Examining the 34 Villas of Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito

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

A vintage image of Vila Kupres in the Koprivnica Mountains of BiH.
A recent image of the ruins of Vila Kupres in the Koprivnica Mountains of BiH. Source: N1info/Anadolija

Name: Vila Kupres

Location: Koprivnica Mountains, near Kupres, BiH

Architect(s): [unknown]

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

An old vintage postcard of the Vila Gorica located in Bugojno, BiH
A view of the modern-day ruins of Vila Gorica in Bugojno, BiH. Source: Mapio

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

A view of the ruins of Vila Stojčevac located just outside Sarajevo, BiH. Source: Radio Sarajevo
Some vintage images of Vila Stojčevac just outside Sarajevo, BiH. Source: Museum of Yugoslavia

Name: Vila Stojčevac

Location: Mount Igman near Sarajevo, BiH

Architect(s): [unknown]

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

A vintage image of Tito's Donje Bare Hunting Lodge at Sutjeska National Park, BiH. Source: focanskidani@wordpress
A view of the ruins of Tito's Donje Bare Hunting Lodge at Sutjeska National Park, BiH. Source: larsonbl07@blogspot
A photo of Tito in 1964 sitting on the Donje Bare lodge terrace overlooking the lake. Source: Dissonant Heritage

Name: Donje Bare Hunting Lodge

Location: Sutjeska National Park, BiH

Architect(s): [unknown]

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

A recent image of Tito's Vila Lastva located in Lastva, BiH. Source: Sarajevo Times

Name: Vila Lastva

Location: Lastva, BiH

Architect(s): [unknown]

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.

 

Croatia

 

6.) Vila Kumrovec, Kumrovec, Croatia

A vintage image of Tito's Vila Kumrovec located in his hometown of Kumrovec, Croatia.
A recent view of the interior of Tito's Vila Kumrovec located in his hometown of 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

A view of the original section of Tito's Tikveš Castle located in Tikveš, Croatia. Source: Slavko Jaksic
A view of the Yugoslav-era modernist annex of Tito's Tikveš Castle located in Tikveš, Croatia. Source: Damir Drašković

Name: Castle Tikveš

Location: Tikveš, Croatia

Architect(s): [unknown]

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

A recent image of Tito's Lividraga Lodge located in the Gorski Kotar Mountains of Croatia. Source: Mapio
A vintage image of Tito at his Lividraga Lodge in the Gorski Kotar Mountains of Croatia. Source: Museum of Yugoslavia

Name: Lividraga Lodge

Location: Gorski Kotar Mountains, Croatia

Architect(s): [unknown]

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

A view of the Tito's White Villa in the Brijuni Island of Croatia. Source: Mateo Milina
A recent photo of the interior of Tito's White Villa in the Brijuni Island of Croatia. Source: Mateo Milina

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

A vintage image of Tito's villa on Vanga Island at Brijuni, Croatia. Source: Cropix
A recent image of Tito's bedroom at his Vanga Island villa at Brijuni, Croatia. Source: Fotografska radionica Brijuni@Facebook
Tito [right] making drinks at his Vanga Island Villa with Burmese prime minister U Nu and Aleksandar Ranković. Source: Dissonant Heritage

Name: The Vanga Island Villa

Location: Vanga Island, Brijuni, Croatia

Architect(s): [unknown]

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

A recent aerial view of Tito's Vila Dalmacija located in Split, Croatia. Source: Slobodna Dalmacija
A recent interior image of Tito's Vila Dalmacija located in Split, Croatia. Source: btm-photo.com

Name: Vila Dalmacija

Location: Split, Croatia

Architect(s): [unknown]

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

A vintage photo of Tito in front of his Vila Dunavska in Ilok, Croatia. Source: Museum of Yugoslavia

Name: Vila Dunavka

Location: Ilok, Croatia

Architect(s): [unknown]

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 winery are currently owned by the Croatian government.

 

13.) Vila Izvor, Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

A vintage image of a group of politicians at Tito's Vila Izvor in the Plitvice Lakes of Croatia. Source: np-plitvicka-jezera.hr
A recent image of the interior ruins of Tito's Vila Izvor in the Plitvice Lakes of Croatia. Source: Davor Puklavec/PIXSELL
A vintage photo of Tito and his wife Jovanka in front of Vila Izvor with some Young Pioneers. Source: Plitvice Lakes National Park

Name: Vila Izvor (aka: "Objekt 99")

