Out of the Blue Sky
By Deborah S. Nelson, Author/Publisher VRTG
It is always truly exciting, while simultaneously unnerving, to defy gravity. Every time I fly, it dawns on me that I have cheated the law of gravity. This tends to shake up my concept of reality. Perhaps this is what jet lag really is. The flight to Croatia not only defied gravity, but defied time as well. I landed six hours into the future when I arrived at the Split Airport just minutes from Villa Papilio.
My trip to Croatia came from out of the blue. People in the know tell us that Croatia is the next, up and coming travel destination in Europe. After nine hours in the sky and a total of 21 hours in transit, I landed in Split, Croatia. Gordon Svalina, from Starac Management Company, picked me up and drove me to my next writing destination. Coincidently, it turned out at Villa Papilio, I once again, found myself high in the sky.
As we approached the villa’s long driveway, Gordon kindly reassured me that we would make the steep climb. I once lived in Colorado and was accustomed to switchbacks snaking up high mountain peaks; however, with no switchbacks, this road pointed nearly straight up — a concrete path headed right for the sky. Villa Papilio was situated near the top of the tallest hill in the area, a hill that seemed to touch the sky.
Villa Papilio Translates to Villa “Butterfly”
The villa, built in 1992, in a classic Mediterranean style, is rated five-stars by the Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Croatia. Later, I wondered how a five-star rating could fully rank this holiday rental with all its special extras far beyond what is offered through a typical hotel concierge. Villa Papilio aptly takes its name from the Croatian word for butterfly — a colorful winged insect which flits to and fro in the bluest of skies. Flaunting its beauty with nature’s choreographed dance moves, the free-spirited butterfly deftly avoids capture. Like the butterfly, Villa Papilio cannot be captured with a simplistic five-star rating.
Upon arrival we were warmly greeted by the owner/manager, Yelka Matijas, who speaks fluent English, a result of having been a business woman for 20 years in the United States. When going to a foreign country, it is reassuring to hear your language spoken. That was my first welcome gift. Next, I discovered many extras personally extended by Yelka. Her generous extras included fresh virgin olive oil, red wine, and fresh roses as often as needed (all of which are grown on her properties). Domestic wine was religiously served in the evenings in an elegant decanter. I was off to a great start in Croatia. With three elements in place: English Spoken Here, local red wine, and the spectacular view, I was at peace in this strange, new place in the sky, called Croatia.
Architectural Work of Art
The villa itself is a terraced work of art. Nestled into the top of a steep hill, the highest level is a rooftop terrace with outdoor cooking area and the most stunning view of all. Underneath, is the bedroom level with four en-suite bedrooms. The next level down is the main floor which houses a large stainless-steel gourmet kitchen, a dining area plus a formal dining room, and a warm and cozy living room. All of these offer large terrace areas with spectacular views. Lastly, the ground floor of the villa includes another en-suite bedroom, an indoor pool, a second kitchen and TV area — very casual, fun, and cozy. Three of the bedrooms overlook the Adriatic Sea with their own private terrace.
Especially unique is the waterfall wall at the end of the driveway, which sets an elegant outdoor ambience right away. This waterfall enhances the largest terrace wall which abuts the property’s hilltop. I could not decide which item is the greatest architectural showpiece of the villa. Is it the waterfall in the front entrance area, the polished granite staircase, or the brass elevator? Perhaps the blue sky views from the top of this rocky perch is the greatest wonder of all!
The actual house makes up the first four terraces. Many more terraced levels below include a small vineyard, rose gardens, and vegetable garden; all of which seems to encompass at least an acre of land, perhaps more. Every nook and cranny serves its own function. All the terraced gardens are meant to serve the guests. Each group staying at the villa can access organic vegetables, wine, and fresh roses which are thoughtfully included in the villa package. With its five en-suite bedrooms, the Villa Papilio can easily sleep ten persons in luxury; but it certainly could feed and entertain up to 30 persons for a special event.
Blue Sky Views
The sky views are absolutely memorable in Mediterranean areas. Croatia lies east of Italy across the Adriatic Sea. The clouds look soft and puffy; the skies are painted a magnificent, electric blue. On cloudy days, even a spot of blue sky is captivating. The air, water, and food in Croatia are crisp, fresh, and healthy.
One gets the feeling that the people live very long lives here. Later, I found this to be true. Just looking at these beautiful sky views every day is enough to make me wonder if I have arrived in Paradise. I have to ask myself if I am alive. It is so beautiful here. There are many breathtaking views: the rock-bound hills laced with lovely stone homes topped with reddish terra-cotta roofs. The joyful songs of many different species of birds plus other natural sounds add to the quiet, peaceful ambience of this area. When someone says, “I’ve got a piece of blue sky I want to sell you,” it normally refers to a real estate ‘rip-off.’ However, if you could actually isolate and sell me a piece of this blue sky, I would gladly buy it.
