Alongside questionable singing and Meryl Streep, the sun, sea and sand of the Greek islands were the true stars of 2008 Abba jukebox musical Mamma Mia! The film’s fictional island of ‘Kalokairi’, venue of a wedding party uniquely packed with drama and full-production musical numbers, was embodied by the very real Skopelos, in the western Aegean, and a beautiful job it did too. In a shock piece of recasting, however, this summer’s feverishly awaited sequel, Here We Go Again, sees the role taken by newcomer Vis, off Croatia’s Dalmatian coast.
The attractive tax breaks that have recently brought BBC’s The Durrells, Game of Thrones and McMafia to the country will have helped, but this quiet island turns out to have star quality to match a cast that also includes Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Lily James (pictured, on back of bike). A rugged, unspoiled spot, a full two and a half hours from the mainland by ferry, it served as a base for the Yugoslav army until 1989, and has remained largely undisturbed. Until, that is, the Mamma Mia cast and crew invaded in September of last year and occupied its entire 35 square miles for a full six weeks.
Most of the island appears in the film, but the action was centred on the village of Komiza to the west, particularly little Barjoska Bay, where a new road was specially built to bring the production to the rocky coast. Its co-star was the island’s most famous landmark, Stiniva beach on the south coast, with its white pebbles and dramatic cliff entrance to the sea (best visited by ferry rather than by the steep climb down from the road).
For Kalokairi’s jetty – the venue in the first movie of a dancing parade of hunks in flippers and Speedos – they moved to the far western tip of Barjaci, home to a gun battery, while Jastozera, a waterside restaurant well-known for its lobster, was converted into a Greek tavern, and pizzeria Pansion Dionis into a village market. Expect to see them as the charming backdrop for more boldly brutalised Swedish pop classics.
As well as recalling the original cast, led by Streep as one-time singing sensation Donna, Here We Go Again adds a new generation for a flashback history, with Lily James in the young-Meryl role – meaning there was a severe need of star-level accommodation. Since the island only has a single, unremarkable hotel, the stars stayed either in yachts or in villas in the island’s main settlement, Vis town, on the east coast. Amanda Seyfried, who plays Donna’s daughter Sophie, moved into the Palaca Jaksa, a 17th-century stone house that once served as HQ of the island’s wartime resistance fighters, while Andy Garcia, new to the franchise, was at the Villa Serena (pictured, above), a luxurious three-floor house that can be booked through VisVillas.com, which accommodated most of the leading actors.
Given the run of the island, all made the most of their time off. Pierce Brosnan, in residence with wife Keely, was particularly active, visiting Vatrica in the Kut area of Vis town for seafood on the shore and taking a daytrip to nearby island Budikovac, known for its blue lagoon, where the single resident runs a menu-free restaurant serving local specialities.
If you plan to take in this hideaway destination before the fans, you should also try Restaurant Pojoda in Vis, rated the best on the island. Seafood is a highlight, of course, sizzled on the grill and accompanied by equally fresh Mediterranean vegetables and the island’s own wines. And should you need a change from digging your inner dancing queen, you can contact navigator.hr, which arranges a tour of the island’s military installations, including a secret submarine tunnel.
Source: Conde Nast Traveller0