The reinvention of Croatia, from tourism backwater to holiday giant
Croatian restaurants have also experienced something of a revolution. “In the 1990s, restaurants had long menus offering dozens of dishes, and the plates arrived full of food. It was quantity rather than quality,” explains Karin Mimica of the gastronomic guide Gastronaut. “Then the Slow Food concept came along, emphasizing local, seasonal ingredients. Restaurants became places where the history of food and its connection to place and local traditions were talked about. Now it’s more of a refined collage, with careful presentation, food-wine pairings and even olive oil pairing.” As of 2021, Croatia has ten Michelin-starred restaurants, six of which are hotel restaurants.
You even have wine hotels now. Look for Meneghetti and Roxanich in Istria and Korta Katarina in Dalmatia. “Under the old regime, the sector was based on large cooperative cellars, which produced huge quantities of wine but very few labels. These wines were certainly not bad, but the sector did not evolve as in France or Italy,” says Ivo. Cibilić by Korta Katarina. “Since 1992, many private winemakers started producing with a clear vision of what they wanted, so today we have hundreds of big labels. Tourism attracts many wine lovers to our country, and I think that this is a trigger for an even better future.”
Croatia has definitely become more accessible. Every summer it is served by low-cost airlines from all over Europe, and 2021 saw the first direct flights from the United States. New fast highways now connect Zagreb with Split (opened in 2005) and Rijeka (opened in 2008). For visitors to the islands, fast and smooth catamarans operate from May to October. If all goes according to plan, 2022 will see the long-awaited Pelješac Bridge open, so people driving from Split to Dubrovnik will no longer have to pass through Bosnia, with passport checks in Neum.