Some historians believe Polo, born in 1254, came from a family of great nobles from Korcula Town.
His alleged birthplace is an unassuming limestone brick house still standing strong today.
Climbing its narrow stairs to the loggia is worth it for the panoramic view of the island with its royal blue waters, lush vineyards and dense dark woods that prompted the Greeks to name it Korkyra Melaina: ‘Black Corfu’.
Island hopping along the Dalmatian coast is a regular jaunt for travellers. Whether you’re exploring the archipelago of 1185 islands, reefs and islets through the eyes of your snorkel, over the handlebars of a bike or from the deck of a boat, Korcula is worth a stop.
Marco Polo wasn’t the only famous person to walk Korˇcula Town’s cobbled streets.
Celebrities often park their yachts in the local marina, with the likes of Tom Cruise, John Malkovich and Elizabeth Taylor having sunned themselves in the open-air cafés.
Our guide Lea Cubelic told us her mother once shared a table with the glamorous Sofia Loren. Alas Johnny Depp was unavailable for lunch, but sampling the seafood pasta with local wine alfresco made up for it.
In high demand
The rich and powerful have always wanted a piece of Korˇcula island due to its strategic position in the Adriatic Sea.
Initially a playground for the Greeks, Illyrians, Romans and Croat-Slavic pirates, from the 12th century onwards there was a tug-of-war between the Venetians, Hungarians and Genoese.
More recently Austria, France and Britain have staked a claim, until Croatia’s independence in 1992.
It’s easy to see why Korcula was so sought after, with its honey-coloured stonewalls that encircle the Old Town, fanning out like a fish bone to protect it against the harsh winds and harsher enemies.
Walking through the labyrinthine lanes you’ll find shops filled with jewellery made from local coral gems and crafts displaying the age-old arts of stone masonry and shipbuilding.
Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance palaces of local merchants line the streets, and the 14th century Romanesque-Gothic cathedral of St Mark is still significant today.
After cycling to a nearby beach for a quick dip, it’s time for a few cocktails at terrace bar Massimo.
I imagine the young Marco Polo gazing out at the same glistening waters, picturing the adventures his father and uncle were having on their first trip to the Far East. But the image doesn’t ring true.
Why would anyone want to travel so far afield if they came from Korcula?
» Jo Cackett travelled with Sail Croatia (0845 257 8289). A seven-day Cycle and Sail trip, with breakfast and dinner, starts at £429
The Battle of Korcula
Pisa, Genoa and Venice were fierce rivals during the 13th and 14th centuries, and battles were fought over trade in the Mediterranean and Levantine.
In September 1298, the Battle of Curzola (Korˇcula) was fought between the fleets of Genoa and Venice in the channel of Korcula and mainland Pelješac.
Despite the Venetians sending their biggest war fleet of 96 galleys and three big ships, the Genoese emerged victorious.
Thousands of Venetians were killed and captured, among them being the legendary traveller and explorer Marco Polo.
Imprisoned in Genoa, Polo dictated his marvellous travels to writer Rustincello in the renowned Il Milione or The Travels Of Marco Polo.
Visit TNT’s Croatia Travel Guide.