For more general advice on booking a holiday in Croatia, see our Croatia summer holidays guide. Our guide features expert recommendations for beach, villa, culture, food and drink and activity holidays.
1. Cooking classes at Pelegrini in Sibenik
The award-winning retaurant Pelegrini (pelegrini.hr), opposite Sibenik’s 15th-century cathedral, is regarded as one of Dalmatia’s best, and Secret Dalmatia can help you arrange cookery classes here. You’ll meet Rudolf Stefan, Pelegrini’s esteemed owner-chef, who will take you shopping for fresh produce at Sibenik’s open-air market. Back in the kitchen, he’ll show you how to make some of his favourite dishes, such as pappardelle pasta with black truffles, prosciutto and basil, or monkfish with tomato, courgette and peppers, served with white polenta. In 2015, Secret Dalmatia will also offer a Foodie Stay programme, where you stay with local families and cook with them, as well as Adventures for Foodies, which will combine hiking and cycling with outdoor cooking classes and wine tasting.
2. Wine and creative cookery in Istria
Set in a rural landscape of vineyards and olive groves, Villa Meneghetti is an imposing stone villa dating from the early 1900s. It’s now an upscale hotel, restaurant and winery, and its cellars are open daily for tasting. They also arrange sommelier classes and creative cookery lessons on request – the choice of dishes you’ll learn to make changes with the seasons, depending on the availability of fresh local produce. Guests are accommodated in spacious rooms and suites, with wooden floors and beamed ceilings, tastefully furnished with antiques. Facilities include indoor and outdoor pools, and a gourmet restaurant. It’s a member of Relais & Chateaux, and you’ll find it near Bale, 12 miles from Pula airport.
3. Wine tasting near Dubrovnik
The Dubrovnik-based sommelier Mario Sehic runs one-day out-of-town wine tours, with gourmet lunch included. The Classic Tour takes you an hour north of Dubrovnik to the Peljesac peninsula, renowned for its excellent reds, the most prized of all being the velvety Dingac. You will visit three different wineries, meet the producers, see their vineyards and cellars, and have tutored tastings, sampling around 15 different wines, including red Plavac Mali and white Posip, Grk, Malvazija or Marastina. You’ll also stop for two hours in Ston, known for its medieval walls and waterside restaurants serving fresh oysters.
4. Truffle hunting in Istria
Istria is renowned for truffles – the world’s largest recorded truffle (weighing 1.31kg) was found near Buje in 1999. Local specialities include pasta with truffles and steak with truffles, and Italian foodies drive over two borders just to have a truffle lunch before returning home. In the village of Paladini, near Buzet, the Karlic family run three-hour truffle tours, which begin with an introduction to the history of truffles. They then show you how to prepare scrambled eggs with truffles, and offer tastings of various truffle-flavoured products, such as cheeses, sausages and olive oil, accompanied by local wines, white Malvazija and red Teran. You then go out to hunt for truffles, with specially trained dogs, in the oak woods surrounding the family’s home.
5. Wine tour of the coast and islands
Croatian wines are not widely known abroad, as they are largely consumed by the home market. After a 10-year lull, Arblaster & Clarke has reintroduced Croatia to its range of wine destinations. Its one-week Croatia tour starts in Dubrovnik, and heads straight up the coast to Split, to visit wine cellars in the nearby Kastela villages. Departing for the islands, you’ll visit Hvar to taste superior reds made from the Plavac Mali grape (closely related to Zinfandel), then call at Korcula to sample the excellent local whites, Posip and Grk. From here, you’ll pass over to Peljesac peninsula, noted for the Dingac vineyards, and back to Dubrovnik for more wine tasting, and some free time to explore the medieval walls.