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TRIP REPORT: Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, and Italy -- September 2019

TRIP REPORT: Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, and Italy -- September 2019

Old Feb 1st, 2020, 05:21 PM
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Love your pictures and details. Keep them coming!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 02:34 AM
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That is just so beautiful.
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 06:02 AM
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Beautiful post! Exactly what I was looking for! This is wonderful! Thank you so much!
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 08:47 AM
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Our final stop on this leg of our trip was Split, Croatia. I will admit that prior to planning this trip, I had never heard of Split. Further, even after adding it to our itinerary, I really underestimated how great of a destination it would be. We gave Split 2 nights but I easily could have spend a week here! With two nights, I feel like we got a great introduction to the city but it definitely left us wanting more! It would also be very easy to use this as a base to explore nearby islands.

Day 15: Split, Croatia
We took an easy one-hour ferry from Hvar to Split, docking at the port just after 11:15 am. We walked about 15 minutes to our adorable Airbnb and met our host. She was so wonderful showing us around the place and giving us recommendations for restaurants and things to do. After a quick pit-stop, we headed out to find lunch and to start exploring.

Following our host’s directions, we took a short-cut through Park Josipa Jurja Strossmayera where antique vendors had set up for the day and soon found ourselves taking in the towering figure of Gregory of Nin. After a quick rub of the toe for luck, we entered Diocletian’s Palace at the Golden Gate and attempted to grasp that the bustling old town we just entered is actually one of the most impressive Roman ruins remaining in the world. We wandered the maze of alleys and passageways and soon stumbled upon a courtyard containing several restaurants where we stopped for a snack of fried calamari and some cold white wine. After our pit stop, we continued to wander, stopping here and there to shop. We ended up purchasing a few Croatian specialties including some olive oil, capers, preserved lemons, honey, and a beautiful olive wood charcuterie board.















The rest of the afternoon we dedicated to all things Diocletian. Starting from the Brass Gate on the harbor side of the Palace, we explore the vast cellars of the ancient palace. The cool, empty cellars were interesting and a nice reprieve from the hot sun and crowds above! Next, we visited the entry vestibule and peristyle, now the outdoor cafe Luxor complete with an ancient black granite sphinx. This sphinx is the last of 12 that Diocletian took from Egypt around the year 300 after quelling a rebellion.

After taking in the peristyle, we purchased tickets to visit the Cathedral of St Domnius. Note, the ticket includes entry to the cathedral, crypt, treasury, and baptistery/Temple of Jupiter. You have to appreciate the irony that surrounds this cathedral --- Diocletian despised Christians and brutally persecuted them. Now, his mausoleum is a cathedral dedicated to one of his victims! This also happens to be one of the best-preserved Roman buildings still standing -- so it is an interesting stop on many levels. You can also climb the ancient bell tower if that interests you (we opted not to).














That evening we had reservations at Bokeria Kitchen & Wine. It was a fantastic dinner, and I highly recommend you get reservations in advance. We messaged our Airbnb host about a month before our visit and she happily made reservations for us (they only take reservations over the phone and its a lot easier for a local to do this!). We started with the Cod Spring Roll and Beef Carpaccio and both were delicious. For our main courses, we did a Truffle Pasta and Ox Tail and Châteaubriand Risotto. Again, I highly recommend this restaurant!





After dinner, we walked the beautiful promenade a few times, enjoyed a band playing for the crowds, and then headed to Luxor for a nightcap. There was a wonderful musician playing and we posted up here for quite a while enjoying the music. It was really a perfect night!





Day 16: Split, Croatia

After two wonderful weeks in the Balkans, our last day was upon us. Tomorrow, we would be headed to Rome to kick off the Italy portion of our trip. We had a few options for how to spend the day but after a quick discussion, we decided we wanted one more the day in the beautiful Adriatic and headed to Bacvice Beach. We opted to not rent chairs for the day as all the good seats were taken when we arrived and instead just spread our towels out on the concrete edge and settled in. We had a blast just taking in the bustling beach scene, swimming, jumping off the pier, and eating seafood at one of the many beachside restaurants. It was a perfect way to spend our last sun-drenched day in Croatia.


















For our last dinner, we headed to Villa Spiza a super tiny, super popular restaurant that is worth the inevitable wait. They don’t take reservations, and the owner somehow keeps track of everyone waiting while managing tables in two locations (right across the tiny street from each other) along with a handful of outdoor tables. The menu is handwritten daily and they scratch off items as they run out. It was a really fun experience, but not for the impatient or picky.