Location: near Plitvice Lakes, Croatia

Architect(s): Zvonimir Marohnić & Rikard Marasović

Year built: 1953

Coordinates: 44°54'09.9"N, 15°34'18.2"E

Description: Deep within the Lika region's rolling forested hills (only 2km northwest of Croatia's famous Plitvice Lakes) is a now ruined and destroyed estate originally known by the mysterious and clandestine code-name "Objekt 99", but today it is known by its true title, "Vila Izvor". This remote and secluded rural compound was created exclusively to be one of Josip Broz Tito's personal residences. According to sources, this enormous 6,500 sq m complex was built between 1949 and 1953 using prisoner labor from such sites as Goli Otok, Gradiška, Lepoglava and Mitrovica, with even the furniture of the villa being constructed by prisoner craftsman. At the time of its completion, it is purported to be the most expensive single residence in Yugoslavia. Vila Izvor was the work of the Croatian architect team Zvonimir Marohnić & Rikard Marasović, the latter whom is widely known for his work creating the innovative Children's Health Resort at the Dalmatian coastal town of Krvavica in 1961. The villa sits at the source of the River Plitvice, which is from where the residence gets its name "Izvor", which means "well spring" in English.


The architecture of the villa is characterized by its use of Medvednica stone (from Zagreb) and wood paneling from native trees, with these two elements coming together to create what is almost akin to a modernist fortress, especially in the way which the main stone tower of the villa resembles a castle keep. The interior of the villa was said to be decked in the most luxurious furnishings of any of Tito's Croatian villas, with marble stairs, lacquered woodwork and plush carpeting. In addition, the villa hosted such modern amenities like a bowling alley, a cinema, ballrooms and other such facilities. Like other villas on this list belonging to Tito, this one also is alleged to host around its grounds a complex network of underground tunnels and passageways. While Tito only visited this villa a few times, it was often used by other Croatian communist officials and military leaders during the Yugoslav-era, with numerous locals recounting that many of these gatherings often descended into notoriously decadent and wild events.


Villa Izvor was completely devastated during the Yugoslav Wars, with its being used as a strategic military site. Afterward, it was looted of all valuables and today sits as a ruin that is mostly only visited by vandals and curious explorers. The land on which the ruin sits is currently under the management of Plitvice Lakes National Park, which has recently proposed the idea of turning the abandoned space into a scientific research center, but as of 2020, no efforts have yet been put towards such ideas.

 

14.) Vila Kupari, Kupari, Croatia

A recent image of Tito's Vila Kupari located in Kupari, Croatia. Source: Grgo Jelavić/PIXSELL/express.24sata.hr
A recent image of Tito's Vila Kupari located in Kupari, Croatia. Source: Jutarnji List

Name: "Vila Kupari" or "Vila Borovka 1"

Location: Kupari, Croatia

Architect(s): David Finci

Year built: 1966

Coordinates: 42°36'56.1"N, 18°10'47.4"E

Description: Located just a few hundred meters away from the now ruined and abandoned Kupari resort complex on Croatia's Adriatic coast (just 8km southeast of Dubrovnik) is one of Tito's seaside estates called "Vila Kupari", which is also sometimes referred to as "Vila Borovka 1". A smaller villa, built adjacent to this primary one, was also constructed at this site intended for Tito's wife Jovanka and was called "Vila Borovka 2". Both villas were built in a high modernist architectural design, characterized by their sweeping concrete horizontals with dramatic upwardly curving tips, almost akin to the work which architect Le Corbusier designed in Chandigarh, India during the early 1950s. The designer of both Tito's and Jovanka's villas here at Kupari was Sarajevo architect David Finci, who had just a few years earlier created the massive Hotel Pelegrin complex at Kupari, whose design was clearly used as an inspiration for Tito's villa. Interestingly, after completing Tito's villa at Kupari at the age of 35, Finci immediately travelled to New York City for an architectural scholarship which he had won, and would subsequently go on to stay in America the rest of his life, creating dozens of major architectural works predominately in New York, New Jersey and California.


Not much is known about Tito's time here at Kupari, but, as with other of his Yugoslav villas, this one also had an extensive network of underground tunnels, chambers and defensive bunkers built around this complex which could reportedly house around 30 people for up to 80 days in case of an emergency. In the post-Yugoslav-era, the Croatian government inherited the property, using it for various political and military meetings, all the while continuing the villas tradition of secrecy and seclusion. It was not until the late 2010s that the public at large fully became aware of the site. The villa has still never been accessible to the public in any form. Since 2017, the Croatian government has been attempting to sell them off to private investors, however, as of yet, such sales attempts have been unsuccessful.

 

15.) Vila Lapad, Dubrovnik, Croatia

A recent view of Tito's Vila Lapad located in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Source: Kunyit Merah/YouTube

Name: "Vila Lapad" or "Vila Banac"