PARADISE IN YOUR PALMIZANA …
SAM MOULD reflects on HER FIRST impressions of the island of st klement, croatia …
Hvar seems like a metropolis in comparison as we arrive by boat to the tranquil island of Sveti Klement. Zipped here over clear turquoise blue waters to a very warm welcome by Familia Meneghello: Romina, Tarin and Dagmar and their friendly staff. Sveti Klement is one of the isles in the stunning Pakleni archipelago, just off the popular island of Hvar. Unlike the bustling streets of Hvar, Palmizana Resort seems to be a tucked away secret on the island of St Klement. We jump off the boat at the yachting marina and walk the cobbled road, incensed with wild rosemary and pine. A welcoming stained glass mermaid hangs above the entrance to Palmizana resort.
Pakleni is literally translated as Islands of Hell. If this is hell, I’ll be damned.
Palmizana Resort is a series of jolly, colourful bungalows, placed lovingly amongst a brilliant botanical gardens, created by the Meneghello family over generations. Dagmar’s father in law, Professor Eugenio Meneghello, was a botanist. In 1906, he imported many exotic plants onto his 300-year-old estate, and transformed the island into a secret garden brimming with cacti, lavender, lilies and rosemary. Soon a stony waste became a quality arboretum: a harmonisation with nature, botany and fishing. Resin from the juicy barked trees apparently used to be used to waterproof fishing boats in days gone by – the sickly sweet treacle that acting as a sealant against the weathering elements.
The hidden bays and crystal clear seas are inviting. Sometimes we follow the coast, on other occasions we swim channels, across to deserted islands. We encounter pipe fish, Mahi-mahi, small tuna, John Dory, dragon fish and numerous other species I couldn’t identify. Birds revolve around a rainbow isle as we cruise around its auditorium limestone coast. A steep subaquatic drop off gives me the feeling of falling and I have to gather myself, but just for a moment.
We go out swimming everyday, at least twice a day. Only yesterday morning I slipped into the sea for sunrise swim. So enamoured by the beauty of that liquid rose-gold morning, I wasn’t watching where I put my feet as I tip-toed into the sea and came a cropper on an octopus. Nearly trod on him. Once we’d both eyed each other, he took a keen interest in my blue toenails and pulsated from sandy-peach into a delightful iridescent blue-green to match my nails. His intelligence got the better of him and in two moves; I’d lost him to the sea.
The waves are lapping. Rain comes cracking down in a short sharp blast and then it’s bright again with a light breeze. The sea is calling us to go and play. Still swimming, breaking the waves and wallowing in salty goodness. That close connection with nature and the sea seems amplified here.
Some tiny blue flecks rise into silver spray over the sea’s surface and little fish are demonstrating their sublime beauty. As we return, a few dogs sound a welcome. The harbour fills with yachts and catamarans. Plush bars with delectable cocktails and efficient (or sometimes not so) waiters on call. Serving a Mediterranean gin and tonic from the mid-lands of Peru, the perfect remedy following our afternoon dip. The yachting community is gently humming.
Dagmar is a charismatic cultural icon. Her keen interest in the arts have fuelled this tiny dot in the Adriatic Sea to allow artists and musicians space to not only work and collaborate, but to exhibit. On the Meneghello sight, art lines the walls in a salon hang. It’s everywhere the art and the colour coordinated accommodation uses space effectively to create balanced living spaces hidden within the landscape.
The gardens on Svelti Klement are a true delight. Gigantic cactus, birds of paradise, potutakawa, black pine and Aleppi pine trees ladened with cones, olive trees, agave, figs flourish, red hot pokers stand tall and palms are tickled in the breeze. Lime flowers blossom sweetly. A bouquet of highly scented blue flowers in the height of summer rosemary. Succulents tower over us intermingled with butterflies of white, baby blue, red admiral and tortoise. Small lizards and geckos stare bog eyed, whilst the occasional spider weaves a delicate web. Birds tweeting on the off-beat and peacocks wander, displaying their showy wares.
The water is flattened now as the evening draws in, it’s as smoothe as satin. The final few sail boats wash ashore and a merry band of musicians sing along with the sound of the sea. Illumination of the Palmižana nights is a reservoir of other people’s laughter and happiness. A unique and idyllic space in the cosmos.
The Meneghello family have undoubtedly created a sanctuary that is hard to leave.
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