Updated: Jan 21, 2021
When the supreme commander of the Partisan Army Marshal Josip Broz Tito came to power as the leader-for-life of the newly created Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1945 in the wake of his WWII victory, he slowly, over the course of many years, began to accumulate a significant collection of properties across Yugoslavia for the purposes of coordinating his official responsibilities and duties, as well as for his personal relaxation and leisure. Some of these estates and villas were built from scratch, while many others were simply acquired through the process of nationalization, most often from the Karađorđević royal family of Yugoslavia, who were deposed in 1945 by the Yugoslav Constituent Assembly. The villas which Tito accumulated were of a huge variety, from castles, to hunting lodges, to seaside manors, to luxury palaces, and well beyond. Tito was well known for his refined tastes, love of entertaining and desire to impress, so, as such, he used these many villas not only for his stately tasks and personal enjoyment, but also as a means to showcase the splendors and modernization of Yugoslavia to the hundreds of visiting dignitaries and world leaders he would routinely host at his many estates. Also, it must be pointed out that all of these villas were not properties which Tito himself owned personally... all were under the formal ownership of the Yugoslav government. After Tito's passing, there was virtually no property that was left behind that was legally owned by Tito himself as an individual or by his family.
The natural question that many ask after hearing of this vast collection of estates which Tito accumulated is "how many were there?". While seemingly a straightforward question, the exact number is not known for certain, as even today there is much secrecy in some circles about the legacy of government-owned properties which existed during the former Yugoslavia. Surprising revelations about many of Tito's estates continue to be unearthed up to the present day, all while legal restitution battles between current governments and these property's pre-WWII owners still drag on into contemporary times. While some sources assert that there may be as well as over 100 villas which Tito called "home" in one respect or another, in my research for this article I was only able to isolate 34 properties which were either official Tito residences (some used, some unused) or villas in which Tito spent some amount of time. While more examples may exist, this list of 34 is all I was able to find any level of documentation or literature for.
This article looks at each villa in detail, with them all being organized by the former republics in which they existed. Learning about these villas gives one a unique insight into the life of Tito, his interests as a person, how he operated as a statesman, as well as his relationship with his wife Jovanka. Furthermore, detailing the individual history of each villa provides hints at how each region where these villas reside deal with and relate to the lingering legacy of Tito, which is visible still in many cases even 40 years after his death. Some stand as important local tourist attractions, some are locked up tight by private owners, while some sit in a crumbled ruins. This article will operate as a general survey of this unique and historical collection of properties, evaluating their past, present and even future in some cases.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
1.) Vila Kupres, Koprivnica Mountains, BiH
Name: Vila Kupres
Location: Koprivnica Mountains, near Kupres, BiH
Year built: 1972
Coordinates: 44°01'43.1"N, 17°18'17.0"E
Description: Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito was an avid hunter and accumulated hunting lodges across the whole of Yugoslavia. Of particular interest to Tito was hunting bears, of which there were plentiful amounts of in the high mountains of Western Bosnia's Dinaric Alps. As such, a large villa was built for Tito in 1972 in the Koprivnica Mountains between the towns of Kupres and Bugojno. The lodge complex built for Tito, called "Vila Kupres", was characterized by its three levels of swooping horizontal lines and concrete balconies overlooking the mountains. Tito not only hunted the game that was already here in the area, but he also hunted game that was brought in from across Yugoslavia and from around the world. To get around while hunting in these mountains, Tito used a Russian-made Lada Niva SUV that was gifted to him by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Tito visited Vila Kupres repeatedly over the years, roughly 17 times, more than any other of his lodges. The only other area where Tito spent more time was at his villas at Belgrade and Brijuni. Official Yugoslav state visits were also held here at the villa, with the most notable one being when Tito hosted Muammar Gaddafi in the late 1970s. In 1974, Tito found that the high altitude of mountains was poorly affecting his health, so he had a second villa in the area built for him in the valley at the nearby town of Bugojno, which he would split time between.
During the Bosnian War, Vila Kupres was used as a strategic military position and command base, suffering significant damage during the process. By the end of the war, it was completely destroyed. In the decades since the end of the war, the ruins of the villa still remain and have been largely forgotten. Articles indicate that the land and the ruins are both still owned by the government. This site is not wise to explore as landmines still exist around the landscape here.
