Even those who feel Krk island is not really an island as it has a bridge connection to mainland, even those who (wrongly) believe Krk doesn’t have a proper sea or feel north Adriatic is not nearly as romantic as middle or south – have heard of Vrbnik town and respect it as a pearl of the Adriatic. This magical town on the east side of Krk has a magnificent view of the sea, mainland and Velebit mountain, is known for glagolitic heritage and the folk song “Vrbnik over the sea”. In recent times picturesque Vrbnik is more famous for its – wine. It is logical therefore to have the first wine hotel open here – Vinotel Gospoja – built on the site of tavern Gospoja known to visitors since 1987 when family Toljanić hosted them with fine food and wines of the house, primarily the indigenous Krk sort, the Žlahtina. The people behind the new hotel are members of the same Toljanić-Brusić family, headed by father, wine maker and main wheel in this wonderful story, Franjo Toljanić.
“We have always leaned towards catering, starting from our domestic guest house with ten rooms, offering lunch and dinner for our guests,” Franjo says and continues: “It all stopped in 1991 when war broke out, just as we were gaining momentum and made ambitious plans. As the war ended in 1995, we opened a restaurant and small winery beneath where we labelled the first bottles of Toljanić Žlahtina, opening a new winery in 1999 and expanding into the centre of Vrbnik where we expanded the bar with a tasting room, offering from 2010 not only our wines but Žlahtinas from all Vrbnik wine makers, together with the local Krk, recently geographically protected prosciutto and Krk cheese, with our pizzeria close by.”
“We believe other Žlahtina producers complement our offer, just like the Istrians joined forces a long time ago, as together we are stronger and more interesting,” says Toljanić who went from a single employee in 1995 to 50 full-time employees today. Žlahtina today has a quite positive image, getting better every day, while the recently launched Gospoja sparkling wine, made completely from Žlahtina through the classic champagne method, is a real treat.
The hotel, or vinotel that is the subject of our story, is a true masterpiece of famed architect Idis Turato, combining the seemingly unmatchable: tradition sewn into generations and a modern building coming straight from the future. Although “spacelike”, the new and modern vinotel Gospoja seems to belong there. Five old houses were connected, with the hotel rising above the town beach in colours reminiscent of grapes, mimicking the old town core of Vrbnik and representing five Croatian wine regions. 22 rooms, each with a view to remember, are modernly decorated, luxurious and comfortable, 58 beds total, named after indigenous wine sorts.
Their ambitious goal is to have a completely personalised approach to guests, organise wine workshops and tailor-made offers for Krk trips, but also boating trips to the mainland. The ground level of the hotel has a rustic tasting room and a modern restaurant for 220 persons. Here you can find traditional dishes with a twist: haute cuisine that far outclasses usual hotel gastronomy, and yet – a feeling of warmth and tradition, home and familiarity stretching throughout the hotel.
For the experience of Vrbnik and Mediterranean to be complete, along with the magical tastes, such a boutique hotel needs a top notch wellness and spa area. The Gospoja Wellness is superiorly designed, with a Finnish sauna, Mediterranean sauna with aromatic Mediterranean herbs, steam bath, showers with scents and chromo therapy, a wonderful indoor pool and spa-bar that naturally offers wine too. Many of the spa treatments are based on grapes and their antioxidant properties.
However, what thrills us most (besides the wine, of course), is the family feeling and atmosphere in this hotel. No wonder, since Katarina and Franjo Toljanić have 11 children: 6 girls and 5 boys ranging from 2.5 to 19 years, so this, next to hotel dimensions, contributes to the feeling of familiarity . despite the modern and slightly strict architecture. Joining them are also the children of Franjo’s sisters – Marija has six of them and Ankica four – a total of 21 children in the family. Way to go! It is also worth noting this investment is 35 million Kuna heavy, partially through family funds as well as loans. It is said that once you meet Vrbnik, you always come back to it, and whoever meets Gospoja, will definitely fall in love.
By Sanja Muzaferija
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