The Roman Emperor Diocletian was born in Split, now in EU member state Croatia. One of few Roman emperors to survive his time as head of state, he retired to this coastal town in 305 CE, occupying the palace whose structure remains with us in significant part. Too bad it is obscured by layers of later additions or otherwise unattractively modified. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, occupying a delightful spot on the country’s dramatic Adriatic coastline.
By the time Diocletian moved in, Split was already an old city, founded by Greeks in the 3rd century BCE. Later part of the Byzantine Empire (Roman Empire East), it was eventually controlled by Venice. Then Napoleon added Croatia to his holdings before it became part of the Austro-Hungarian empire under the Hapsburgs. You can readily see these various influences on the architecture, making for an interesting tour, but the way it was done creates an unattractive hodgepodge. Below you seen an example. The arches are from Diocletian’s palace, backed by Renaissance buildings from the Venetians.
The town, including its street plan, is dominated by the palace. Inside the remnants of Diocletian’s joint you walk through narrow passages lined with shop after shop selling trinkets. On the bottom level you find the cistern, where unfortunately you also find commercial activities as well. Not a centimeter has not been testelessly commercialized.
There is more to Split than the architecture. For example, the Red Museum recounts the Communist period in Croatia, when it was part of Yugoslavia under the Tito. It features displays of items used in daily life and an excellent narrative. We attended an excellent folk dance presentation, with complex dances and costumes by the dozens. St. Dominus is certainly worth a visit.
Next: we continue our journey along the coast and then into the interior.