2.) Vila Gorica, Bugojno, BiH
Name: Vila Gorica
Location: Bugojno, BiH
Architect(s): Zlatko Ugljen [profile page]
Year built: 1974
Coordinates: N44°02'25.3", E17°26'33.9"
Description: As the result of Tito often finding his extended stays at his mountain hunting lodge of Vila Kupres leaving him feeling ill, in 1974 he commissioned an additional personal villa to be constructed for himself in the lower valley within the town of Bugojno. The designer chosen for this distinguished project was famous Bosnian architect Zlatko Ugljen, who was the author of numerous WWII monuments and notable buildings across Yugoslavia. The house, when completed, was of a modified A-frame design clad with native wood siding, which all the more gave the structure a rustic "mountain lodge" aesthetic that Tito no doubt desired. When Tito would come to Western Bosnia to hunt, he would largely split his time between staying here at Vila Gorica and up at the lodge at Koprivnica. As a result, Tito was a well known fixture in the small rural town of Bugojno, where he would often walk the town's streets with world leaders which he had brought to hunt with. It is also notable to mention that constructed just a few meters north of Tito's villa was an additional villa meant for notable Yugoslav politician Branko Mikulić, who was from Bugojno and served for many years in the top party leadership of the SR of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Four years after Tito's death in 1980, Vila Gorica was transformed into a museum complex dedicated to the time which Tito spent recreating and hunting in the Bugojno and Koprivnica region. Vintage film footage showing Tito at Vila Gorica can be seen at THIS YouTube link.
As the Bosnian War took hold of this region during the early 1990s, Vila Gorica (along with the Mikulić villa) met a similar fate as the nearby Vila Kupres, with it being used as a strategic military position and later being completely destroyed through the course of the war. Today, the ownership of the ruins of the two villas (and the land they sit on) are contested by several government entities, however, many groups hope to eventually clean up and redevelop these sites. It is also interesting to note that rumors abound that there is an as-of-yet undiscovered network of secret tunnels under Vila Gorica that Tito had built for security (that American media even reported as being inspirations for Saddam Hussein's secret palace tunnel systems), but, as far as I can tell, such tales continue to remain as just myths.
3.) Vila Stojčevac, Sarajevo, BiH
Name: Vila Stojčevac
Location: Mount Igman near Sarajevo, BiH
Year built: early 1950s?
Coordinates: 43°48'30.6"N, 18°17'18.4"E
Description: Located southwest of Sarajevo at the foot of Mount Igman, just a few hundred meters east of the source of the Bosnia River, are the ruins of Tito's sprawling residence which was called "Vila Stojčevac". Built in the early 1950s, Tito used this residence here both for its hunting potential (which was always an important factor for him), as well as for its proximity to the urban/political hub of Sarajevo. The house was in the style of a "modern" rustic lodge, with its form typified by long horizontal low-pitched roof lines and wide open clusters of windows, all clad in a stylized 'log cabin' style facade. The interior of the complex was decorated with massive painted wall murals depicting the history and culture of Bosnia, all painted by the region's most significant artists. In addition, a vast network of tunnels was built under and around the compound, meant to serve as protection as well as clandestine transportation for Tito between sensitive sites.
As has been seen so far on this list with other official residences of Tito's during the Bosnian War, the fate of Vila Stojčevac was no exception, with it being used as a military fortification during the war. Today the villa sits in ruins completely destroyed and devastated, with multiple government agencies conflicted over who has responsibility over the site. Exploration of the site (especially its tunnels) is not recommended as the result of landmines, wild animals and the structure's instability. Impressive drone footage of the site can be seen at THIS Youtube link.
4.) Donje Bare Hunting Lodge, Sutjeska NP, BiH
Name: Donje Bare Hunting Lodge
Location: Sutjeska National Park, BiH
Year built: 1950s?
Coordinates: 43°19'07.1"N, 18°37'48.3"E
Description: Nestled at the edge of the remote lake of Donje Bare high in the Zelengora Mountains are the ruins of Tito's Sutjeska hunting lodge. The Sutjeska region was a pivotal location in Tito's life as a result of the huge battle him and his Partisan Army fought here in 1943 during WWII [more info here], so, not surprisingly, he came back to this region regularly for recreation and relaxation (particularly hunting). However, this hunting lodge which he established on the banks of the remote mountain lake of Donje Bare (most likely during the 1950s) has very little information available about it. However, surviving photos do indicate that Tito spent a good deal of time here. During the Yugoslav-era, the lake region was for Tito's exclusive use only, and it was not until the years following the end of the Bosnian War in the late 1990s that the lake was finally opened to public access. However, it was also during the war that the hunting lodge was completely destroyed. Circumstances surrounding the destruction of the lodge are unknown. The ruined foundation of the lodge still remains and is a popular feature for those hiking to Donje Bare Lake.
