Kotor in Montenegro, a pearl of the Adriatic Sea!

Who I am
Martí Micolau

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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During my trip to Dubrovnik I took a couple of days to visit Kotor, the third largest city? of Montenegro. Known and visited by few Italians,? it was a great discovery: a town surrounded by walls with enchanting views, quiet tourists and an atmosphere out of time, where west meets east. In short, a gem of the Adriatic with an Italian name - Cattaro - which reveals the great Venetian influence that is still possible. read on shop signs. Set in a unique place in the world - the Bay of Kotor -? wonderful and to be discovered before the tourists begin to crowd it. Follow me and tell you what to see in Kotor!

1 day

A few kilometers separate Dubrovnik from the border and run smooth as oil.
Once the customs barrier is raised, you reach a country and you immediately notice the difference: order and cleanliness are a memory. Maybe the rain that is falling makes me see things worse than they are, but there are torn down billboards, scrub and decrepit houses with broken glass; all ? very spartan and desolately left to himself. ? clear that Montenegro? a young republic and has many priorities? before giving an aesthetic value to the streets, especially at the border; but? clear contrast with Dubrovnik, where every stone? okay. Many oleanders in bloom for? brighten the view and arrived in Herceg Novi (Castelnuovo) the sea appears on the right, but with this greyness, not? much ?.
After a small relief the itinerary becomes fantastic: the road follows the sinuous shape of the coast. We reached the Boka Kotorska, a bow tie with three triangles of water that tighten and almost touch; a miracle of nature? this fjord!? For its width (or rather narrowness) it recalls? Lake Como. The ceasing rain helps to appreciate beauty; why? every now and then I stop on the way (where possible) to photograph the views: even a huge cruise ship passes in the strait! An exceptional marvel, also for the high mountains close to the sea which are the backdrop to the cultivation of seafood and the villages scattered here.
Some villages are sad, while others are small gems, such as Perast (Perasto in Venetian), located right where the Mouths close; absolutely worth a stop. The attention is immediately captured by the? Two small islands in the middle of the sea: in a c '? a monastery, the other a church with a marvelous celestial dome; driving along the sea? impossible not to notice them!
Perast instead? pretty: the stone houses are reflected on the water, with a small harbor that welcomes you; in the background stands a tapered Venetian-style bell tower. It seems to be out of time, why? everyone walks quietly on the road closed to traffic; not here? hurry and I also stop for a quiet lunch.
Finally a ray of sunshine comes out as I walk along the seafront; shortly after, a huge construction site suddenly opens - with many workers also on Saturday afternoon. Did I enter another world around the corner? In reality? houses to be restored alternate with well-kept houses with flowers, some semi-abandoned and others - especially behind - abandoned or gutted, as it exploded! A scenario with many contrasts: beautiful cars alternating with old cars, splendid restaurants and bars on the sea full of tourists where you can enjoy the views in poor places or with burnt windows ... But? The many construction sites prove that? alive, who wants to focus on tourism and therefore can? just improve. Meanwhile, tourists already? populate it, as the yachts demonstrate? in the sea.
I'm not lucky: the two churches present are closed. What? I go back to the car and take the road again, admiring the view from the top of Perast: a turret in the foreground, then the red roofs and the Venetian bell tower and the two wonderful islands over the sea ... what a view!

