The Balkans were always on a border between worlds. The East and West often conflicted here. We find traces of that in Tučepi. The history of Tučepi is the history of Europe in many ways.
A Roman city?
The name most probably comes from the Illryc world Tu (at, by) and Cep (source od water), since the area is rich with water springs and streams. The people of Illyria were the first inhabitants, followed by the Romans who left remnants on Svetvid hill and at the St.George (Sv.Jure) church. These findings indicate a Roman presence in the time of Salona (Solin) and Narona (Vid).
In the upcoming centuries, Tučepi became part of Pagania, a sort of state belonging to the pirates of Neretva. These pirates loved to loot and attack ships (as pirates do). The attacks didn’t go well with the Venetian Republic which decided to retaliate and attack the pirates.
The sea battle on the 18th of September 884 AD is said to have taken place in the area of Makarska and Tučepi. The pirates defeated the Venetians so severely, that the date became the day of the Croatian navy. The folklore tells us that the Croatians killed the Dodge and buried his intestines in the previously mentioned church of St.George (Sv.Jure) in Tučepi next to hotel Neptun. This turned out to be just a story. The body of the Dodge is safe and sound in Italy.
An Empire and a Republic
Years of wars between the Osmanic Empire and the Venetian Republic followed. The locals were forced to hide from both sides in the forts and caves under the mountain. Two of these forts are still in Srida sela in Gornje Tučepi – Bušelića kula and Lalića kula. Perfect sights to visit if you want to know more about the history of Tučepi.
In the 18th century, the Venetians had a more steady rule on Makarska Riviera. During that time, Makarska developed as a baroque city, and some of its noble families had summer residences in Tučepi. The best-preserved one, from family Grubišić became hotel Kaštelet. Families Ivanišević and Kačić had their houses in today’s centre of Tučepi, but they are hardly recognizable today.
Hard peasant life
But the life of people of Tučepi was far from baroque. It was a hard peasant life, trying to pull what little they could from the barren land – at least up until the earthquake in 1962. The road to Makarska was built, and civilization slowly started sneaking in.
My grandfather lived in a house with 20 people (give or take), they took showers once a month, ate a bit of bread and cheese once a day, and made soups from stones from the sea, because the salt and the minerals would give it a bit of a kick. They were really poor.
“The day Biokovo crumbled on Makarska”
In 1962 a devastating earthquake damaged a lot of old stone houses and redirected the history of Tučepi. The tremendous Biokovo mountain crumbled on Makarska and the surroundings. People scattered all over Yugoslavia, leaving the area empty and eery.
The residents received loans to rebuild their houses. In Tučepi, most of the people decided to build their homes along the waterfront and to leave villages. As a result “Lower Tučepi” became Tučepi, and most of the old houses had to wait to be renovated until the 21st century.
If you understand Croatian check out this short film about the people who decided to stay in the villages.
During the last war, the area of Biokovo was thankfully spared. Tourism came to a halt for a few years, but it came back stronger and transformed. It is the most significant source of income for most of the people.
Tourists are coming in large numbers to enjoy the beaches and forests. As a result, the very beaches that people came to enjoy are being destroyed, and trees are being cut to make room for new apartment buildings and hotels.
As everywhere, money is being prioritized over authenticity and nature, but thankfully there are more than a few enthusiasts who are trying to redirect the development of tourism to a more sustainable version.