5.) Vila Lastva, Lastva, BiH
Name: Vila Lastva
Location: Lastva, BiH
Year built: 1954
Coordinates: 42°41'47.5"N, 18°29'18.6"E
Description: In the small village of Lastva, not far from the Herzegovina regional hub of Trebinje, is the only official residence of Tito in Bosnia that still exists up until the present day. Built in 1954, the house is crafted in a traditional 'villa' style out of native stone, fitting in very much with other local structures. Interestingly, despite its surviving through the Bosnian War, not much information is available about Tito's time spent here at this residence. In the post-Yugoslav-era, the house sat idle for many years. Interest in the site was renewed when it was used as a filming location for the 2009 Serbian TV series "Ranjeni orao" (Wounded Eagle). In 2015 the residence was sold by the state to a tourism investor named "Leotar" and development started on renovating the site into a bed & breakfast and winery, which was finally opened in 2019. The official website for the lodging, which kept the historic name "Vila Lastva", can be found at THIS link.
6.) Vila Kumrovec, Kumrovec, Croatia
Name: Vila Kumrovec
Location: Kumrovec, Croatia
Architect(s): Branko Bon
Year built: 1948
Coordinates: N46°04'35.7", E15°40'31.6"
Description: Just on the western outskirts of the small village of Kumrovec (just a few dozen meters away from the Kumrovec Old Village Museum) is situated the local residence which President Josip Broz Tito used during his stays here to his childhood village. Originally created in 1948 as a hotel and designed by notable Croatian architect Branko Bon (who was reputed to be Tito's favorite architect), the building is of a traditional style of local vernacular architecture, yet, also containing playful features of early modernist flair. It was renovated in 1962 in order to accommodate Tito’s living needs, at which point the interior of the home was decorated in an impressive mid-century style, standing in unique contrast to its more traditional exterior. After the dismantling of Yugoslavia, the home was left vacant for many years, with all of Tito’s possessions and personal items left relatively untouched and in place. It was not until 2015 that the Vila Kumrovec was finally opened up to the public for tours. These tours present visitors with a unique glimpse into Tito’s life, as well as a preserved snapshot of the stylistic trends of the Yugoslav-era. For info about touring Vila Kumrovec, see the official website for the Kumrovec Old Village Museum.
7. Castle Tikveš, Tikveš, Croatia
Name: Castle Tikveš
Location: Tikveš, Croatia
Year built: 1890s?
Coordinates: 45°41'55.2"N, 18°50'02.2"E
Description: Near the confluence of the Danube and Drava Rivers is a rich ecological wetland environment that has been renowned for its hunting for centuries, with the region often being referred to as "Kopački Rit". Members of the royal Austro-Hungarian Habsburg dynasty built a hunting residence here around the 1890s, which they called "Castle Tikveš". Sources refer to the style of the castle as "Romantic Historicism", with its red brick facade containing many traditional Austro-Hungarian architectural features, but also some playful Art Nouveau elements as well. After WWI, the royal Karađorđević family of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia used the home for hunting parties. It was after WWII that the property was nationalized by the socialist Yugoslav government and it began to be used by president Josip Broz Tito as an official hunting lodge and residence, while also using the castle as a place to host official guests and dignitaries. Reportedly, Castle Tikveš was among Tito's most prized hunting lodges as a result of the world-class hunting the surroundings offered him. An annex was built off of the rear of the castle in the 1970s, designed in a highly modernist style of architecture (quite incongruent with the old castle), for which Tito could expand his entertaining and hosting capacity. After the death of Tito in 1980, the castle began a long stretch of sitting vacant and unused for many years, but interestingly, in April of 1991, the castle was used to host a summit between Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević and Croatian leader Franjo Tuđman as tensions in the region flared up during the dismantling of Yugoslavia.
