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Trsteno Arboretum: A piece of heaven on earth

Trsteno Arboretum: A piece of heaven on earth

Leave behind the rush and noise of today’s world, and take a step back in time to a more peaceful era, amidst the natural beauty of the Trsteno arboretum. Stroll along quiet garden paths, under a canopy of deep green leaves, and delight in the cool scents of exotic trees and flowers and the sounds of splashing fountains, as the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic sea spread below, and ancient trees reach up to the sky. Wander through secluded garden paths, stroll along the broad promenade, among ancient stone columns, and enjoy the dazzling view from the shaded gazebo at the top of the cliff.

Trsteno has a good claim to have the oldest arboretum in Europe. It is certainly the only one on the Croatian Adriatic coast. It belongs now to the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences, but its history as an arboretum dates back to the 15th century, when it was the summer home of the Gučetić-Gozze family, members of the noble class of citizens of the Dubrovnik Republic. The captains of this family’s great ships were requested to bring home plants and seeds from their vogages to populate the arboretum. The eucalyptus, Aleppo pines, holm oak, palms and laurels and many exotic trees and shrubs that they collected have been preserved and augmented over the centuries. It is the pre-eminent and most beautiful example of landscape architecture of Dubrovnik summer villas.

Located in the seaside village of Trsteno, just a short ride from Dubrovnik, the arboretum is a place of natural beauty, where the cool greens of antique Renaissance gardens meet the deep blue of the Adriatic Sea. Take the time to explore its lovely views and quiet corners, and you’ll be sure to leave with a restored sense of peace and tranquillity.

Set on a cliff overlooking the Adriatic, the arboretum covers more than 25 hectares. It includes a Renaissance villa, walking promenade, a chapel, a Baroque fountain and the graceful arches of a stone aqueduct. The arboretum includes more than 300 species of exotic plants collected over six centuries from around the world, including flowering cactuses, eucalyptus, palms, and the giant Asian plane trees, over 500 years old, which famously grace the entrance. In addition to the elegantly landscaped gardens, the grounds include olive fields, and natural forests of oak, pine, and cypress.

The Baroque fountain, built in 1736, features a carved statue of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea and of all water, who stands proudly with his trident, flanked by two graceful nymphs. Colourful fish swim in the spacious pool at his feet, and birds flutter and chirp overhead. According to legend, it is Neptune himself who has protected this unique natural environment from fire and other disasters over many centuries.

After exploring the gardens, fountain, and residence, visitors can stroll down the steps from the arboretum to the old harbour, where the small wooden boats rock in the gentle waves of the Adriatic, as the sun sets over the Elafiti isles and the more distant Mljet.