Allotment: missing a dozen kilometers to Kotor. Just long enough to follow the road that runs parallel to the sea. To anticipate Dobrota, an unpretentious town now merged with Kotor overlooking the sea, where someone gets the (little) sun; from here in 5 minutes on foot I am in front of the walls of Kotor ... I expected much more? high! Indeed Kotor? became Unesco heritage due to the Venetian fortifications; after the bridge over the river Scurda you can see the walls well, what will it be? 7-8 meters high, with the round Torre della Campana protecting that side. Continuing for 100 meters, you arrive at the Porta Marina; here opposite the port with the docking of cruise ships. I take the map and go inside.
The door ? rather narrow and then open wide into the Piazza d'Armi with the square and squat Clock Tower; the window frames of the houses in the square are all green and stand out against the light walls of the splendid and well-kept buildings.
The atmosphere? fantastic: people at the tables? already? sitting to chat; others walk quietly, as in any holiday destination. I continue on the side of the Tower, where? another elongated square with other restaurants was designed: in the background a cream-colored house with large windows in the roof that remind me of Vienna. The glimpse? really wonderful: in short, there is no trace of decadent buildings here!
Many narrow streets start from here: I take the one on the right that slips between the buildings until? another small square opens up -? Piazza della Farina (Trg od Bra? na) - where the splendid Palazzo Pima frames the tables set in the middle; even here a photo? a must! I follow the flow of people; after a few steps ... what a surprise! In front of you are the two bell towers of the Catholic Cathedral of San Trifone, with a Montenegrin flag hanging from the building on the right; we are in the heart of Kotor, St. Tryphon Square (Pjaca Sv Tripuna). This square also has scattered restaurant tables which make for a quaint atmosphere.
Come to think of it ...? Kotor? all like this! A large triangle surrounded by walls that returned to shine after the severe earthquake of 1979; now the alleys, squares and stone houses are magnificent and quiet, also why? the cars stand outside. So? people walk calmly, like the many cats that are seen wandering or dozing in the streets: they even dedicated the Cats Museum to him!
The Cathedral now? closed, so I decide to see the southern corner of the city. I pass the church and turn right on the road that passes under the mountain; in a little while I meet another tiny square, perhaps the largest square? beautiful of all: Piazza delle Erbe (Trg od Salate) which has no particular buildings, but retains a timeless and popular atmosphere; c '? a fountain and some steps to sit and rest, admiring its beauty. Continuing to walk on via Ulica 2? - more? wide of the others -? you reach the Franciscan monastery and then the Porta Gurdić which? narrow and high; it seems more? what else a secondary exit; on the outside, a moat reflects the shapes of the circular Gurdić? bastion which defends this corner of the walls.
I retrace my steps. The street has a few shops and a bar, where I have a drink. Then I walk along via Ulica 2, below the mountains, among the stone houses. Past the apse of the cathedral you touch the old prison on the right; then a small square with a fountain: the pale white of the stone dominates and no one passes by. A little more? ahead, the road climbs a little and you meet some rare steps that announce a part of the city? a little dilapidated, with some cats that are the masters on a wall. Straight can not you? pi? go: on the right the road climbs towards the mountain, then I go down towards the square below, passing an arch between the houses; the delightful Collegiate Church of Santa Maria? in the center, surrounded by trees and benches. ? one of the green corners of Kotor and? populated by families, perhaps attracted by the many stray cats that live here and feed. The bell tower? square as in the Cathedral. Next c '? the third city gate, the North Gate, which overlooks the Scurda river with the walls that are perfectly integrated into the rock of the mountain; from the outside on the carved portal you can clearly see the Lion of San Marco.
The other main street of the city starts from the square:? Ulica 1. Passing in front of bars and shops you reach? Piazza San Luca, with the Church of San Nicola on the right with a large Serbian flag flying on the facade; the two turrets are circular: in fact this one? the main Orthodox church, with a simple style of the facade and above all inside, where icons and light dominate. The Montenegrins are 90% of the Orthodox faith: the other church in the square testifies to this: the Church of San Luca, much more? small and ancient, with a large cross and many icons painted on the wood; I am very struck by the altar (which looks like a wardrobe) painted with colorful saints.? The building? very ancient, from 1195!
Back on the street, souvenir shops selling everything (one is beautiful with colorful shutters!) And others with oriental-style lamps and carpets; then a wonderful corner: in front of a delightful hotel c '? the Franciscan Church of Santa Chiara, with a poor facade in which a small rose window stands out: the internal Baroque style has a strong Venetian flavor, but with some oriental features.
Continuing you will come across a square on the left with a large tree in the center: here c '? the Cats Museum! A few more meters and we are again in the large main square, which suddenly opens up between the narrow buildings with the long Palazzo Ducale as a backdrop to the restaurant tables.
In words it seems a lot, but in reality? Kotor? small and in a couple of hours it turns all over. I have traveled it more? times, passing through the streets with the light going down and the lights turning on, spreading a magical atmosphere. ? just when the light goes down that Kotor? pi? beautiful! To enjoy it, I take a fish soup in the square, with the notes of a violinist accompanying dinner.
A last lap with the blue hour that enhances the beauty of the squares and then I can finally go to rest: tomorrow will be? another busy day!

