During your stay on the sunniest island give into the authentic experiences, tastes and aromas of Hvar Island. Visit local taverns, be inspired by the local vendors’ stories, and don’t forget to take an original Hvar souvenir home with you. You’ll find inspiration in every corner of the old town centre, in small shops offering homemade items and handiwork by creative and hardworking locals. For a full experience make sure to also visit all the picturesque villages near Stari Grad: Dol, Rudina and Vrbanj where you’ll find excellent taverns and households that make and sell high quality and organic products.
The oldest mention of this Stari Grad cookie – paprenjok – was by Petar Hektorović. A note of it can be found in his famous epic Fishing and Fisherman’s Talk from 1556. The work describes a three-day fishing trip from Stari Grad to Šolta and back. The poet Petar Hektorović sails in the company of two fishermen, Paskoje and Nikola. He says they took with them good Muscat wines, sweet wines (Prošek), cake, honeycomb, kashkaval cheese, fruit and paprenakov.
The main ingredient of the paprenjok is honey. The wheat they used came from the Hektorović family farmers who cultivated it in the fertile Stari grad Plain, which was then milled in the Tvrdalj mill, and their olive oil came from the Hektorović family olive groves. To make the paprenjok, they still needed the Prošek which was made in Tvrdalj’s tavern from good and quality grapes.
The only ingredients that couldn’t have been grown in Tvrdalj were the spices: cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. However, these weren’t difficult to come by because the Stari Grad port was located on many trading routes between Venice, Dubrovnik and other Mediterranean ports.
Up until the 20th century, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg were in Stari Grad referred to by a single name – papor. That’s how the cookies got their name – paprenjoki.
How are paprenjoki made?
A kilogram of honey needs to be boiled the evening before. Once it comes to a boil and starts to form a froth, a spoon is used to remove the froth. The cloves are crushed on a board with a wooden hammer and added to well-heated Prošek. The saffron is fried, crumbled and also added to the heated Prošek.
A quarter of a litre of olive oil is added to the honey. The saffron and cloves are strained from the Prošek, and overall a quarter of a litre of it is added.
A little bit of cinnamon is added to the mixture, along with a bit of nutmeg and flour with baking soda at the end. Not too much flour is added as to keep the dough soft, and left to rest for half an hour. A portion of the dough is the placed on the board and more flour is added. The dough is divided into equal parts, kneaded by hand and rolled into small balls.
The balls are placed on a metal baking plate, then shaped into the paprenjok, and baked at 200°C until it darkens.
You can decorate them as soon as they cool by combining one egg white with 15 dag of powdered sugar.
The Bratanić family tavern in the village of Vrbanj has been declared a Protected Cultural Property of the Republic of Croatia.
As part of the residential-economic compound in the Krojevi dvori area and originating from the birth house of Matija Ivanić, also a protected cultural site, the tavern preserved its traditional rural central Hvar architecture features, with minimal interventions using contemporary materials. The inventory reflects the purpose of this Dalmatian tavern; preserved items relate to winemaking and viticulture, which have been the foundation of Dalmatian economy, and especially Hvar Island, for thousands of years.
This family tavern is what inspired Miki Bratanić’s author project The Story of the Tavern by which this Hvar artist, through the prism of the phenomenon of the original, traditional farmer’s tavern, presents the abundance of our customs, tradition, heritage and recognisability.
Hvar is often also referred to as the Lavender Island with its lavender fields, in full bloom in June and July, providing a colourful and aromatic experience. You can get your lavender souvenirs, which are truly the perfect gist, at any small store or stand on the seafront. Three of the most popular souvenirs are lavender oil sold in small sterilised bottles, aromatic bags of Lavandula Croatica filled with dried lavender leaves, and the must-try taste bud experience of lavender desserts which you can get in certain Stari Grad restaurants.
What may appear to be a plain cake, chocolate-coloured cake or cream, hides a secret ingredient. Only after a few moments, if you inhale deeply, you’ll sense an unfamiliar erotic scent that tempts you to take another bite.
The taste of Hvar lavender holds all of the charm and beauty of Hvar Island, its divine strength and pleasure. It soothes you, lifts the spirits, awakens your creative force and sparks positive energy. Finally, without exception, it makes you better, nobler, dissipates your anger and puts a smile on your face.
The island is also famous for the quality of its olive oil and olive cultivation, which is an important part of island life. The majority of families have their own olive groves and manufacture their own oil using locally available oil presses. You can purchase this oil directly from the manufacturers if you follow the signs on the streets of many coastal towns guiding you to them.
The oldest olive press was found in the ruins of an estate building from the 3rd century near the village Dol, while one more, preserved from the ancient times and carved into the living stone, lies on the Maslinovik hill, in the centre of the Stari Grad Plain.
Simpler mills from ancient times can be seen in all of the island villages: these are stone beds in which the olives are ground with the help of a heavy stone wheel. During ancient times olive oil was stored in big, round ceramic containers – pithos – whose remains are scattered all over the Stari Grad Plain. Later on, special containers – kamenice – carved from stone blocks were used, which can be found in taverns to this day.
A long time ago the olive trees were tall so that the goats and sheep couldn’t graze their branches, but today they are closer to the ground for easier picking.
