Twenty kilometres east across the mountains, STARI GRAD is a popular and busy resort, though more laidback than Hvar Town, straggling along the side of a deep bay. The old part of Stara Grad has been pleasantly renovated, and backs onto the main street as it twists its way along the waterside. Just back from the water is Stari Grad's most famous sight, the Tvrdalj (June & Sept daily 10am-lpm;July & Aug daily 10am-lpm & 5-8pm), the summer house and walled garden of the sixteenth-century poet and aristocrat Petar Hektorović. Those expecting a stately home will be disappointed: the original crenellated structure disappeared behind the present plain facade in the nineteenth century, and Hektorović's extensive gardens - which once featured clipped rows of box and medicinal herbs, as well as cypresses and oleanders sent by fellow poet Mavro Vetranović of Dubrovnik - have now been largely divided up into allotments, although a portion has been tidied up and returned to its former glories. It's still a remarkably restful location, however, built around a central cloister with a turquoise pond fed with sea water and packed with mullet. Hektorovi6 littered the place with inscriptions (carved round the pond and on the walls of the house in Latin, Italian and Croatian) to encourage contemplation: "Neither riches nor fame, beauty nor age can save you from Death" is one characteristically cheerful effusion.
The narrow streets behind the Tvrdalj are as atmospheric as anywhere in the Adriatic: a warren of low stone houses decked in windowboxes, with alleyways suddenly opening out onto small squares. The lane to the right of the Tvrdalj as you face it leads up to the Bianchini Palace (Palača Biankini; June-Sept daily 10am-noon & 7-9pm), where there's a display of finds from ancient Pharos, including pottery fragments, and a louterion - a stone basin used for washing before a ceremony or sacrifice. To the left of the Tvrdalj a lane leads up to the Dominican monastery, a fifteenth-century foundation half-heartedly fortified with the addition of a single sturdy turret after Uluz Ali's attack of 1571. Rooms off the cloister house a museum which contains an absorbing collection of Greek gravestones from Pharos, Creto-Venetian icons and a Deposition by Tintoretto. According to local tradition, the figures of Joseph of Arimathea, Mary Magdalene and the young man leaning over Christ's body in the picture are portraits of Hektorović, his granddaughter Julija, and her husband Antun Lucić - although more sober analysts have pointed out that many of the stock figures in the artist's paintings possess similar faces. There's also a small display of Hektorović's effects, including a 1532 edition of Petrarch's Sonnets and a copy of Polybius's Histories.
In the fields immediately south of the monastery, the Chapel of St Nicholas (Crkvica sveti Nikole) was the scene of an extraordinary demonstration of religiosity in 1554, when the hermit Lukrecija of Brać chose to be walled into small a sma side-room, where she lived on bread and water until her death 35 years later. Heading east from the monastery and then turning left back towards the town centre brings you past St John's Church (Crkva svetog Ivana), a twelfth-century Romanesque church with some sixth-century mosaics inside, and St Stephen's Church (Crkva svetog Stjepana), a plain, weatherbeaten example of Dalmatian Baroque with a fine Venetian campanile. Embedded in a wall opposite the church is a Roman-era gravestone relief of Winged Eros leaning nonchalantly on an upside-down torch - a classic symbol of death.
There are rock and concrete beaches on the northern side of the bay in front of the hotels, from where a path carries on beyond the Arkada mega-hotel to a much less sanitized area of rocks backed by pines. Much better is the bay favoured by locals on the other (southern) side of the bay - simply walk along the Riva to the end of town and you'll find a shallow rocky bay perfect for snorkelling. -Specializing in Cheap Flights F