2 day

I go out for breakfast; in Montenegro? pi? difficult to find the cappuccino, therefore? I'm satisfied with a juice. As I walk towards Kotor the sun kisses the beach and colors the waters of the Scurda river with intense green. Once you have crossed the Porta Marina, the Clock Tower shines against the blue sky, with the high mountains behind it; right there I'm going today, why? Kotor has city walls that branch off on the San Giovanni hill overlooking the city: yesterday I didn't notice them, why? they mingle with stone. These are the articulated Venetian fortifications that have become Unesco Heritage, have you begun to build already? in the ninth century and then adapted until the nineteenth!
To access it there are 2 roads that go up between the houses, near the north and south gates. I go to the North Gate and take the road that goes up under the arch I observed yesterday. The steps arrive early and climb steeply, among hydrangeas and clothes hanging; in a corner stands the controller, who issues the tickets and the map to continue. A few more steps and you can dominate the red roofs of Kotor, including the round spiers of the church of San Nicola.
The first stretch? perhaps the most? beautiful. Step by step the city? becomes more? little one, walking away as if going on an elevator; but it's the legs that struggle! The climb always has a good slope, but? it has recently been fixed and therefore the steps on the right facilitate the ascent. With cool legs and the morning sun hiding behind the mountain, you soon arrive at the abandoned bastion of San Rocco: the vegetation assails the few remaining walls, but? a fantastic balcony above Kotor. After another small fortification, the fatigue begins to be felt: to think that we are only at the crossroads that rejoins the other entrance!
The zigzag stairways begin, which allow you to look down on the other tourists climbing up; although it is marked as an easy path, the steps feel the weight of time, but? sure. A few cypresses accompany the climb to reach the delightful Church of the Madonna della Salute; the interior ? simple but gorgeous, with a baroque altar and star-painted ceiling, while red curtains add a pop of color. From the small churchyard you have a beautiful view of Kotor and the sea - on the right that winds through the mountains; the rest we already? climbed 100 meters in height! A water seller does business, but I have a bottle: never forget it!
Passing the church c '? the point pi? beautiful of Kotor, the photo to take absolutely in the city: the small bell tower that rises from the vegetation and the Bay of Kotor in the background, with the roofs of the city? down; shooting with someone who admires the view? perfect!
There? still a lot to climb, with the bell tower that becomes more and more? small until it disappears; from here to? the triangular shape of Kotor is perfectly appreciated.
While the vegetation thins out and the heat is felt, the legs become woody: the stops for drinking or resting increase. Finally I reach the Little Fortress on the mountain ridge, where the fortifications descend steep and mighty up to the North Gate in the city; in fact the walls form a 4,5 km ring, surrounding Kotor from below and from above. At this point for? are in poor condition and dangerous so you can not? log into. It must be said that there are no controllers and therefore? whoever wants to go looking for trouble has very fertile ground!
From here the map says that there are two itineraries for the Castle of San Giovanni: in reality? one looks dangerous and gets lost in the vegetation; there are no signs and among other astonished tourists I take the other route, which runs along the outer walls on the ridge, marked by the high-risk map. Instead the steps are well placed and often you climb sheltered from the high wall that connects the fortresses; indeed, a serpentine path here allows you to take beautiful photos. From the Renier fortress the view? fantastic: pi? what about Kotor, what now? a red dot at the foot, on the Boka Kotorska, beautiful from here.? A Game of Thrones scenery!? The fortifications, on the other hand, are in poor condition and deserve a restoration, at least to clean them of vegetation.
Suddenly the door of the Castle of San Giovanni appears: born as an Illyrian fortress,? it has been modified over the centuries, including the twentieth century when it was adapted as a bunker; in fact the first environment? in reinforced concrete, falling apart and empty. Evidently the place? strategic. Then it's back to the old decaying fortifications: roofless buildings, irregular walls, growing weeds ... Should it be said for? what's not there? the feeling of danger: indeed, many young people have arrived here and are laughing and drinking peacefully. The privileged point? an open space from which you can enjoy a fantastic view of the sea and the surrounding bare mountains and where the Montenegrin flag flies; a nice reward after 45 minutes of climbing!
