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Cities in the Spotlight: Split, Croatia

Updated: Mar 11

*Sorry this post is late I forgot to schedule it*

Today we continue our new series Cities in the Spotlight and we will be looking at Split, Croatia. Same as last week I will be highlighting city information, the historical significance, travel info, must see sites, must try food and drink and I will be sharing some different travel guide books as well. At the end of this post I will also be sharing any videos that I was able to find.


Split City Information

Split is Croatia's second-largest city and the largest city in the Dalmatia region. It lies on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea and is spread over a central peninsula and its surroundings. An intraregional transport hub and popular tourist destination, the city is linked to the Adriatic islands and the Apennine Peninsula.

The city was founded as the Greek colony of Aspálathos in the 3rd or 2nd century BC on the coast of the Illyrian Dalmatae, and later on was home to Diocletian's Palace, built for the Roman emperor in AD 305. It became a prominent settlement around 650 when it succeeded the ancient capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia, Salona. After the sack of Salona by the Avars and Slavs, the fortified Palace of Diocletian was settled by Roman refugees. Split became a Byzantine city. Later it drifted into the sphere of the Republic of Venice and the Kingdom of Croatia, with the Byzantines retaining nominal suzerainty. For much of the High and Late Middle Ages, Split enjoyed autonomy as a free city of the Dalmatian city-states, caught in the middle of a struggle between Venice and Croatia for control over the Dalmatian cities.


Split Historical Significance

Venice eventually prevailed and during the early modern period Split remained a Venetian city, a heavily fortified outpost surrounded by Ottoman territory. Its hinterland was won from the Ottomans in the Morean War of 1699, and in 1797, as Venice fell to Napoleon, the Treaty of Campo Formio rendered the city to the Habsburg Monarchy. In 1805, the Peace of Pressburg added it to the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy and in 1806 it was included in the French Empire, becoming part of the Illyrian Provinces in 1809. After being occupied in 1813, it was eventually granted to the Austrian Empire following the Congress of Vienna, where the city remained a part of the Austrian Kingdom of Dalmatia until the fall of Austria-Hungary in 1918 and the formation of Yugoslavia. In World War II, the city was annexed by Italy, then liberated by the Partisans after the Italian capitulation in 1943. It was then re-occupied by Germany, which granted it to its puppet Independent State of Croatia. The city was liberated again by the Partisans in 1944, and was included in the post-war Socialist Yugoslavia, as part of its republic of Croatia. In 1991, Croatia seceded from Yugoslavia amid the Croatian War of Independence.


Travel to Split

*Taken from Lonely Planet*

Croatia's second-largest city, Split (Spalato in Italian) is a great place to see Dalmatian life as it’s really lived. Always buzzing, this exuberant city has just the right balance between tradition and modernity. Step inside Diocletian’s Palace (a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s most impressive Roman monuments) and you’ll see dozens of bars, restaurants and shops thriving amid the atmospheric old walls where Split has been humming along for thousands of years.

To top it off, Split has a unique setting. Its dramatic coastal mountains act as the perfect backdrop to the turquoise waters of the Adriatic and help divert attention from the dozens of shabby high-rise apartment blocks that fill its suburbs. It's this thoroughly lived-in aspect of Split that means it will never be a fantasy land like Dubrovnik, but perhaps it's all the better for that.


Must See Sites

Diocletian’s Palace; Taking up a prime harborside position, the extraordinary complex of Diocletian's Palace is one of the most imposing ancient Roman structures in existence today, and it's where you’ll spend most of your time while in Split. Don’t expect a palace, though, nor a museum – this is the city's living heart, its labyrinthine streets packed with people, bars, shops and restaurants. Although it's easy to lose sight of the palace amid the bustle of Split's waterfront promenade, take time to step back and look up. The original arches and columns of the palace wall can be easily discerned above the shops and restaurants. It would have presented a magnificent face to the sea, with the water lapping at the base of the walls. It's not hard to see why Diocletian built his imperial apartments on this south-facing side of the palace, gazing directly out over the water.

Klis Fortress; Controlling the valley leading into Split, the imposing Klis Fortress spreads along a limestone bluff, reaching 1260ft (385m) at its highest point. Its long and narrow form derives from constant extensions over the course of millennia. Inside, you can clamber all over the fortifications and visit the small museum.

