Marco Polo was Croatian Traveler and Explorer

born on the island of Korcula  in 1254. (in Venetian times it was part of the Venetian Republic and Korcula was called Curzola). Korcula takes big pride in being a birthplace of this worldly renowned traveler and to this day a surname Polo (another variant is De Polo) is present in Korčula. Marco’s father surname was Pilic, he was Dalmatian merchant from Korcula. Even today surname Pilic is widely spread Croatian surname. In time of Venetians ruling over Dalmatia, most of merchants and higher class people italianized their names and surnames into Italian variants, so Pilic changed his surname into Polo (in Croatian language Pilic means chicken, and also in Italian Pollo means chicken).
His birthplace house is restaurated on the remains of the Polo’s property, today turned into museum of Marco Polo and available for visitors. Despite its rather plain interior, the tower (loggia) on the house allows for a panoramic view of Korčula, stretching from east to west.  The Museum tells story about one of the first Europeans to travel the famous Silk Road trade route and many other travels of Marco Polo that are famous throughout the world. One of the most interesting stories is the one with Asian emperor Kublai Khan. He heard many stories about Marco Polo and wanted to meet him in person. Marco agreed to meet him and to tell him all the stories about his travels. Marco Polo served Kublai Khan as one of his important advisors. But after some time Marco was fed up and asked the emperor his permission to go back to his beloved Korčula and Venice. During his stay he fell in love with a young princess that was promised to the emperor, but she was in love with Marco and wanted to go with him. Marco found a way to take her with him. They sailed for three months around and he left the princess in Tabriz from where he proceeded his journey home. This was his last mission he had.

Museum of Marco Polo was opened to the public in 2011. in Chinese town of Yangzhou, where former President of Croatia Stjepan Mesic was invited to the opening ceremony and informed the world that Marco Polo was Croatian born in Korcula town in 1254.

Number of serious scientific researches confirm Marco Polo’s Croatian origin.

Analysis of Hilda Marija Foley,
North Tustin, CA 92705, US, wrote in 2007.:

Records show that Marco Polo’s father Nicolo (Croatian: Nikola) and uncle Maffeo (Croatian: Mate) Pilic were rich merchants from Sibenik in Dalmatia, then under Venetian rule, who went to Venice as established businessmen. All of the merchant and nobility class of that time used the Italian version of their names, so Pilic, which is Croatian for chicken, became Polo in Italian. The Pilic/Polo family coat of arms shows a crown and four chickens.

The medieval archives of Venice are among the best in Europe, yet there is no mention of Marco Polo’s birth, only citizen of Venice and his date of death. There is a quay in Venice near the Duke’s Palace still called Schiavoni (“Slavs”) as Croatians/Dalmatians were called at that time, where many Croatian seamen and merchants arrived from Dalmatia. The Polo family lived in this Schiavoni section of Venice were the Croatians had their churches, school and Guild Hall. Today there are still Croatian families named Polo, de Polo and Pilic in Croatia, but according to Italian sources there are no Polos in Italy.

Excerpt about Marco Polo Croatian Traveler Explorer:

Korcula, either by force or willingly, accepts the previous duke of Dubrovnik, Marsilie Zorzi, a Venetian nobleman, as its duke in 1254. In that same year Marko Polo was born.

The Polo family is much respected in Korcula; living over centuries in the town of Korcula. It produced over the years numerous shipbuilders, smiths, stone-masons, tradesmen, priests, and public notaries. Marko’s father Nikola and uncle Mate founded their trading outpost in Korcula, and the members of the Polo family were guardians of the walls around the town of Korcula. But, for the skilful tradesmen Nikola and Mate, Korcula was only the starting point of their business trade and their adventurous life. Marko’s father and uncle penetrated deeply into Asia. They erected a tower and founded their own trading outpost in the town of Sudac on the Crimea. They had their main trade centre in Constantinople, to which many Korcula businessmen and shipbuilders were travelling and for some time they were living there. Mate and Nikola Polo traded successfully with the Persians. They were cognisant with the secret ways which led through Syria and Iraq as far as the coasts of Persian Gulf. They also knew the areas where the precious pearl oysters could be found. Wherever they ventured they were made welcome as people who were “noble-minded, wise and reasonable”. They knew the routes that led to the fur traders of southern Siberia. They had trade contacts with the dignitaries of various Tartar peoples, and they reached the court of the Great Kublai Khan in China. They had started their journey before Marko Polo was born. The successful Korcula tradesmen feeling secure in their centuries-old native soil of Korcula, left their family and still unborn son Marko, as they gazed towards the Far East searching there for a realization of their dream of the rich life. Their ideas of fusing the cultural structures of the West and the East also decreed the destiny of Nikola’s son, Marko Polo, from the day of his birth.

