Postcards from Petrovac

It’s nearing six o’clock as I join the rest of the household on the open-air terrace looking out over Petrovac – now a quiet crescent of sand-pebble beach and hillside nestled against sapphire Adriatic coastline. Father, aunts, cousins and uncles greet me to a small table set with plates of rustic bread, hand-picked grapes and fresh white cheese. A chair appears, and on cue, ushers me forward into the evening’s welcoming panoramic. I’ve only just arrived to this quaint village my family calls home, and even after a three-year absence, the return to its calm and familiar rhythm comes naturally. Elsewhere in the world there’s rush-hour traffic, ringing cell phones, deadlines and time clocks, headline news. For now, though, our only commitment is the effortless content of another day by the sea.


As any previous family retreat, our little party comprises an eclectic mix, with present company including two Italians, three Americans and two Montenegrin locals; the resulting fluency of Italian-Anglo-Serbo rhetoric is laughable. Despite this setback, conversation is pleasant and easy, if not fragmented, as we drink in the hours of peaceful twilight. A slight breeze floats up over the neighboring rooftops, warm and fragrant with earthy hints of sea and olive. In the distance, the sun paints deepening shades of golden watercolor across the ocean, framing the islands of Katic in noble silhouette.

It’s good to be back.

Petrovac (pronounced Petro-vatz) is likely not a destination that’s familiar to most travelers – you’re not alone in having never heard of it before now – nor does it beg glitzy fanfare like neighboring urban centers. Believe me, it doesn’t need to: its understated charm and picturesque setting make Petrovac a world apart.


Petrovac, looking inward from the castello point

Any local or visitor will tell you that a typical day here is really a series of intervals separating time near the sea. Residents walk between sleepy resorts to the main stretch of Petrovac beach and, a little further out, the less developed Lucice (Lu-Chi-Tza), separated by a hilled peninsula that juts out into the inlet. The water is cool if not downright icy, but clean and crystal-clear, rivaling the coasts of renowned Mediterranean destinations like Sardinia, Capri and Cyprus. Slants of bare rockface jut out from the surrounding cliffs, forming turquoise caverns at the water’s edge.

Petrovac is also distinctly low-key, the kind of place that makes you happy to leave everything behind in return for its small-town vibe even in the height of summer tourist season. I haven’t packed much for my visit besides breezy cotton dresses and flip flops; a swimsuit is really the only dress code requirement for a two-week stay, and that’s fine by me. There’s no need for driving here either, and personal experience in trying to maneuver through steep, narrow streets by car will tell you that walking is absolutely preferred. Not that I would think twice about leaving the keys behind while I set off for a stroll along the oceanfront promenade, lined with boutique hotels, village shops, gelaterias, open-air restaurants and shaded cafe terraces. On the numerous walks back up the hill, however, I will highly reconsider.


a girl's daily stroll to the shore

I recently came across a prominent travel guide’s admission of keeping mum on Petrovac, an effort by the writer and numerous others to guard the unique, unspoiled feel of this seaside retreat against overdevelopment.

All things considered, can you really blame her?


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