After dinner, we once again headed to Luxor. We loved sitting in the ancient Peristyle, listening to music, and having a drink under the full moon. Unforgettable!

Next up: Roma!
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 08:54 AM
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Still following along and still loving all the photos and details! When you have a chance, do you mind sharing links to your various lodging choices?
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Old Feb 6th, 2020, 09:52 AM
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Based on a couple of requests I have received, I put together a quick recap of where we stayed for the Balkans portion of the trip. We like using Airbnbs, but they are not for everyone - if you don’t like them don’t use them! I recently got lit up on an Amsterdam thread about using an Airbnb there a few years back so covering my bases -- we made sure all were legal and that the hosts registered our stays with the local authorities, per local laws. Just sharing to provide the info for those asking. Thank you

Kotor Airbnb
Pros: Great Location inside the walls
Cons: Bedding, Cool Shower
Price: $120/night
Would Recommend: No - I like nice bedding and hot showers!

Sarajevo Airbnb
Pros: Amazing view, great price, laundry
Cons: Need some TLC, especially the bathroom
Price: $75/night
Would Recommend: No, a little too run down for me.

Mostar Bed and Breakfast
Pros: Nice room, free parking, great location, great price
Cons: No in-room kitchen, lots of stairs, no laundry
Price: $63/night
Would Recommend: Yes - though I would probably prefer an apartment with a kitchen and laundry next time

Dubrovnik Airbnb
Pros: Great location inside walls, lots of style/character, helpful host, laundry
Cons: Lots of stairs, very small bathroom immediately off the kitchen
Price: $182/night
Would Recommend: Yes -- would absolutely stay here again. Loved it.

Hvar Airbnb
Pros: Pickup by the host was a nice touch
Cons: Lots of stairs to get to the apartment, not the cleanest
Price: $127/night
Would Recommend: No -- next time I would stay closer to the harbor and maybe splurge for the Adriana Hotel

Split Airbnb
Pros: Great Location, helpful host, lots of style/character
Cons: No Laundry
Price: $130/night
Would Recommend: Yes -- would absolutely stay here again. I loved the design and the host was so sweet!
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Old Feb 7th, 2020, 06:24 AM
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Love your photos! I know you use an iPhone. What kind of lens did you say you use? The light in your photos is gorgeous!

We loved Split and spent 4 nights there. That included a day trip to Hvar Town and a 3/4 day trip to Trogir. We had breakfast at Bokeria every morning! Our hotel, ID Regal Residence, is 1 or 2 blocks away, and the price included breakfast vouchers for Bokeria! Each breakfast was filling and delicious!

We had a private guided tour of Diocletian's Palace with Maja Benzon, recommended by Rick Steves. She was excellent! We weren't able to go inside the cathedral because there was a wedding going on at the time. I mentioned to Maja that I had not heard of Diocletian until I started planning our trip. She told me that's because his name has been erased because of his brutal persecution of Christians.
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Old Feb 7th, 2020, 07:08 AM
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KarenWoo Hi Karen! Yes, all the photos were taken on my IPhone X. We also used Moments Wide Angle Lens for many of the shots. I highly recommend it. We also have the telescopic and macro lens but not as in love with those. I also edit in Lightroom once we are home. Glad you are enjoying them! Photography is one of my favorite parts of traveling

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Old Feb 7th, 2020, 07:19 AM
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I love your mid-thirties energy and high spirits—great trip report and photos—looking forward to Italy!
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Old Feb 7th, 2020, 07:40 AM
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Thank you for the details of your AirBnB/B&B reviews too!
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Old Feb 7th, 2020, 09:54 AM
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Day 17: Split to Rome

Italy bound! The day started easy enough. We packed up our stuff, took a 30-minute cab (that our host pre-arranged for us) to the Split airport, and flew the regional airline Vueling to Rome. The flight was about $200 a person and in under an hour, we landed at FCO, just before 1 pm.

This leg of the trip was really meant to be an “intermission” of sorts. It was our third time visiting Rome (we spent 5 days here on our first trip back in 2011, and we ended our honeymoon with 2 nights there in 2015) so there wasn’t much pressure to “see all the things” since we had already visited many of the big sights on previous trips. Knowing we were going into another busy two weeks in new places, we planned this 4-night Rome segment so that we could slow down a bit in a city we knew fairly well, get some rest, do all of our laundry, and catch up a bit on work and real life.

