It’s little wonder that Dubrovnik has been labelled ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’. One of Croatia’s tourist hot-spots, it seduces swarms of summer visitors each year with its age-old city walls and glorious coastal conditions. But there’s a lot more to this Dalmatian settlement than medieval wine-bars and optimum tanning weather.
Hidden beneath imposing cliffs, by the banks of the Ombla river, is an awe-inspiring mansion. Built between 1706 and 1715, it used to be the summer residence of the Bozdari family. Once upon a time, the pleasure-seeking aristocrats would holiday here; you can almost hear the echoes from its hedonistic heyday bounding between its shabby walls.
A venetian architect by the name of Marino Gropelli created the grand structure during an especially beautiful chapter in Croatia’s cultural history, which saw gothic-renaissance and baroque architecture cropping up all over the country.
Like many of Dubrovnik’s mansions, the Bozdari house was built right on the waterfront, the river lapping up at its façade. In the 18th century, visitors would have had to arrive by boat. But river became road in the early 1900s, and a little part of the mansion’s magic disappeared.
River or no river, water will always be at the heart of this enchanting place. The centrepiece of its garden was a majestic stone feature, which spouted water from its rocky surface into a shallow pool. Four paintings decorate the capacious entrance hall: one depicts Zeus’s three lovers; another shows the nymph that was said to haunt that fountain.