Salona; The ruins of the ancient city of Salona, situated at the foot of the mountains just northeast of Split, are the most archaeologically important in Croatia. Start by paying your admission fee at Tusculum, near the northern entrance to the reserve. Built in 1898 by the site's ground-breaking archaeologist Monsignor Frane Bulić as a base for his research, it has a Roman-style drawing room with displays on the early archaeology undertaken here. Salona was first mentioned as an Illyrian town in 119 BC and it's thought that it already had walls by then. The Romans seized the site in 78 BC and under the rule of Augustus it became the administrative headquarters of the empire's Dalmatian province. When Emperor Diocletian built his palace in Split at the end of the 3rd century AD, it was the proximity to Salona that attracted him. That grand history all came to a crashing halt in the 7th century, when the city was levelled by the invading Avars and then the Slavs. The inhabitants fled to take refuge within Diocletian's old palace walls and on the neighbouring islands, leaving Salona to decay.

Marjan Forest Park; Looming up to 178m over Split's western fringes, this nature reserve occupies a big space in Split's psyche. The views over the city and surrounding islands are extraordinary, and the shady paths provide a welcome reprieve from both the heat and the summertime tourist throngs. Trails pass through fragrant pine forests to scenic lookouts, a 16th-century Jewish cemetery, medieval chapels and cave dwellings once inhabited by Christian hermits. Climbers take to the cliffs near the end of the peninsula.


Must Try Food & Drink

Black Risotto; Known locally as crni rižot, this is made with cuttlefish or squid, olive oil, garlic, red wine and squid ink, which gives an intense seafood flavour and black colour. Popular all along Croatia’s coastline, this dish will turn your mouth and teeth black – but it’s worth it.

Boškarin; The white-grey, long-horned Istrian oxen are a gourmet delicacy. Boškarin is served at top restaurants and konobas (taverns) in a variety of ways, including as carpaccio; in savoury sauce with pasta or gnocchi; as salami or steak; and boškarin tail soup.

Brodetto; Also called brudet, this fisherman’s stew hails from from Italy’s Marche region. Traditionally, fishermen cooked it over an open fire using the catch of the day. They would add ample vinegar to the pot to preserve the stew for a couple of days. Like Italians, coastal Croatians use a tomato base in this dish.

Buzara; This simple dish of mussels in a wine broth with garlic and breadcrumbs is popular all along the Croatian coast. Buzara means ‘stew’, and the preparation is similar to the way the French make moules marinière.

Fritule; Commonly found on the Adriatic coast, these donut-like fried pastries vary from region to region – egg yolks, raisins, grated lemon or orange rinds, and even rakija or rum can go into the mixture. Traditionally served during the holidays, these are popular and highly addictive, so you can usually find them year round.

Istrian ham; A good meal frequently begins with a platter of pršut i sir (ham and cheese). Istrian pršut is made of skinned pork leg, which is dry-salted with sea salt and seasoned with natural spices such as pepper and garlic, and sometimes bay leaves and rosemary. Unlike southern coastal Croatia, where Dalmatians smoke their ham, Istrians air-cure their meat with the strong northern wind of the Bura. Istrian ham is aged for at least 12 months, and up to 18 months depending on weather conditions. The resulting product has a special aroma and moderately salty taste, which pairs well with cheeses from the region.

Malvazija and Teran; Istria’s signature wine varieties are Malvazija and Teran. Malvazija, an easy-drinking white wine with good minerality and apricot and apple notes, pairs well with seafood dishes. Teran, a robust red, goes well with meat dishes including boškarin and pršut.

Peka; Popular throughout Croatia, this tender meat & vegetable dish is also called ispod čripnje (under the bell) – literally food that is cooked under a terracotta or iron lid over burning embers. Peka can include octopus, lamb, veal or chicken, and is often accompanied by potatoes.

Truffles; Istria’s Motovun forests contain some of the highest concentrations of truffles in the world. Croatian tartufi are not as well known as Italian, but some say they have a stronger aroma. They’re certainly less expensive than their Italian counterparts – a multi-course meal with a generous amount of truffles costs half what it would in Italy.


Travel Guide Books

Rick Steves

Lonely Planet

Rough Guides


Rick Steves Europe; The information on Split starts at 8 mins.


Hope you enjoyed today's post. Have an awesome day.


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