It’s no secret that Split, perched on the Adriatic coast and surrounded by mountains and islands, is a gorgeous place to hang out. It has a lovely climate, cheap beer and is inexpensive compared with Western Europe.
A long weekend in Split is about as near to perfection as possible.
It has been continuously occupied since 305AD when Roman Emperor Diocletian moved in and made it his retirement home. It seems that history here is still alive. As you wander around the labyrinth of the Old Town, enclosed within his huge palace’s white stone walls, you can still feel that ancient pulse.
Three thousand people still live within the walls and it hasn’t been totally sanitised yet into a tourist trap. Admittedly tourists are no novelty here but there are still a few quiet, narrow cobbled lanes with places that look like old sheds for a coffee, a beer, rakia, the local firewater, or a wine. (There are three categories of Croatian wine: vrhunsko is the best and most expensive, kvalitetno is good quality and stolno vino is table wine.)
There are dozens of restaurants all over Split serving fresh fish and seafood, herby lamb, freshly-baked bread (Kruh) and olive oil, succulent vegetables. It’s a place to eat and drink well.
Split is half way along the Croatian coast, between Rijeka (European capital of culture in 2020) and walled Dubrovnik. Split and Croatia generally have a furiously chequered history, squashed in between Slovenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro. It was once a Greek colony, and at various times became Byzantine, Ottoman, Hapsburg, French and Yugoslavian. In 1991, after the Croatian War of Independence, it seceded from Yugoslavia, with Zagreb as its capital.
All these historical movements still are evident in Split, with its honey-yellow stone houses and red tiled roofs, temples, columns, fortresses, squares, museums, the amazing Cathedral of St Lawrence, the elegant Republic Square with its cafes and colonnades. Watch the day pass from the gracious Riva where boats bob on the clear as gin sea. It could be a Visconti film, as people stroll along the white marbled riviera. The evening, as the sun goes down, is even sweeter to behold.
It would be a shame not to visit some of the islands scattered around Split. They have crazy names like Hvar, Brac, Vis, Skrip, Scolta and Korcula, and there are ferries (or yachts) to all of them from Split harbour. With their rugged landscapes, historic sleepy towns, beaches, transparent sea and surprisingly good food and wine, they are not yet Ibiza or Mykonos but undoubtably will be in the not so distant future. Their beauty and fascination can’t remain undimmed forever.
There are several easy day trips up and down the coast to the beaches on the Marjan peninsula, and inland. One not to miss is to Trogir, a tiny island which is World Heritage site, with its walled Old Town infused by a mix of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. Take a bus or a taxi.
Go to Split out of season, October or May, and you might even have it to yourself.
TOP IMAGE: Via Pixabay
OTHER IMAGES: Bill Russell