Dominating the 2km-wide channel which divides the island from the Pelješac peninsula, the medieval walled city of KORČULA TOWN preserves a neat beauty that has few equals in the Adriatic. With a magnificently preserved centre, good out-of-town-beaches and a convincing clutch of local-food restaurants, it’s a compelling enough destination regardless of whether you believe the oft-parroted hype that it is the birthplace of thirteenth-century explorer Marco Polo.
The town was one of the first in the Adriatic to fall to the Venetians, who arrived here in the tenth century and stayed – on and off – for more than eight centuries, leaving their distinctive mark on its culture and architecture. Disaster was narrowly averted in 1571, when the fleet of Ottoman corsair Uluz Ali was repulsed by local volunteers led by priest Antun Rožanović – a disappointed Ali went off to pillage Hvar Town instead. Although understandably treated by the locals as one of history’s bad guys, Uluz Ali was one of the great sea-warriors of the age, an Italian-born galley slave who rose to serve as Viceroy of Algiers and Grand Admiral of the Ottoman fleet. The first tourists arrived in the 1920s, although it wasn’t until the 1970s that mass tourism changed the face of the town, bequeathing it new hotels, cafés and a yachting marina.