Not C'? other: ? also difficult to find a place to sit.?Since the day will be? long, I enjoy the last view and then go down. Not a simple operation, you have to be careful where to put your feet in the 25 minutes of the descent. I gently move when I meet someone who goes up with a face shocked by fatigue. For? the gangs of Japanese and Russians, even of a certain age, rise up fearlessly; but how? that in Kotor there are very few Italians and? full of Japanese ?!
? a mistery; I think about it as I reach the city, passing through the streets and reaching the Cathedral of San Trifone. With the blue sky in the background? gorgeous! The entrance ? for a fee; surprises you for the lots of light and the tall stone columns, even if not? very big. A splendid wooden pulpit on the left, but attention immediately goes to the altar to the carved ciborium; really wonderful! In the background a precious altarpiece with saints, which refers to the Pala d'Oro in Venice, while on the plastered walls there are (few) traces of fresco; there are others under the arches between the columns of the nave, including a Madonna painted in Byzantine style. There? also a small museum with liturgical objects and icons, which I see to go up to the terrace of the church, between the two bell towers, for a beautiful view of the square and the rose window. The bare aspect probably derives from the 1979 earthquake that deeply affected Kotor: if there are few tourists, but the buildings are polished? due to the reconstruction work. If you don't know it for? you don't even notice!
I look at the clock: 12: 00h, I have to hurry. I take a piece of pizza (excellent) in a small street and go back to the hostel: I have an appointment for a motorboat ride in the Bay of Kotor. The beauty of a "young" accommodation are the initiatives it organizes!
The docking? right in front: a group of Americans get on the tip, I am comfortable at the stern. Let's set sail and admire the ring of walls above Kotor ... think I was up there? a little while ago! The low houses with red roofs interspersed with the canopy of trees follow one another along the waterfront at the foot of the bare mountains; every now and then some church comes out, like that of Sant'Elia in Dobrota? - directly on the sea - or the two close together on the other side.
After slowly moving away from Kotor, the commander asks if we are ready: then he turns up the music and starts at full speed! I attach myself to the bars of the motorboat, even if the smooth sea of ​​the bay does not cause any tremors. What? I take a few photos of the neighboring towns, paying attention to the splashing water. Here the bay widens and the captain follows the coast line to the left.
Shortly after, Perast emerges with its unmistakable bell tower; in the middle of the Bocche di Cattaro the two islets: first the island of San Giorgio, then the Madonna delle Rocce. But they are not our destination: we slow down and pass an ancient stone church on the left, built right where the Boka Kotorska almost touch. Let's take the way to the open sea:? a narrow corridor of 2 km, with lots of greenery on the mountains; it ends with the Jo? ice peninsula that almost blocks the road, a church is at the top and a beautiful beach on the coast.
The sea opens up again and two towns appear; on the left? Tivat, an important locality? tourist for the rich ... the local Montecarlo! On the right, instead, Bijela with many houses, ugly hotels and an industrial port. We whiz past it and touch? 3-4 countries now merged together and grown quickly without criteria;? Several buildings under construction: sometimes even entire new neighborhoods!
Keeping to the right we reach the end of the Boka Kotorska: in the distance c '? Castelnuovo? And the Croatian border; us for? we go around a rocky promontory to go out into the open sea. You can also understand it well from the span of the motorboat: in addition to the waves of the boats, you must also be careful of the sea waves, so I attack hard! In front of the blue expanse c '? a round island with a military fort; ditto on the mainland with the Arza Fortress built on the rocks; you can see that Tito didn't feel very safe! I take a picture of him among the splashes of water.
The motorboat continues its run along the rocky walls, sculpted by nature. On the right the immense blue sea divides us from Italy; c '? the lower Abruzzo of l ?! A few minutes and we are at our destination: the wonderful Blue Grotto (Plava? Pilja in Serbian); the rocks enhance the crystalline color of the sea that reflect the strong sun: now that we have stopped you can hear it! The small crack in front hides a larger opening. wide on the right: the commander enters slowly. It goes from maximum to minimum light, with the blue that dominates in the cave. In fact, the sun's rays radiate into the water, allowing you to see well. Another speedboat? I stop inside and a dozen people take a bath. I dive too! The water ? perfect: swimming in this natural pool? fantastic! Boats swing in the waves and so on I go out in the open air: with the sun that warms you swim better. Will this bathroom between the high rock walls and the intense color of the sea remember him? forever!

