Once upon a time… is the best start of all stories…So let it be!
The story I’m going to tell is still alive and kicking. It’s the story of my classmate’s family and their island in the most beautiful sea in the world. The name of the sea is Adriatic. The island is Palmižana. The family name is Meneghello.
Meneghellos were Venetians, three brothers that choose this part of Southern Adriatic as their new home. One brother went to Boka (Kotor Bay), the other into Split, and the third one, Matteo, went to Hvar and bought the land at uninhibited island St. Klement and name it Palmižana. St. Clement is one of the small archipelago islands called Paklenski otoci, located in front of Hvar.
Many people in Croatia know Palmižana, as Palmižana is a kind of status place. You come to Palmižana to show yourself on the yacht or sailing boat. Many famous international jet setters visit Palmižana frequently. Palmižana is like ‘the place’ and ‘it place’. And when on Palmižana – do what all do. Sent your images around the world.
A hundred years ago at Palmižana
It was not always like that. Palmižana was a barren, windy, sunny island with some Mediterranean maquis until one of Matteo Meneghello’s heirs; professor Eugen Meneghello started with organized forestation.
That’s the real beginning of today’s Palmižana. He created a fantastic arboretum, a botanical paradise of many exotic specimens. Then, Eugen Meneghello started with the hospitality business. In the twenties of the last century, he opened a Palmižana Palace after rearranging an old house built in 1820. People were coming to see his botanical garden. He wisely started to offer sailing, took them on nocturnal fishing trips, hunting parties, and even organized evening balls on the island. Soon, Meneghello Palmižana Palace was listed in the world’s guidebooks. Many educated globetrotters of that time sign their impressions of the natural harmony of all elements on Palmižana in the visitor book.
The tough time for the Meneghello family was the ex Yugoslavia communist period when no one supposes to have ‘a property o an island’ and run a private business. In 1984, Adriatic Club Yugoslavia (ACI) built a marina on Meneghello’s land. That was called ‘nationalization’.
Oh, what the days…
I remember when we (Đenko’s friends from Zagreb) were on Palmižana one summer in the late 80ies. It was a perfectly normal late evening on Palmižana. We were sitting on the beach enjoy how the sea glitters. Plankton glowed. I never saw it before. Suddenly Đenko came and said; we must hurry up. We followed him running, pick some heavy bags, and went to the wood and vineyard. The bags were full of expensive and illegal spirits, all kinds of Whisky, Brandies, Cognac… Restaurants and bars should have served only alcohol produced in Yugoslavia or paid enormous importance taxes. Đenko said that the federal government inspection (ex Yu) is coming from the mainland to check whether the restaurant offers that alcohol type. Of course, they did. But we hide it. All went well. Luckily! Imagine the most incredible event of the summer.
We were ‘smugglers associates.’ ???? Đenko was calm and steady like he did it many times before. At that time, doctors and layers and almost every house had at least one bottle of illegal alcohol. I bet you’ll find less of those drinks today ? than when they were forbidden ? People are protesting in ‘strange’ ways ?.
City life does not have the power of love
Eugen’s son, Juraj Toto Meneghello, continued in the family tradition of hospitality and attracted many visitors from all over Europe. Toto’s charisma and charm were well known and became his destiny when he met a young journalist from Zagreb, Dagmar Gebauer. Dagmar Meneghello left the city life and embraced beside her love for Juraj, Palmižana, nature, the Meneghello family’s hospitality business. Moreover – she brought new energy.
Dagmar and her charismatic husband decided to continue their life with the family far from civilization, without links to the mainland, water mains, or electricity supplies.
During those turbulent years (in ex Yugoslavia), Juraj and Dagmar Meneghello, with their family, provided a refuge for those who wanted a break from civilization, a place in which they could refind themselves, re-charge their body and soul. That was an excellent niche.
Toto, Dagmar, and their children Eugen (Đenko), Romina, and Tarin enriched Palmižana with the arts and culture.
Juraj Toto Meneghello, a sea, and underwater world lover, a passionate diver, has amassed a respectable hydro archaeological collection during his lifetime. In 1983, the Collection became a cultural monument of Hvar’s island. It includes more than 150 pieces of ancient ceramic pottery (amphorae, bowls, plates, glasses) ranging from III. century BC to VI / VII century of the new era. The Collection was opened to the public in Palmižana in 1985 and enriches the already established Palmižana cultural life.
Unfortunately, Toto passed away still young (in 1985.) Đenko was 18, and the girls were kids, but they put their heads together and continued the family tradition.
Dagmar, once a city girl and journalist, always loved Art, but there was no Art at Palmižana. So, she made Palmižana a famous art gallery. Unique and prestigius.She is a passionate art collector, and critic so she decided to found Škorpion Gallery at Palmižana. She with her artist friends dedicated their love and affection to discover, select, and present the Croatian art scene with new artistic talents.
But the real crown jewel is Meneghello’s Collection. There are art classics like Kulmer, Šebalj, Lovrenčić, Reiser, Murtić, Šutej, Vrkljan, Trebotić, Kavurić-Kurtović and some Hvar painters as well, like Kovačić, Bogdanić, Zea Fio, Drinković.
Romina lives full-time on Palmižana and continues the family tradition of hospitality. She devoted her professional skills to provide the island’s guests individual approach, ensuring that all their needs were satisfied.
Tarin lives abroad and has taken on the endeavor’s public relations role, ensuring that the Meneghello Palmižana tradition is promoted in all corners of the world.
Đenko (my classmate), a palm tree aficionado and member of The International Palm Society, lives on Palmižana all year round. He tirelessly works with his mother, Dagmar, bringing seeds and plants to the island from all around the world. He created a breathtaking waterfront setting for his restaurant “Toto’s:” an outdoor haven with a stunning view of the Southern Palmižana Bay and the Stambedar island floating on the horizon.
Here we are at the present time. The story will continue. The family Meneghello will continue to provide the most enjoyable stay at Adriatic. They nurture the ‘old fashion’s Mediterranean, its smell, its flavors, and experience.
Whenever you’re close to Hvar, do not miss this unique experience of Meneghello’s Palmižana.
Treat yourself to the pleasure of summer, fantastic tastes at Toto’s restaurant, unforgettable fragrances, the most beautiful beaches, the hospitality of the Meneghello family, and Art, with the capital A.
You will spread your impressions of Palmižana as long as you live!