The inland villages of Hvar are connected by a network of old pathways, in use since medieval times. Some are rough tracks you can drive on (given a vehicle with suitably high clearance), while others are walking trails, somewhat rocky in places and which may at times lead you into tangled patches of brambles. These wonderful old paths make perfect hiking trails and our local walking group has explored many of them. So it was last Monday, that we set out from Vrbanj, on a morning that threatened rain, but never actually delivered it. The section between Vrbanj and Dol was covered in wild flowers. We were delighted to find cyclamen still in flower, and some lovely wild orchids. Many thanks to Frank Verhart for his kind help in naming them correctly!
The way down into Dol provides a surprising glimpse of Stari Grad and the coast, before winding down into the village itself. Well, I say the village but really only one half, as it’s spread over two valleys – Dol Sv Anna, and Dol Sv Marija, named for the two churches. A third church, Sv Mihail, stands on a promontary between the two, and seems a much more obvious landmark to me!
Dol is quite a rural community, rather spread out, with rich fertile soil and carefully tended fields. Further up the valley, the vegetable crops give way to vineyards, some of which appear to have been there for some time. There’s occasional sandy patches, and somewhere there are self-rooted vines around here, having survived the dreaded phylloxera.
At the top of the valley we take the path up the hill towards Svirče. This is the biggest climb of the morning, and gives us some lovely views into neighbouring valleys. In this sheltered location we find a honeysuckle already in flower, and a gorgeous blue flower right in the middle of the track. It’s another new one on me, but much easier to identify later than the orchids. A tiny chapel marks the top of the trail.
Round about there is our picnic spot, next to a meadow with poppies. Someone has a secluded little vineyard up here and a stone field shelter with terracotta roof – what a great subject for a painting! The views of the mountain are spectacular, also with stepped vineyards.
Along the route we pass a field with newly planted lavender, and immortelle (known locally as smilja), both very fragrant. The wild sage is also in flower at this time of year, a lovely splash of blue. You can make sage syrup from the flowers, which is very refreshing in summer as a cordial. As we arrive into Svirče we discover where so many of the island’s old Renault 4s have gone. Now we know where to find spare parts for ours!
We don’t go far down into Svirče, turning quick left instead, for the surprisingly short walk into Vrbanj, and back to the pjaca where we started. Great walk, around four and a half miles, and now the sun is coming out. Time for a drink at the local konoba!