Marko achieved the usual education of a young nobleman of his age. He learned a lot about classical writers, he understood the text of the Bible and knew the basic theology of the Roman Catholic Church. He spoke French and Italian, especially the trade vocabulary, and was skilful in keeping business books. The Church books and songs in Croatian from Marko’s time have been preserved in Korcula, and it is most probable that Marko knew the Croatian language as spoken by the inhabitants of Korcula. That knowledge was to help him very much when he traveled with his father and uncle across south Russia, then inhabited by Slavonic tribes and under Tartar reign. The European languages which Marko learned in his youth were to be the basis for the development of his polyglot talents when he came in touch, in the Far East, with Chinese; this, too, he learned successfully.

Korcula first had a bishop in 1300, which contributed a great deal to the writing and maintenance of the archives, both Church and secular, and some well-known families kept their own archives. Thus, the always rich Korcula tradition passed on by word of mouth, received also written support for the preservation of the collective communal memory, thus giving birth to capable men ready for the adventures of body and spirit in distant worlds.

The oldest written document in which the Polo family is mentioned is a deed of gift dated March 14th 1400. The then duke of Korcula, Mihajlo Musi and three Korcula judges donated to a certain Joannis a building in the town quarter on the eastern side, near the house of Bogavaz Dupolo. It is the exact location of the present “tower of Marko Polo”; from which one can see clearly all the Peljesac Channel; the route of trading vessels from Hellenic times to the present day.

A somewhat older document, from 1430, speaks about the life and work of members of the Polo family in Korcula in the 13th century, mostly featuring the centuries-old tradition of building Korcula style wooden boats, well known in the whole of the Mediterranean. That document is to be found in the private archives of the Kapor family in Korcula. In this, Mate Polo applies to the community of Korcula for a piece of land for his ship-yard, near the place where his grandfathers were building boats. That document is concrete evidence that the Polos were living in Korcula and building the boats even before Marko Polo was alive. Korcula shipyards were situated both on the eastern and western shores adjacent to the fortified medieval town. In this a way, the shipbuilders, working in the vicinity of the city walls, and living inside them, were able to defend their town in case of enemy attack. In the list mentioning ship-builders in 1594, there are 16 ship-rights from the Polo family, and in the 1810 list, 22. From a legal case of 1778, we learn that the name of the owner of a shipyard in the eastern suburb was Marko Depolo. As the skills of ship-building, as well as the ownership of the shipyards, were passing from generation to generation, from father to son, various families were for centuries using the same plots for the needs of their workshops. It is evident from the land-registry maps of the past century, and from photos exhibited in the City Museum that Mihovil Depolo, Nikola’s son, (1864-1943) was the owner of one of the bigger shipyards on the eastern side (“Borak”), and that Lovro Depolo (1853-1943) was the owner of the biggest shipyard of all on the western side of the town of Korcula (“Sv. Nikola”).

The Korculans were not only outstanding ship-builders but also experienced seamen. They excelled, too, as good warriors in many sea battles; among them, members of the Depolo family. Archive material and memorials confirm that the duke of Korcula, Andrea Zane, in 1584, entrusted, among others, Jerolim, Pavle and Nikola Polo, with finding crews for the participation of the town of Korcula in one of the sea battles. (excerpt taken from  where you can read in details about life of Marco Polo)

To explore this beautiful town of Korcula, stay in one of our Korcula island villas.