We seem to have a knack for finding like-minded people when we travel. People that share our belief that a happy life is achieved more through experiences than through acquiring material things and that life is too short to not go after your dreams even if others say it is not sensible or possible. While in Croatia we aligned ourselves quite by chance with a family who have battled the odds to create a special place for travelers to call home while exploring Dubrovnik.
This is how the dream of St Joseph’s Boutique Hotel was born…
Croatian born Gordana and her Irish husband Sean Slattery are based in London, but they fell for Dubrovnik’s charms years ago and purchased a holiday apartment there overlooking the old town. During their frequent visits to the walled city they saw that there was a great need for the repair and restoration of many magnificent, historic buildings and they wanted to contribute to that objective and preserve it for future visitors. This is how the dream of St Joseph’s Boutique Hotel was born and it is obvious from the minute you walk up to the door that it is something special.
Gordana comes from a hospitality background as does her brother, and St Joseph’s general manager, Zeljko Knezevic. Zeljko also believed in the dream and left his position at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London to join the team in the early stages of the project. The three worked together for three years, joining their combined experience to create their vision of what a first class boutique hotel should be.
“We knew when we saw it that it was perfect.”
As with most dreams there were obstacles and challenges, the first being finding the perfect location and building. “When we told our agent what we were looking for in a property they said it would be nearly impossible to find.” said Gordana. “We wanted something within the walls of old town but on a quiet street and not too far from the center.” After months of looking, they eventually found a 16th century home on Ulica Svetog Josipa which was lived in but in disrepair. The home was one of the few on the street that had survived both massive earthquakes and wars. Having lived through war in the 90’s themselves, Gordana and Zeljko felt a connection to the house. “We knew when we saw it that It was perfect.” said Gordana of herself and husband Sean.
Once the first challenge was over the hard work really began. With the expertise of architect Duje Kaliterna they painstakingly restored the historical building to it’s original Baroque splendor being careful to replicate every architectural detail as closely as possible. Gordana praised the people that contributed. “We were very lucky to have amazing artisans help with the restoration. They all seemed to really care about the project.” Like us, the threesome believe in aligning with like minded people and for them it was also important to give back to the community and country they love. In keeping with this intention they made a point of hiring local workers, suppliers and fabricators and sourced natural materials either within Croatia or neighboring Italy. This often caused delays in the project but they never faltered from their objective.
…an elegant but welcoming hotel which combines old world charm and style with contemporary comforts and conveniences.
In August of 2014 the extensive restoration was complete and St Joseph’s opened it’s doors. The result of all the hard work and dreams is an elegant but welcoming hotel which combines old world charm and style with contemporary comforts and conveniences. There are just six rooms, each decorated in a complimentary but unique style of their own with individual special touches. In one room you may find a beautifully upholstered headboard displayed against a stunning backdrop of heritage wallpaper. In another there will be a Murano glass chandelier shedding ambient light onto a cozy reading nook complete with a shelf filled with books. The commonalities are just as exceptional. Each room has a kitchenette with high end finishes, a custom made bed that you’ll never want to leave, and a stylish bathroom with a glass mosaic vanity and a spa like rain shower.
But of course as beautifully decorated as a hotel may be the real test is in the reception and service. St Joseph’s definitely does not fall short. From the minute you walk in the door you are made to feel not only welcome but special. It is obvious that excellence in customer service is a priority and Zeljko greets guests with a perfect balance of old world professionalism and new world open friendliness. He is also a fabulous concierge ready to offer advice on everything that Dubrovnik has to offer.
…breakfast is included and is as elegant as the décor.
Being a small boutique hotel St Joesph’s does not have amenities such as a pool or a spa and they also do not have a restaurant. However breakfast is included and it is as elegant as the décor. At a time chosen by the guest a healthy green smoothie is delivered to the room. About 10 minutes later a delicious continental breakfast arrives, served British style on a tiered platter and accompanied by a silver coffee and tea service. If you choose to open a window you can enjoy your meal while listening to church bells and the sounds of the streets coming alive below.
…not only one of the most charming hotels in Dubrovnik but also one of the best located.
When at last you are able to tear yourself away from your cocoon of comfort this is when you realize that not only have you chosen one of the most charming hotels in Dubrovnik but also one of the best located. You step out of the front door onto a picturesque cobblestone street and into the heart of the pedestrian walled city. Almost everything you want to see in Dubrovnik is within walking distance of St Joseph’s including restaurants, shops, historic sites, museums and of course the spectacular views of the Adriatic and the many islands of the Dalmatian coast. All of this adds up to an accommodation well worth the extra cost of a luxury boutique hotel.
Dubrovnik is not only beautiful but it is a unique and magical place that whisks you away to days long past. George Bernard Shaw once called it the “Pearl of the Adriatic” and in our view St Joseph’s is the pearl of Old Town.
*We thank St Joseph’s Boutique Hotel for hosting us in Dubrovnik. As always our opinions are our own and it was very easy to sing their praises.