Dagmar Meneghello, perhaps the best-known cultural figure on the island of Hvar, has been awarded the "Maison de Qualite" of the Order of Saint Fortunat for 2014 for her and her family's outstanding contribution to culture, nature and gastronomy, according to a report in Glas Slavonije
on May 14, 2014.
The award ceremony, which took place at Hotel Kolovare in Zadar, praised the Meneghello family for 108 years of quality since tourism began on the small island of St. Clement, opposite Croatia's premier island of Hvar.
Today, Meneghello at Palmizana is a byword for quality, culture, gastronomy and tranquillity, whose rich cultural programme, arboretum and excellent hospitality away from prying cameras have made it a popular destination for the rich and famous wanting to escape from the pressure of the public eye.
It is a far cry from the humble beginnings of tourism on the island of St. Clement, which is often called Palmizana, as Professor Eugen Meneghello started the first tourism there in 1906, on an island with no running water or electricity.
As the family tourism business passed down a generation, so the business expanded, and the considerable abilities of Juraj Toto Meneghello, an expert fisherman and outstanding host, helped to increase tourism on the island. The permanent arrival of Zagreb journalist Dagmar Gebauer, who would become his wife, meant that the island would undergo a cultural and botanical blossoming.
"It was hard trying to move from a big city like Zagreb to live and work on a barely accessible and rarely visited place such as Palmizana, " recalled Dagmar Meneghello in an email interview with Digital Journal, "where I was severed from the world of civilization and normal social relationships. It was hard in the summer washing clothes in the sea. It was hard to wash clothes and linen by hand in the seawater, because there was no water on the island. It was hard to iron with iron on hot coals… to live at the end of the world.
"For my soul it was so difficult, so that I, in order to survive, had to bring artists and the arts to the island."
Her tireless work to promote the arts and culture has made the Meneghello complex a haven for artists, and St. Clement has arguably a richer cultural programme than the bigger island of Hvar, many events of which are funded from her own pocket.
In his laudatio at the ceremony in Zadar, Sinisa Krizanec paid tribute to the work of Dagmar Meneghello, her late husband and the rest of the family:
"This story through five generations or 108 years of tourism is a story about the family Meneghello in the bay Palmizana on St. Clement, one of the Pakleni Islands submerged in the sea in front of a far better known island. On the island of barren land and dry periods, where even the bushes barely survived, enthusiastic ideas and painstaking engagement resulted in the creation of a botanical garden with more than 1000 species of plants.
The beauty of this unique creation is today recognized by the choosiest audience, connoisseurs of life and natural values. Today our gracious lady Dagmar Meneghello is a proud and valuable member of the God-given centuries-old lineage of the Meneghello family of Hvar."
The award of the Maison de Qualite is reserved for companies and institutions that achieve superior results in improving the lives of people and the preservation of a healthy environment.
Meneghello hosts many famous celebrities, most of whom slip in and out with the press hearing nothing about their visit, while others — such as Michael Schumacher, a 2012 visitor - are happy to pose for pictures with staff.
The force of Dagmar Meneghello shows no sign of abating, and she remains a passionate promoter of art, culture and nature, perhaps even more than when she arrived on the island almost 50 years ago.
Meneghello has made a strong start to the 2014 season, hosting the highly successful Gastronaut trip in March, an event attended by Digital Journal
, while the restaurant was recent included in the 2014 Good Food Guide of the top 40 restaurants in Dalmatia.
A tour of the impressive arboretum is available via slideshow in the video below.