Cocooned within the wonderful folds of Montenegro’s shoreline, on the southern tip of the Dalmatian Coast in the Bay of Kotor, Perast ranks among the most beautiful and important places in the world and it has been added to the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perast, although a heaven of peace and tranquillity, is
easily accessible. There are three international airports close to hand: Dubrovnik, Podgorica e Tivat. The last one provide direct flights to many important destinations as, for example, Moscow, St Petersburg, London and other major European destinations. About 30 minutes from Perast is possible to reach across the water Porto Montenegro, one of the most prestigious marinas for the exclusive facilities offered, among which also the mooring for super yachts.
Perast lies beneath the hill of St. Elijah (873 m), on a cape that separates the Bay of Risano from that of Kotor, and overlooks the Verige strait, the narrowest part of the bay of Kotor. Near Perast there are two small islands: one is called St. George island, with a cypress grove and a benedictine abbey of 1166, and the
other called Gospa od Škrpjela (Our Lady of the Rock), where a sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rock rises and is particularly interesting given that it is the only artificially built island in the Adriatic. The Republic of Venice owned the city between 1420 and 1797 as part of the Venetian Albania. During Venetian period were built the most famous buildings of Perast: the churches, the defensive towers, the Holy Cross fortress e the
Perast, thanks to its location and to the mountains, had never been conquered by the Ottoman pirates.
Perast was at its peak in the 18th century under the Venetian Republic, when it had as many as four active shipyards, a fleet of around one hundred ships, and 1,700 residents.
Due to the spontaneous aid given in 1368 to the Venetian fleet during a terrible siege, the city earned the title of "faithful gonfaloniera", which it held until the end of the Republic. The devotion of the town to the Republic of Venice was not diminished even the fall of the latter: May 12, 1797 while the doge placed the insignia of San Marco, the Perastini decided to remain Venetian and would carry in self-government until the arrival of the Austrian troops. The Venetian flags were so hoisted until August 23, the day on which they were buried with a solemn ceremony, the last of the Serenissima, under the altar of the cathedral.
Smekja Palace is situated on the waterfront, in the central part of Perast, next to the church of St. Mark. Members of the family Smekja, from the “casada” Cizmaj, were mentioned as seamen as early as the second half of the 16th century. Petar Smekja brought about the economic prosperity of the family, following his famous merchant undertakings, when he established a trading route between Venice and the Baltic countries
in his ship “Leon Coronato” in 1746. In 1748, he became a “konte” (count), while in 1779 the family acquired the status of Kotor nobility. The palace consists of two separate structures – the older one, situated between the coastal and the old road, built in 1764, and the new one, the construction of which started in 1764 but was actually finished in the 1930s. These two parts are connected by a vaulted passage above the old road. The year of construction of the palace is evidenced by an inscription above the entrance to the upper part of the palace:
D. O. M.
PETRUS COMES SMECCHIA
DOMUM DE SUO AERE
ERREXIT PRIDE NONAS
The Smekja palace is the largest palace in Perast. This three-storey construction with belvedere was entirely built of stone brought from the island of Korcula. A terraced porch stretches along the whole length of the first floor, while the second and third floors are decorated with stone balustrade balconies. Above the entrance, there is the coat-of-arms of the “casada” Cizmaj – a hand holding a stalk (“cicimak”) and stars, a symbol of the Smekja family. The new part of the palace was finished in 1936, modelled on the existing ground and first floors in the same style and of the same stone.