We arrived in the ancient city of Split, our first stop on our excursion along the coast of Croatia in the morning after an early departure from Venice. Split is an attractive Mediterranean city of 200,000 people, located on the sun-drenched eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea. With sea, beaches, islands, mountains, culture, heritage, and great restaurants, Split has become a hip tourist destination. It was founded 1700 years ago by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who built the Palace for his retirement . . . and the town of Split developed around it.
Since we couldn’t check into our rooms at the hotel until later in the day, a walking tour around and through Diocletian’s Palace, now a UNESCO World Heritage site had been arranged. The palace dates back to 305 AD and was built from white limestone. This same limestone was used to build the White House in Washington DC. Parts of the Palace were destroyed during World War II, but it is still in great shape.
Today, Diocletian’s Palace forms about half of the old town and city center of the Split. Although it is referred to as a “palace” because it was built as a residence, the structure is massive and is more of a fortress: about half of it was for Diocletian’s personal use, and the other half housed the military garrison. Located just around the corner from our hotel, it was built adjacent to the bay on the south side of a short peninsula running out from the Dalmatian coast. The water side of the Palace, shown above and below, is now a pedestrian promenade filled with outdoor restaurants, shops along the Palace wall, and an active marina.
While it is an important historic site, it is also a “living” site, since the apartments designed within the palace, and those immediately surrounding it are mostly privately owned and occupied. This makes for a bustling mix of tourists and local residents, along with street vendors both inside and outside the palace.