking space and call the hotel, fretting slightly that we can’t find the entrance. Two minutes later our stress has dissipated entirely. A sprightly bearded man arrives as if by magic, hoists our luggage under his arms and leads us through a Mr Benn-style secret doorway into Korčula’s old town.
Our shoulders drop and our eyes widen in delight as we wend our way through the picturesque streets to Lešić Dimitri Palace, our home for two nights.
The city of Korčula sits on the north-eastern tip of the island of the same name, a 10-minute ferry ride from Orebić on the Croatian mainland. It professes to be the birthplace of Marco Polo but doesn’t need to claim such grand cultural heritage. The scenery, architecture and food here are more than enough to delight any visitor.
Lešić Dimitri Palace, which was a bishop’s residence in the 18th century, comprises five serviced apartments, each lovingly refurbished according to themes inspired by the Marco Polo story. Director stayed in the exquisite China residence, with its elegant Oriental furnishings, round bath, well-equipped kitchen and huge terrace with sea views. If you can tear yourself away from here, there’s a spa with three treatment rooms. Try the Adriatic massage with the hotel’s own blend of organic ingredients, all grown along the Silk Road. Yoga sessions can also be arranged. Its restaurant is known as one of the best on the island – and rightly so. Director’s tasting dinner of Croatian dishes with a modern twist was sublime. Each course was matched with a local wine, including the famous Grk.
Should you feel like venturing beyond the car-free environs of the old town, there’s plenty to do: explore the beaches, take a boat trip along the coast or head into the hills and feast at one of the farmhouse restaurants. But make sure you get back by sunset so that you can visit Massimo Cocktail Bar, perched atop the 15th-century Zakerjan Tower, to watch the squid fishermen setting out for the evening as the sky turns peachy. The only way to get up to the bar and back is via a ladder, so you’d be well advised to drink in sync with the sedate pace of life around here