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Sistory in Split - September 2023

Day 1

We started off with a walking tour to get the lay of the land, ably guided by the knowledgeable Natasa. 90 minutes of history, local intel and fun facts.

Highlights were the Pjaca Clock Tower, the Venetian Tower, and a teeny tiny church dedicated to St Martin, patron saint of soldiers. The church is built into a narrow walkway over the Golden Gate, the northern entrance to Diocletian's Palace - it was originally a guardhouse from where soldiers kept watch for invaders and defended the town.

A beautiful combination of Romanesque tower and Renaissance clock, the Pjaca Clock Tower faces the square and is next to the Iron Gate, one of the 4 main entrances into Diocletian's Palace and Split Old Town. (The others are the Golden Gate, the Silver Gate and the Bronze Gate - the Silver was our stand out favourite). The clock dates from the 16th century, and on the photo you might just be able to make out 24 digits on its face, instead of the usual 12.

Pjaca Clock Tower

Later we rubbed the toe of the statue of Gregory of Nin (for luck, or a return visit to Split - we'll take either), experienced beautiful Klapa folk singing in the Vestibule of Diocletian's Palace, and found out our favourite fact of the holiday - that sounds are eligible for UNESCO heritage protection!

Laura topped off day 1 with an enormous baked doughnut ice cream. Perhaps a step down culturally, but a sensory delight for the eyes as well as the tastebuds, and well worth 8 euros...

On the walking tour

The Venetian Tower

Walkway that once housed the town guardhouse, now St Martin's Church

Ice cream doughnut

Day 2

Did someone say virtual reality?!? They did...twice in fact! Not content with just the 1 VR experience showing us Diocletian's Palace as it would have been, we revelled in 2!

This was Laura's first ever VR, but Caroline's a veteran (apparently nothing can ever trump her 9D Colossus of Rhodes experience...). Excellent nonetheless, and a wonderfully immersive way to transport back to the 4th century.

We had an excessively long but very tasty lunch at Fig Restaurant, which has a beautiful location within the walls of the old town. It was long because we ordered so much and didn't want to leave...and in fact we went back the next night for dinner. A great option for any vegetarians or vegans out there.

After lunch we walked the old town, coming across an ornate column, Egyptian sphinx or beautiful mosaic every few minutes. The old town and the palace (the world's most complete remains of a Roman palace) are really one and the same. Built as a retirement residence for the Emperor Diocletian in the late 3rd century, the palace is huge as retirement residences go, but in reality Diocletian only used half the space - the rest housed a military garrison. The day 2 finale was a visit to the subterranean ruins of the palace for the bargain price of 7 euros each. So much to see but we were already halfway through our trip!

Sphinx and red granite column, imported by Diocletian from Egypt

Beautiful floor mosaic located near the peristyle of Diocletian's Palace

In the subterranean ruins under the palace

Day 3

We took the bus to Solin, about 20 minutes drive from Split, to visit the archaeological site of Ancient Salona. The bus was speedy, cheap and on time, and stopped just a few minutes walk from the site. Ancient Salona was founded around the 2nd century BCE and was the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, where Diocletian himself was born. Eventually destroyed by invaders in the 7th century CE, it was witness to some dramatic events... Bishop of Salona and later Saint Dominius, now patron saint of Split, was executed in Salona amphitheatre in 304 CE, during Diocletian's persecutions of the Christians. Much of the amphitheatre still stands and is wonderful to walk around. You can also explore basilicas, the Porta Caesarea city gate, a cemetery, theatre...lots!

View of the early Christian basilica

Amphitheatre at Salona - site of the execution of Saint Dominius

Later that day it was time for olive oil tasting at Uji Oil Bar. We sampled 3 oils, (Laura nearly choked on the second one due to poor tasting technique...), and enjoyed some lovely local cheese, and fig jam.

Day 4

Our last day! We had to leave for the airport at midday but that allowed us a few action-packed hours of bell tower, cathedral (originally a mausoleum for Diocletian), and Temple of Jupiter. You can buy tickets for all these things (and more) at the ticket office on peristyle square - all very reasonably priced and there are combination tickets on offer that give you a saving if you're interested in seeing a couple of sites.

Laura halfway up the bell tower

View of the top of the vestibule from the bell tower

Caroline in the vestibule

Inside the cathedral - we spotted what looked like carvings of theatre masks

Detail from the entrance of the Temple of Jupiter

We had a REALLY good time in Split - lots of history, tasty food, excellent weather (late Sept/early Oct), friendly and welcoming people. We would definitely return!

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