Currently, the Kopački Rit Nature Park, which manages the castle now, has plans in motion to renovate and redevelop the castle into a "historical-naturalistic exhibition" which will educate people about the region's important history and environmental offerings (expected to open around 2021). Until this project is completed, the castle's exterior and surrounding grounds are free to explore as part of the nature park. The official website for the Kopački Rit Nature Park can be found at THIS link.
8.) Lividraga Lodge, Gorski Kotar Mountains, Croatia
Name: Lividraga Lodge
Location: Gorski Kotar Mountains, Croatia
Year built: 1958
Coordinates: 45°28'44.0"N, 14°35'16.4"E
Description: Located high in the Gorski Kotar Mountains of Croatia is a rustic hunting lodge built for Josip Broz Tito called "Lividraga Lodge". Built in this remote alpine setting in 1958 for Tito to capitalize on the region's impressive grouse hunting offerings (as well as a place for him to conduct more private political affairs), the lodge is in a traditional A-frame style with a foundation of local stone, all perched on a hillside overlooking the beautiful Lividraga Meadow. Not a lot of information is available about the time which Tito spent here at the lodge, but after the Yugoslav-era the lodge remained in a good condition (possibly because of its remoteness). The Lividraga Lodge today is managed by the Croatian Forestry Agency. Information about visiting and staying at the lodge can be found at THIS link.
9.) The White Villa, Brijuni Islands, Croatia
Name: The White Villa
Location: Veli Brijun in the Brijuni Islands, Croatia
Architect(s): Jože Plečnik
Year built: 1953
Coordinates: 44°55'07.7"N, 13°44'59.5"E
Description: Tito first became enchanted by the Brijuni Islands in 1947 and was insistent upon making the archipelago's main island, Veli Brijun, the site for his personal summer residence and island retreat. The islands of Brijuni had been used since ancient times, with many Roman ruins existing across the islands. However, the waterfront site on Dobrika Bay which Tito desired to place his new personal palace was already occupied by two old villas created by the region's former Austro-Hungarian rulers in 1901 (which were named "Weinberger Villa" and "Feilchenfeld Villa"). Tito had both of these villas demolished in 1950 and three years later to make room for his new villa. At the time of the early 1950s, Tito was not yet much of a fan of the modernist architectural aesthetic, as such, he had the villa crafted in a more traditionalist style, hiring famed Slovene architect Jože Plečnik to design the palace. In 1953 construction completed on his new home that was subsequently dubbed the "White Villa" (Bijela vila), which, at 3,000 sq m in size, instantly became the most immense and luxurious single villa ever built upon the island. It was from here at the White Villa that Tito hosted some of the most significant luminaries and leaders from around the world, both for business dealings in international diplomacy as well as for fun and leisure... or, as a 2019 Time Out article puts it: "listing all of the international political figures who visited Tito on Brijuni would add up to an A-to-Z of pretty much everyone who held any importance in the years 1954-1980." However, it wasn't long after building the White Villa that Tito realized that he needed a more intimate and secluded villa in the Brijuni Islands for conducting more intimate and secluded business and engagements. As a result, he built a new villa on the nearby island of Vanga just two years later in 1955.
In the years after the Yugoslav-era, the White Villa continued to be used through the 1990s and early 2000s as a summer villa by politicians of the new Croatian government. However, it is used less and less in recent years, leaving the palace largely vacant a majority of the time, yet still completely off-limits to public tours or visitation. There do not seem to be any plans to open the White Villa up to the public anytime soon.
10.) Vanga Island Villa, Brijuni Islands, Croatia
Name: The Vanga Island Villa
Location: Vanga Island, Brijuni, Croatia
Year built: 1955
Coordinates: 44°54'41.6"N, 13°43'38.4"E
Description: As Tito increasingly found his main Brijuni residence at the White Villa less private and secluded as he would prefer, he began to migrate many of his activities to a new compound he was creating on a tiny island just off of the west coast of the main Brijuni island called 'Vanga'. in 1955, Tito commissioned a new expansive villa on Vanga to be his primary secluded hideaway where he would conduct his most sensitive political dealings, while also having it as a place to entertain his most exclusive guests. As a result of this purposeful isolation, it became one of the most secretive and mysterious locations in all of Yugoslavia. The architecture of the Vanga Island compound was one part traditional Mediterranean villa (with its red tile roof and native stone) and one part exquisite 1960s Yugoslav styling (with its breezy open plan layout and modernist interior). It was here that Tito hosted some of the world's most influential leaders like Haile Selassie, Queen Elizabeth II, King Hussein of Jordan, among others. In addition to official business, Tito also used his Vanga Island Villa for entertaining many of the most notable celebrities of his era, such as Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Orson Wells, Richard Burton, Josephine Baker and many more.
