A scenic 30-minute bus ride from the swarm of Dubrovnik's tourists is the picturesque seaside town of Cavtat. When I visited there a few days ago, it was quiet and mostly devoid of visitors and open restaurants (this is the off-season, after all; it goes without saying that there was plenty of sun, historic architecture, and cats). This relative solitude allowed me to enjoy a peaceful walk along the town's 7 km pine tree-lined nature paths, passing a number of spots perfect for summer dips. Note to self: Come back to Croatia during swimsuit season.
While in Cavtat, I had the pleasure of visiting the childhood home of internationally-renowned Croatian painter Vlaho Bukovac. On the outside, the house looks like a traditional Croatian stone home of the 18th century. What awaits inside the house's gates is far more interesting, though: As a teenager recovering from a serious accident as a sailor, Bukovac painted the interior walls with bright and exotic murals (the Croatian government has recently provided funding to fully restore them). Word spread in Cavtat about this magnificent painter and his career took off. The house showcases a variety of paintings and sketches by Bukovac as well as his studio, and you can see the variety of his styles and read about his super-interesting life. But the fun doesn't stop there, history aficionados: In Bukovac's yard, excavations revealed that the site has been continuously inhabited since ancient times; found remains from the Roman period include a structure, earthen floor, roof tiles, and ceramic pots. For only 20 kuna (roughly $3) and in the middle of town, Vlaho Bukovac's home is not to be missed.