Lunch in Stari Grad and a walk to the beach in January

January is a quiet time on Hvar, when many locals take the opportunity to visit relatives or simply have a holiday. So it’s not easy to find restaurants open at this time of year. Most have cleared their outside terraces, stacked up the tables and chairs, pulled everything inside and locked their doors. Not even a notice saying “closed for the season – open again in April” because everyone understands that’s what happens. So, what do you if you want to eat out? Where can you go?

An excellent option at any time of year is Pizzeria Marko in Stari Grad. Run by Mario and wife Liana, the food is freshly prepared and tastes wonderful. Although they still have tables outside, even in winter, we retreated to the cosy interior, with its fascinating assortment of knick-knacks and friendly atmosphere. A glass of red wine soon warmed us up!

Marko’s pizzas are reputed to be the best on Hvar, and they’re certainly a strong contender for the title. We began with two bowls of the most wonderful freshly-made tomato soup I’ve ever tasted, a great starter on a rather damp, chilly day.

Our pizza came with a hot pepper on top of each half, an inspired touch! We followed with baked pancakes with cream cheese and a complementary glass of house Rogač – a grappa flavoured with carob. Excellent, and very warming as we set out for our walk along the shore.

It’s a peaceful time in Stari Grad. With the signs for restaurants and souvenirs tucked away for the winter, and vines reduced to bare branches, the lovely stone architecture really stands out.

These houses by the waterfront were built when this was a prosperous trading port. The original shoreline was filled in, and new streets added with better access to a new quayside for larger boats. A couple of centuries on, and some doorways are boarded up against the winter high tides.

Our walk gives us a lovely view back to the old town. A little further on, the newly completed riva on the south shore is looking very attractive.

There are landscaped beds of rosemary and lavender, new benches and stylish lighting – all ready for the new season of modern seafarers.

Out by the Stari Mlin, the old mill, is a rather older jetty, with view across the water to the church of Sv Jerolim and the Eremitaž restaurant.

On this calm day, boats are heading out for the fishing.

Following the path further, we come to a nice little pebble beach. It’s good to see that kids are out happily playing, enjoying the day. On the opposite shore is a complex of hotels, but this side seems more for the locals.

On the way back into town we find that the recent work on the waterfront includes some of the rich history of the place. A helpful new map, sporting a UNESCO heritage badge, indicates points of interest around town. I’m hoping there will be a handy portable version for walking tours later in the season.

And lastly, here’s my sketch of the interior of Pizzeria Marko, done while waiting for our pizza to cook…