In the post-Yugoslav-era, the villa at Vanga Island fell into a sort of contained stasis, remaining essentially untouched for several decades and completely off-limits to the public. However, in 2018, news began to surface that Brijuni National Park (the entity which now managed the island) would soon be opening up Tito's Vanga Island Villa for tourism and public visitation. As of 2020, such ambitions have not yet been met, but it still seems from all reports that such plans to open to the public this long secret island are still underway. A vintage Yugoslav-era documentary video touring the Vanga Island estate can be watched at THIS YouTube link.
11.) Vila Dalmacija, Split, Croatia
Name: Vila Dalmacija
Location: Split, Croatia
Year built: 1914
Coordinates: 43°30'16.1"N, 16°24'32.6"E
Description: Nestled within the Marjan Hill Forest Park along Split's Adriatic coast is the resplendent seaside chateau known today as "Vila Dalmacija". The villa was built in 1914 by Czech entrepreneur Franjo Schiller, which he originally dubbed "Vila Schiller". However, just two years after the end of WWII in 1947, Tito noticed the villa on a visit to Split and decided to nationalize the property for use as one of his personal residences. It was at this point that the residence was given its new name "Vila Dalmacija". Some assert that Tito chose Marjan Hill as his place of residence in Split because during WWII the Partisan song "Marjane, Marjane" (which was about Marjan Hill) was among his most favorite wartime tunes to hear his soldiers sing. Unfortunately, sources do not provide much information about Tito's time here at his Split villa or how often he visited or stayed here in his time spent traveling across Yugoslavia. However, what sources do say is that during the Yugoslav-era, it was considered the "hot spot of communist elite" in Split. Furthermore, the site must have most certainly been of strategic significance to Tito, since a large network of underground tunnels and defensive bunkers were built adjacent to the Vila Dalmacija, with photos and a map of the tunnels available at THIS link.
After Tito's passing, the Vila Dalmacija was used less and less, however, the most significant use of villa in the post-Tito era was in March of 1991 when the villa was used to host what was the first meeting between the three leaders Alija Izetbegović, Slobodan Milošević and Franjo Tuđman for the purposes of avoiding war across the former Yugoslav region (which they ultimately failed in succeeding at). After the end of the Yugoslav Wars, the Vila Dalmajica began to be used as a special event location, most notably for weddings, for which it quickly became the most exclusive venue. However, operating as an exclusive government-owned venue has meant that the site has been off-limits to the general public. Many recent news reports indicate that the city of Split is working to increase access to the site, potentially with even offering tours of the interior of Tito's villa (which is reportedly still in its original condition), but as of yet such plans are yet to manifest. Meanwhile, in 2014, the villa was used as a shooting location for episodes for season 5 of the HBO television show "Game of Thrones", which has further increased touristic interest in the site.
12.) Vila Dunavka, Ilok, Croatia
Name: Vila Dunavka
Location: Ilok, Croatia
Year built: [unknown]
Coordinates: 45°12'06.5"N, 19°16'45.5"E
Description: One of the lesser-known residences of President Tito was his country estate near the Danube River which was known as "Vila Dunavka". Part of an estate known as "Pajzoš" that originally belonged to Vukovar's Count of Eltz, Tito most likely chose this site as one of his estates not only because of the beautiful scenery, vinyards and on-site winery (Tito was a huge fan of wine), but also because the estate resides directly on the Croatian-Serbian border, giving its location somewhat of a symbolic quality. Perhaps it was because of this symbolism that on April 15th, 1952, Tito (who was born in modern-day Croatia) married his wife Jovanka Budisavljević (who was an ethnic Serb) here at Dunavka. As photographic records show, Tito came to Dunavka many times over the years, to engage in diplomatic meetings, as well as recreation, hunting and tending to his massive winery. However, detailed information about what sorts of affairs transpired at Vila Dunavka are sparse.
During the era of the Yugoslav Wars, the villa and its compound was used as an army barracks and as a military camp. However, by the end of the region's conflicts, the Vila Dunavka and its many surrounding out-buildings were all completely destroyed. Today, nothing remains but ruined overgrown foundations. The property of the former villa and w