Zrnovo is a small inland village located in the central part of the eastern end of Korcula Island and spread over a large area of little hills and small valleys. The village itself consist of 4 separate hamlets – Prvo Selo, Brdo, Kampus and Postrana, all together having just over 1000 inhabitants. Since these hamlets are quite scattered around, the island’s main road passes right through the area of Zrnovo, connecting it with Korcula Town, which is only 3 km away.
Zrnovo is one of the oldest settlements on the island with a history reaching back all the way to prehistoric times, starting somewhere around 3rd-2nd millennium B.C. (when the island was first settled by the Mesolithic and Neolithic people), which is indicated by the archaeological findings from the early stone age in the near by Jakas Cave, accidentally discovered in 1916 during a vineyard maintenance. The first mention of the village can be found in the documents from the early Middle Ages and all over Zrnovo area there are many old buildings and structures, from tiny old stone houses to much bigger and more impressive objects. Besides the old stone houses with porches and paved courtyards and small dry-stone sheds covered with stone slabs there are also several residences of Korcula noblemen and landowners and just outside of the centre of the settlement, on a little hill and surrounded by pines and cypresses, is St. Martin’s parish church from the 14 century, which was later reconstructed. Postrana hamlet on the hill slope is where the Church of St. Rocco is located, with a paved square in front of it where old “Kostili” trees grow, which are a law protected natural monument. This is also the location where the Mostra sword dance was traditionally held. The graveyard and the 13th century Church of St. Vitus are outside the village and in the surrounding area there are also several small old chapels. Worth mentioning is also nicely preserved “kastel” (type of fortified residential buildings usually with defense towers) Banicevic that belonged to a well-known noble family from Postrana. On the facade is a plaque with the family’s coat of arms and a Latin inscription about the most prominent family member – Jakov Banicevic, who lived in the 16th century and was well-known across Europe as Jacobus de Bannisis, a great politician, skilled diplomat and respectable church dignitary. Another important figure that was born in Zrnovo was the famed Croatian writer and academic Petar Segedin (1909–1998), one of the top Croatian writers from the second half of the 20th century.
In the past the people of Zrnovo were mostly farmers, setting up numerous vineyards and growing olives and vegetables. They were also very skillful stonemasons since the eastern part of the island of Korčula is rich in high-quality limestone, so Žrnovo also has a long tradition of stonemasonry, which can also be seen with just looking around the village area and noticing all those old stone buildings. Today many people from Zrnovo work in tourism and construction and a lot of houses in the village are at the moment vacated and empty due to the trend in the last 30 years when Zrnovo inhabitants gradually moved to the coast, mostly in Medvinjak bay and bays of Zrnovska Banja and Vrbovica, since that was a period of tourist development in this area. Best example of this is the area of Barina, an attractive little maze of old houses, paths and tiny streets that presents a romantic destination to have an afternoon walk since it is a place where some of the oldest houses in Zrnovo are located. Another interesting destination to explore is to the north of Zrnovo, just above the Vrbovica cove – a special forest reserve and a law protected landscape called “Kocje” is located here. Naturally sheltered from strong winds, it is the site of 30 m high dolomite rocks, which form corridors, narrow passages and small caves. This rocky area is also a home to two water springs from which the bigger one is called “Vilin izvor” (translated: The Fairy’s Spring) because of its purity and clarity, while in terms of flora the place is rich in holm-oak and the humid soil is covered with ferns. Except for the numerous, interesting and diverse sights, Zrnovo is also a place of a number of legends, customs and traditions, great local cuisine and a home of the sword dance Mostra. The hamlet of Postrana preserves this attractive dance, performed since 17th century on the day of St. Rocco (16th of August) on the small piazza called “Pod Kostil” in front of the Church of St. Rocco. Mostra is accompanied by bag pipes and a drum and composed of ten different dance figures with swords, after which the show ends in general delight and the performance of popular dances by young people. All these customs and traditions are preserved mostly thanks to the effort of two Zrnovo’s societies – the cultural and performing society “Misnice” cultivates amateur theatricals and folk dancing, while society “Bratska sloga” investigates and preserves local traditions and folklore. Also worth mentioning and experiencing is traditional gastro event called “makarunada” held in August and inspired by famed and delicious local specialty named “Zrnovski makaruni”.
For the conclusion, all of the above can be summed into – the village of Zrnovo and its surroundings should be on your list of destinations if you are planning to visit the island of Korcula. If you love to explore picturesque landscapes and beautiful nature, old rural architecture and delicious local cuisine, Zrnovo and its lovely and unpretentious mixture of these ingredients won’t leave you disappointed.