Continuing by motorboat you would arrive in Budva, another Montenegrin gem. Us for? let's go back; the commander resumes his race at crazy speed: have I met the Valentino Rossi of Kotor?
Identical route: we return to the Bay of Cattaro; but we stop in front of an opening in the rock ... it looks like the entrance to a Star Wars base! I didn't go far: it was a secret hiding place for the Soviet nuclear submarines that Tito housed! The commander enters us slowly: some graffiti and bottles reveal that not? totally abandoned. There are 3-4 on the coast: luckily they were useless!
Going past the narrow natural corridor, we come out in front of the two queen islands of the Bay of Cattaro. Impossible not to admire them when you pass by! The cypresses of the island of St. George (Sveti Djordje) make it mysterious, with the walls of the Benedictine monastery guarding its secrets. Madonna delle Rocce) on the other island. See him from here, with Perast behind him,? very beautifull! Can you? visit and then we dock.
The commander explains that the island? artificial: it was a simple rock, enlarged by throwing stones on it or sinking old ships; the custom of throwing stones upon returning from a trip was auspicious and? still in use today. The fifteenth-century church? It was rebuilt in the '700 in Baroque style, with the slender bell tower and the celestial dome. The interior contains 68 paintings? By Tripo Cocoglia and silver plates illustrating the development of the seafaring art in the Bay of Cattaro; on the altar a Tiepolo. Then I went around the islet, among tourists who take pictures and young people embraced; a small museum, a bar, the lighthouse ... and that's it. But without a doubt? one of the corners pi? picturesque of Montenegro!
I can't take his eyes off as I go away in the boat; we pass Perast and return. Time for a mega burger and average coke for 2,50? and I take back the car; the gentle undulations of the coastal road accompany me: I am really satisfied with this trip to Kotor!

I hope I have shown what to see in Kotor. Although it is a town of 22.000 inhabitants,? a gem of the Adriatic Sea to visit calmly. You have to savor the serene atmosphere; observe the cats that rest; admire the style that? managed to keep itself without ugliness (at least in the historic center) and that mix of western and eastern taste, where souvenirs are placed side by side with Persian rugs. In short, you have to enjoy it without haste walking through the streets or sitting at the outdoor tables.
But isn't there? time to waste: ? to be discovered before the tourists begin to crowd it as happens in the localities. of Croatia or Puglia. This gem will not be hidden for long!

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