We had booked a really affordable Airbnb near Campo di Fiori, an area that we really liked from previous visits. We checked into our Airbnb, a little tired and hungry from traveling and, at first, it seemed fine. We headed out pretty quickly, focused on our first agenda items -- getting some lunch and then heading to a laundry mat.

A few hours later, we returned to the apartment and attempted to settle in but, well… we just really didn’t like the place. I was getting a headache from cleaning fumes -- I swear they dumped a bottle of bleach in the bathroom. The air conditioning wasn’t working great and we were really uncomfortable. The bed had a single sheet on it and there was no other bedding to be found. It was a lot of little things that added up to neither of us feeling comfortable.

Both of us were trying to go with the flow (and not doing it well) and finally just discussed the fact that neither of us really wanted to stay in this place for one night, let alone four, for what was meant to be a relaxing, restful leg of the trip. So, rather than settle in more, and possibly screw up the next day with having to move to a different place, we decided that we would rather handle it now given that the day was already pretty burnt with travel and laundry.

My husband, being the great improviser that he is, jumped on Hotel Tonight to see if he could find any great deals. He ended up finding a beautiful suite at Spagna Royal Suites, near the Spanish Steps, for a pretty great price. A quick cab ride later we were checking into an insanely beautiful room for what would be a wonderful stay.

Obviously, this all ended up being more expensive than planned but we do build a “contingency fund” into our travel budget because… things happen. We have zero regrets about moving and had an absolutely wonderful stay. I’m really glad that we both stayed calm through a long day and in the end it all worked out!

After settling into our new room, it was rather late and we were starving. The hotel recommended a great place a couple of blocks away called Le Grotte, where we shared fried calamari (the best we had on the entire trip), a big pepperoni pizza, and a bottle of wine before turning in for the night.

Truthfully, the day ended in a high note -- we made it to Italy, our suitcases were full of clean clothes, our bellies were full of delicious Roman pizza, and we were positively giddy about the beautiful room we found ourselves in. All in all, calling the day a win!



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Old Mar 24th, 2021, 05:29 AM
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This was such an amazing trip report, I’m sad to see it come to an end. But chock full of wonderful highlights, great recommendation, stunning photos and logistical information. Really well done and fun read! And so so helpful! Thank you!
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Old Mar 24th, 2021, 08:20 AM
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FANTASTIC photos and trip report! A wonderful resource and one I will definitely use when I plan a trip to this region (fingers crossed, soon!).

Thanks for putting this together - I'm glad it was brought to the top again!
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Old Mar 24th, 2021, 02:32 PM
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Hey guys,

Thanks! And sorry I never finished this report! Feb 2020 got crazy and then the pandemic hit and, well, this trip report went right out the window. I'm headed to Hawaii tomorrow for our first trip since covid, but when I get back I promise I will finish this report. It really was a trip of a lifetime and I am so happy we got this experience just a few months before the world locked down.

I hope you all get back to traveling soon! Until then, take care!

Tera
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Old Mar 24th, 2021, 09:09 PM
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So excited to read the rest! Your photos and details are amazing—I really appreciate you taking the time to this.
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Old Dec 6th, 2022, 07:24 AM
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Wonderful report! After reading this you have confirmed the choices I had made of stops but I have also decided to add the Sarajevo detour. We love to have a road trip segment of every trip. Thanks again for writing this and the beautiful photos!
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Old Feb 10th, 2023, 07:58 AM
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Bosnia

Thank you for your wonderful trip report! We are just at our beginning planning stage for a trip to Croatia. We were thinking of adding another country to the itinerary and until I read your report, Bosnia would not have occurred to me. Now I just have to get my travel companions to read your report and hopefully it will have the same impact on them.
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Old Feb 10th, 2023, 09:10 AM
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@italylover23 I love when people find this old trip report and comment. Brings back so many wonderful memories! And you should ABSOLUTELY add Bosnia to your trip. You will not regret it. To this day, it's one of our favorite places which really surprises people! If you have any questions as you are planning, I'm happy to help!
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Old Feb 11th, 2023, 01:26 PM
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tera_denten Thanks! We are in the process of mapping it out. We may just add Mostar as Sarajevo is much further of a drive, but you've convinced us we should not skip Bosnia altogether. My DH is the driver, so sometimes his wishes must be honored. And there appears to be much to see and do around Mostar.
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