Korcula is the second most populous island in Croatia’s central Dalmatian archipelago, a place renowned for its fine beaches and bays, friendly fishing villages and historic coastal towns, vineyards, citrus and olives groves, and its cultural traditions. Some people claim that Marco Polo was born on the island to a family of merchants in 1254; there is no evidence to support their claim, but it is true that he was captured off-shore during a battle between Venice and Genoa.
It is also true that the island has produced many notable sculptors, painters, artists, and writers, including the 17th century wordsmith Peter Kanavelic, whose epic poems and love songs earned him rapt audiences at home and in Venice. Klape singing – not unlike Italian a cappella singing – is one of Korcula’s oldest cultural traditions, as is the Moreska, one of many sword dances. Believed to have originated in Spain, the Moreska symbolises the conflict between Moors and Christians (subsequently adapted to reflect regional struggles against the Ottoman Empire); it includes ritual dialogue and choreographed sword battles between two kings and their armies.
Legend holds that Korcula was founded by the Trojan hero Antenor in the 12th century BC. It subsequently flourished with waves of Illyrian and Greek colonists, who left behind some stone buildings, fortresses, and tombstones. Under the Romans, it became part of the province of Dalmatia, later falling to waves of Avar and Slavic immigrants in the 7th century AD.