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Suggestions for Back Doors in Dubrovnik & Rome?

This May, my husband and I will finally take our 30th Anniversary trip! (2 years later!) We plan to start in Dubrovnik and explore the town for a few days. We then board a small boat to island hop up the coast for a week. From Split we fly to Rome to pick up a car, then drive to Cretaiole in Pienza for a week. We’ll then go back to Rome to drop off the car and spend a few days there before heading home.

We are 58 & 60 years old, somewhat active and have no problem walking and hiking the steps that we know we will encounter. When we travel, we love to find unusual experiences and unique places to explore. We prefer to stay in quiet neighborhoods, when possible, or at least quiet at night. We do our research prior to traveling and, of course, always have our Rick Steves guidebooks with us!

  1. We have not been to Dubrovnik (or Croatia) before. We will only have 2 full days in Dubrovnik and want to make the most of our time. Besides the usual tourist spots, are there certain ‘back doors’ that you have found that we shouldn’t miss? Do you have recommendations for restaurants?

  2. We have been to Rome twice and have seen the tourist spots. Are there ‘back doors’ here that you suggest? Which area do you like to stay in? Do you have recommendations for accommodations?

Thanks in advance for all your suggestions!

Posted by
1652 posts

Two of our favorite restaurants in Dubrovnik are Taj Mahal and Kopun. Taj Mahal is not an Indian restaurant; it is a Bosnian restaurant known for its meat dishes. We ordered the Genghis Khan platter to share and Shish Cevap, a very tasty veal dish, similar to stew. This is a very popular restaurant and requires reservations. To reach Kopun, we walked up the amazing baroque Jesuit steps. To the right is the Jesuit Church, and to the left is Kopun. We had one of the best meals of our trip here. Both of us had fish and seafood dishes; they were extremely fresh. While waiting for our table, the hostess served us complimentary drinks.

I don't know if War Photo Limited in Dubrovnik would be considered "back door" but I highly recommend visiting this photography exhibit. The permanent exhibit (located on the top floor) is a collection of photos from the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990's. There is also a temporary exhibit on the first floor. When we were there in 2019, the exhibit was on the Vietnam War.

Also, a must-see in my opinion, is to take the cable car to the top of Mt. Srd for spectacular views of Dubrovnik and the sea. You can have drinks at the Cafe Panorama while enjoying the gorgeous views!

Your island-hopping trip will be wonderful! I am jealous! We loved Hvar Town!

Posted by
266 posts

We stayed in Dubrovnik 3 nights in the fall 2013 after a 3 week motor trip of Croatia and Slovenia. Our room was in the Villa Ragusa (RS favorite) with lots of stairs down to the Stradun and back up. I recommend staying in Old Town or very nearby as we greatly enjoyed sight-seeing before and after the tourist buses. When they arrived, we were safely seated in a cafe and chatting (language limited) with locals. While the bused tourists were doing the highlights, we were wandering around the back lanes and checking out sights and shops away from the crowds. After they left, we resumed sight-seeing and then had a relaxed dinner. The locals came out in the evening "dressed to the nines" for dinner, a show, and socializing. The ambiance and the food were great. We were then 10+ years older than you are now and all of the hills and stairs in both countries made us glad we had tried to stay in shape. We also loved Hvar island & town.

Posted by
55 posts

There is a great mountin panorama spot 30 minutes from the city. if you like this kind of no tourist sunsets

Posted by
18574 posts

Besides the usual tourist spots, are there certain ‘back doors’ that
you have found that we shouldn’t miss? Do you have recommendations for
restaurants?

"Besides the usual tourist spots" Dubrovnik is a truly beautiful city, but Dubrovnik IS a tourist spot.

Much like the Disney's Magic Kingdom, Dubrovnik exists (as it does today) for tourism and not much else (well, Dubrovnik inside the walls that is), but still I have found myself there twice over the years; the last time in August. It is what it is, but I still love it.

The best "back door" I suggest would be the nearby towns of Herceg Novi and Perast; get a guide and take a drive (i know a couple of guides if you are interested).

For within the walls here is some reading that is very good (love this guy):
https://europebetweeneastandwest.wordpress.com/2014/10/12/you-must-remember-this-dubrovnik-the-architecture-of-survival/
and
https://europebetweeneastandwest.wordpress.com/2021/08/08/deja-vu-in-dubrovnik-a-romance-written-in-stone-the-croatian-coastline-2/
and for Perast
https://europebetweeneastandwest.wordpress.com/2021/04/18/worth-its-weight-in-old-perast-a-lost-legacy-of-franz-joseph-rendezvous-with-an-obscure-destiny-18/

Posted by
51 posts

Thanks for the responses!

kmkwoo The restaurant recommendations with tips & directions are much appreciated! My husband is a retired photographer, so the photo exhibit will definitely go on our list.

Larry42 That is a good tip for enjoying the town before & after tourists. Thanks!

local.du I always love hearing perspective and tips from a local. Would a local guide / driver know of the mountain panorama for sunsets?

JamesE We understand that Dubrovnik relies a lot on tourism. We will definitely see the tourist spots, since we haven't been there before. Thanks, though, for the suggestions about the other towns and for the links to readings for places within the walls. If we decide to take a side trip, I may be contacting you.

Posted by
18574 posts

But dont get me wrong. I love Dubrovnik, walking the history is amazing. But "back door"? There are about 1,500 Croatians living inside the walls vs 1.9 million tourists in 2019. Popular there now is taking a Game of Thrones tour (i didnt). A lot of the series was filmed there and its a big money maker for them. You will see Game of Thrones souvenirs everywhere. But if you liked the show, why not. I am not embarrassed to be a tourist. No matter your interest, get a guide for a day. When I took my daughter in August I hired a young lady that worked out very well. PM if you are interested and I will dig out her information.

Posted by
51 posts

James We aren't 'Game of Thrones' fans. We understand about the tourists. We are tourists and do tourist things, but like to spend a few nights so we can really enjoy the town. If you find the time, I would be interested in names of guides and drivers. Thank you!

Posted by
3945 posts

Like James E wrote, Dubrovnik is the tourist spot, no back doors that I know of. But, I can recommend some fabulous restaurants, 2 of which kmkwoo also mentioned.
restaurant Kopun - probably the best in all the the city. It is located at the top of the main staircase to your left.
Taj Mahal - Bosnian food, not Indian. Bosnia probably has the best meat in the balkins. Service is pretty slow though.
Kamenice - best seafood - octopus, black risotto, squid, and little fried fish (a local dish)
Gradska Kavana Arsenal Restaurant & Bar - on the Main Street and lovely for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or just cheese, crackers, and wine. They are a large restaurant which goes from the main street through to the pier. So you can sit and people watch in the street or look out onto the sea.
Dubravka 1836 - just outside the Pile Gate by the bus stop. The views are amazing and so is the food.
Also, we can recommend a tour guide who has a B&B in the old city. He was born, raised, and lives there too.

Posted by
3945 posts

Oh, I forgot. It’s called Dubravka 1836
because that is when it first opened.

Posted by
51 posts

James, Thanks! I received the PM. Great info!
Barbara, I have added your info to my list. Thanks!