The oldest and most common variety of olives on the island are the oblica with its big and round fruit, the drobnica with its small fruit, and the levantinka named after its provenance from Levant (Greece and the Middle East). In the previous years many of the groves were replenished and new ones planted: Hvar Island now sustains around 140 000 olive trees, along with four old and three new, modern oil presses.
With its aromatic herb gardens Hvar is truly a fragrant island, but also an excellent place to find a great selection of homemade honey to stimulate your appetite. Beekeeping on Hvar also comes with a long tradition with over 3000 hives and 100 beekeepers currently on the island, most of them members of the Lavender Beekeepers Society.
Bees collect the nectar from a variety of island plants and turn it into honey, among which the rosemary honey comes highly recommended because of its liquid texture and mild taste. Rosemary honey is translucent and clear, sage honey bright yellow, lavender honey smells like the flower, while bearberry honey is dark and bitter.
Not only the bee products, but the life of the bees themselves is a mystery even today.
Beekeeping has always been considered to be one of the most useful and pleasant professions and hobbies alike. Honey is now produced everywhere where there are blossoming plants, but honey from the island of Hvar has always been especially sought after among honey-lovers.
It’s difficult to say when beekeeping on Hvar began. As result of archaeological research we now know that great importance was given to honey even during Roman times. They regularly drank their wine sweetened with honey, and also offered honey as a sacrifice to the gods. The first fragments of an ancient cylindrical baked clay beehive were found on the Stari Grad Plain as well as in Bogomolje and Sućuraj.
Among the honey plants of Hvar island, rosemary, sage, lavender, heather and bearberry are especially distinguished.
Rosemary honey is translucent and clear with a pleasant taste and is one of the higher quality honeys. Rosemary blooms in Spring for around 40 days, but at that time of the year the bee pasture is often hindered by strong winds.
Sage honey is bright yellow with a tint of green, and smells like the plant’s flower. It stays in its liquid state for a long time, and it’s sought after for its beneficial effects on the respiratory system.
Hvar Island is known as the island of sunshine and lavender. The lavender plant enjoys the sunny areas near the sea, which is why it flourishes on our island. Lavender is one of the most prolific honey plants with a strong-scented honey and is considered to be a higher quality honey sort.
Hvar is also home to large and small heather. Large heather grows in the Spring, and small in the Autumn. Honey from all heather types is almost the same: opaque and quick to crystallize.
The last pasture for bees comes from the bearberry. It blooms in October, November and December bearing red fruits – manjiga. Its honey is bitter in taste.
Hvar also offers a wide variety of local drinks, and when it comes to strong liqueurs, they’re made for any herb you can think of. The quality varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer and you should be prepared for every host to claim to have the best rakija on the island. There are also some liqueurs that make great souvenirs such as those made from figs, walnuts and olives.
Can we speak of the Plavac of Hvar, or the Plavac of the vineyards of Hvar, as a recognizable quality of wine when it is known that Plavac wine is produced from grapes of the Small Plavac variety, whose geographical range is much larger than Hvar?
We surely can, because wine gets its quality from the variety, habitat, climate and the possibilities and conditions of production.
In Hvar vineyards, the Plavac variety is regularly accompanied by the Drnekuša variety, slightly more acidic, which makes Plavac fresher, more drinkable and more suitable for aging. It’s important that Hvar has a very large number of sunny hours per year since the Small Plavac, a late-ripening variety, has a great need for warmth.
The tradition of making Plavac on Hvar goes back a long way and is very widespread, so over time wines of distinctive and different qualities were profiled: Plavac from the southern slopes of Hvar, Plavac from sandy areas, Plavac from mountainous areas of the northern part of the island, and Plavac made from grapes of old vineyards.
Plavac quality wines are also produced in Stari Grad, which are of intensely red colour, pleasant, fresh and harmonious.
The leading wines are those from the Zlatan Otok assortment from the Plenković winery in Sveta Nedjelja, the only Croatian Grand Cru and winner of several international awards. Aside from these wines, there are others which are also locally available and excellent. The prices vary greatly, and so does the quality.
The project Tale of the Tavern represents one of its author’s efforts to bring closer to to the Croatian and international audience the phenomenon of the original, traditional, Dalmatian farmer’s tavern, where wine is made, stored and enjoyed.
The author calls the tavern the “cradle of Dalmatia” because many of Dalmatia’s easily recognizable motives, traditions and products such as wine, oil, Prošek, prosciutto, cheese and, above all, Dalmatian klapa songs were born and raised in the tavern.
One of his goals is to make the tavern itself as recognizable as the above mentioned, and through its tale to present Croatia and Dalmatia with all its heritage treasures.
The origin of the tale can be traced to his family tavern in Vrbanj on Hvar, which has been declared a Protected Cultural Property by the Ministry of Culture of the the Republic of Croatia in 2014. It is from there that he drew the inspiration for his book TAVERN, the first one to be published on the subject. The book was translated to English and Italian, and realised in cooperation with the Ethnographic Museum in Split and sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, the Splitsko-Dalmatian County, the City of Split and the City of Stari Grad.
While you’ll also be able to find more generic souvenirs, the natural resources of this enchanting island make possible the creation of fragrant and local memories which will stay with you long after your vacation is over.
There are several small shops selling island artwork and artisan items. A good place to check out is the Made in Hvar shop in Hvar town.