Food Haven at Seget Vranjica
Yesterday we munched on brunch in a tiny seaport at a lovely spot called Villa Mediterana, a hotel/restaurant. This is where I received my first education about food in Croatia. After eating, we were given the entire tour of the restaurant. First, from the inside of this totally elegant dining area was the vista which overlooked the sea. Then we were taken into the kitchen where we met the chef. Next, we were escorted outside to see the outdoor oven. Finally, the owner took us out to the organic garden. He was so excited about showing us all the vegetables in the garden, insisting that everything was completely organic. The food we had eaten was the best in the area. I ordered a thick steak with a fried egg on top. The meat here is amazingly juicy and tasty, due to the cultural and natural style of raising and harvesting the food. Of course, the salads and vegetables are completely fresh. Eating vegetables here is a completely different experience than in The United States. They do not taste the same! If you want to vacation and know that you are eating fresh, homegrown organic food, Croatia is absolutely the place to go.
Trogir — Not to Be Missed
The historic city of Trogir is situated on a small island between the Croatian mainland and the island of Iovo. It is an amazing complex and lies 27 kilometers west of the city of Split. Trogir boasts 2,300 years of continuous tradition. Originally created under the influence of the ancient Greeks, followed by the Romans, and then the Venetians, Trogir has a major assortment of palaces, churches, and towers, as well as a fortress on a small island. In 1997 it was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Trogir is the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex not only in the Adriatic, but in all of Central Europe.
With all this history, Trogir carries on tradition with an elementary school in one of the buildings nearby, which also houses many shops serving tourists and locals alike. We took our time to amble through an ancient Corinthian fortress area. In one of the outdoor seating areas near the shops, we finished the day with two-scoops of gelato. Do not miss the main complex of Trogir with its outdoor street market filled with colorful trinkets for purchase, mostly Italian clothing, souvenirs, and designer shoes. This delightful mix of the ancient history mixed with contemporary niceties can be found at Trogir, when you stay at Villa Papilio. Surrounded by tall buildings, I still managed to snap a photo of a piece of blue sky that peeked through the many rock fortresses. I love my blue sky even inside of a mighty, protective fortress.
One of my favorite things to do is just to sit and drink a warm and yummy cup of cappuccino. Being neighbors with Italy, finding cappuccino in Croatia is no problem! However, the first place we tried, we requested additional milk to take it down a notch. It was so strong; more like a thick Turkish coffee than cappuccino. The next day we drove into Kastel Sucurac a town closer to Split, and located a cappuccino shop named Kamonica, owned by my host’s cousin.
The cappuccino was excellent, and went well with the treats we enjoyed from the pastry shop next door. The shop included a pleasant outdoor seating area. We had a wonderful time with our chocolate truffles and cappuccino.
Although Villa Papilio includes all the amenities you will need, you may want to venture into Split or, at least, to the town center for a half day or evening, about half an hour’s drive. In Kastel Sucurac just outside of Split, is a major shopping mall called Emesetta, for groceries, cell phones, or just to shop for shoes and clothing. The main grocery store is called Interspor. We went with Gordon to stock up on groceries and solve cell phone issues. I also bought a pair of amazing lightweight shoes from one of the stores.
Renee and I took an evening off to journey into Split, where we enjoyed some drinks, dessert and local live music. We ambled through the Diocletian Palace where there are many restaurants and nightclubs situated in the nooks and crannies of the ancient, protected area in the center of Split. Our meandering came to a stop when we randomly sat down at one of the outdoor restaurants. I ordered a hazelnut dessert that was absolutely heavenly. The problem is, I don’t rememberwhat is was called or where I found it. The hazelnut dessert spot will have to remain a fond food
In this center of Split we found a well-preserved historical area with many shops and restaurants sitting near the sea. This entire area was walled off with a massive door so that ancient enemies coming into port were kept at safe distance. In the evenings there is local, live music in the center of the ancient palace. We were happy and satisfied with a drink and the entertainment while sitting on red pillows provided on the steps around the square. Here we relaxed, as the bright afternoon sky silently and gradually transformed into deeper and darker hues of sky blues, backlit midnight blues, and then to deep navy blues — to make way for the star-filled Anatolian night sky.
Yelka Matijas is a kind and attentive hostess, making every effort to give guests the privacy they require or to be handy when needed. As the owner/operator living in the area, she is nearby if anything else is desired. At times, when Villa Papilio is used for small events, she is able to supply catering, a chef, and any other extras that may be needed. The most wonderful thing about Yelka is that it is in her heart to serve. With her fluent English, there’s no difficulty in being understood. She is a lovely, kind-hearted woman with only her guest’s comfort and happiness in mind. I am delighted to have met her as my first acquaintance in Croatia. The extras she gives are high quality gifts to be cherished. Throughout my visit, I couldn’t help but notice her favorite, and oft-repeated, expression: “from out of the blue sky.”
We have placed this property in the Super Romantic Vacation Rentals category due to its stunning view, five-star designation, and the extra amenities included. The elevator, the indoor and outdoor pools, the hot tub downstairs, the gourmet kitchen with terraces, the bathrooms and TV’s in each en-suite bedroom qualify this villa for Ultra Luxurious Vacations Rental category as well. The size of this villa also lends it to Family Focused, and Retreats and Events Vacation Rentals. For availability and reservations at the Lauren Berger Collection you may call her at (888) 522-1099, (239) 671-2920 or (646) 629-9669.
Comments Welcome: Make a comment below (our writers work hard…give them some love!) on any of our Live Reviews by Travel Writer Cindy White, Deborah Nelson, or Renee Fontaine, and get a FREE Digital version of The Vacation Rental Travel Guide when it is hot off the press!