Stonska torta – the cake of Ston.
Located on the Pelješac peninsula, the village of Ston is known for a few things other than a cake that contains pasta.
First you have oysters. Driving along the coastline from Dubrovnik reveals a multitude of oyster beds, considered some of the best in the world, so any fan of this mollusc simply has to try them.
Then there’s the vino. Plavac mali – a red grape variety that’s prolific along this part of the Dalmatian coast – is a delicious drop that I immediately fell in love with.
Aside from food and drink, there’s that unmissable defensive wall that encircles the village and spans to neighbouring Mali Ston. The Walls of Ston are the world’s second largest after the ones in China, and rather than solely being built to protect the town as you may imagine, it was also erected to protect it’s most valuable resource.
The Ston town centre is very small and can be navigated in no time. It’s a compact grid of cobbled streets, a main square and generous handful of restaurants and cafés. People generally do it as a day-trip from Dubrovnik, but spending a night or two gives you the chance to enjoy it after those day-trippers have left and the village settles back to sleepy normality.
But first – Stonska torta, or Stonski makaruli as they also called it here.
I was determined to find it, and I did. This is a cake that’s rich in nuts, a little chocolate, lemon zest and tender tubes of pasta; all encased in a very thin layer of pastry. It’s sweet, a little savoury and very dense. I’m so pleased that the one I made a few years prior tasted exactly like the one I tried at Il Dolce Momento in Ston; even if mine wasn’t as compressed. The cafés excellent dark chocolate ice cream is not to be missed, either.
Stonska torta at Il Dolce Momento
Breakfast pastries from Something 93 bakery
Ston Salt Works
The salt pans on the edge of town are the oldest in Europe and have been in use for around 4000 years. It’s a simple process of allowing the pans to fill with seawater, then letting it evaporate. What’s left is salt residue that’s manually shovelled into barrels for domestic and industrial use.
Should you be in town between July and September you can also join the Saltworks summer camp, an annual event where anyone can help manually harvest up to 100 tonnes of salt from the pan. More info here.
When Ston became part of the Republic of Dubrovnik in 1333, the peninsula and its precious resource of salt needed protecting; hence the construction of the walls. Dubrovnik needed that salt if it was to maintain its wealth.
Originally 7 km long, the walls consist of a few sections – the city walls of Ston, the Mali Ston city walls, and the Big Wall. For 50 kuna you can walk the Ston walls in roughly 20 minutes, or continue on to Mali Ston on the other side of the mountain. The views, as you can imagine, are spectacular.
All that walking up and down steps can easily take it out of you, so a treat for all your efforts lays back in the village. Food and wine, of course.
Afternoon drinks at one of the café-bars around the square or at one of the konobas (taverns) in the side streets.
Our choice was the family run Konoba Stagnum, a friendly joint with a lovely courtyard enclosed by stone walls, with seating that spills out into the laneway. There are plenty of traditional specialties on offer, including delicious fresh seafood and some of those beautiful local oysters and sweet mussels.
As we enjoyed our vino, 1 kg of mušule na buzaru (45) and green pasta with monkfish (70), we were lucky enough to be joined by the restaurant’s owner Ante Radić. I couldn’t help but be a tad envious of his lifestyle. Operating a restaurant that’s open seasonally and producing his own olive oil and red wine, harvested from a small vineyard near the village.
Had we not been leaving town the following morning, I would have offered to help harvest some of the grapes with him!
Konoba Stagnum – Imena Isusova 23
Autoprevoz bus has departures at 10am from the main terminal in Mostar, and cost 20 marks per person. When I purchased our tickets we were told the bus goes to Ston, but discovered this is not the case. The bus stopped at the Ston turn-off on the main highway at 1.30pm (E65) and the driver said this was the end of our trip.
After some initial confusion and frustration, we were told to wait for the Ston bus at a stop over the road, which was due to arrive in a couple of hours. Walking is a little too far, so we decided to hitchhike. Eventually a local tradesman stopped for us and drove us the 6-or-so kilometres to the village of Ston. A big thanks to my partner Dean for flagging him down, as I couldn’t bring myself to do it.