Ragusan nobility and citizens in the period 14-16th century invested their money earned by trading in real estates. Some 300 villas were first built in Lapad and Gruž, later in the area stretching from Slano to Cavtata and the Elaphites. The villas were built in the Gothic and Renaissance style while those built or reconstructed after the 1667 quake have Baroque elements. These beautiful residences are extremely important cultural heritage of Dubrovnik. Sadly, most of these villas are in a bad condition but ignoring them would mean ignoring the history of the city.
Dubrovnik villas were built as orthogonal structures – houses and gardens were positioned along the main axis. Mostly L-shaped complexes comprise a two-storey house and vertically positioned wing that housed water tanks, olive presses, storages and often garage locally known as orsans. They also had a terrace with stone benches and at the very end a pavilion with a splendid view; the richest owners had a chapel nearby. The ground floor and first floor had halls furnished with closets, stone washbasins, fireplace and often housed a wooden gallery for musicians.
A meticulously arranged Rennaisance garden surrounding a villa has unique features in present garden architecture. A garden and villa formed a whole and although man-made structures, they were in harmony with their natural environment. A garden was used for the cultivation of fruits, vegetables and aromatic herbs and also had an important aesthetic function. Elevated plots for farming were separated with paths going through pergolas, garden features covered in vine forming a shaded walk.
Verdant gardens needed lots of water that was collected in tanks. These tanks either collected rainwater or water from another source that was carried via aqueducts, the latter principle is found in the Gučetić villa in Trsteno. Small gutters in fences were used for irrigation. These villas had decorative fountains and fishponds. The only preserved fishpond is in the Sorkočević villa on Lopud island.
Villas were favourite places for vacation, leisure and intellectual gatherings. Far away from the bustling city, Ragusan humanists, philosophers and poets led discussions about specific achievements of their time or were simply mingling with peers in the atmosphere of splendid gardens. No wonder that the stay in a villa was a praised lifestyle among city socialites in the 15th and 16th c.
Text is taken from Dubrovnik – The Riviera and islands by J. Žilić, D. Pek and F.Kozina