The Croatian city of Split has been continuously inhabited since Roman times and provides a diversity of architectural styles that reflect the history of the area. Diocletian’s Palace, the Roman leaders retirement home, is the setting of the old town and sits adjacent to the waterfront where so many modern travellers arrive and depart on huge cruise ships, wooden sailing boats or packed car ferries. The ancient walls, which are almost fully intact, have been added to at intervals by later settlers such as the Venetians producing a higgledy piggledy facade which is like the ultimate up cycling project. Modern life is reflected inside the Roman Palace walls with shops and cafes jostling with churches and ancient columns and many local people still live in apartments bounded by the Roman walls. A good guide book or walking tour of the Palace is worthwhile to make sense of all the buildings.
We visited the city for a day from a cruise ship and found the old city to be within easy walking distance from the ship, fairly accessible on foot with narrow paved alleys leading to larger squares where cafes and important sites could be found. My much more able other half climbed the bell tower next to the cathedral for some great views across the city and waterfront but the climb is not for the faint hearted.
Within the Palace walls it was crowded with tourists but the waterfront area outside was more open and relaxing with cafes, shops and benches surrounded by plants that enabled a few minutes of contemplation of the many small coastal cruisers embarking passengers, scrubbing the decks and mooring up.
Next to the Palace a local market was underway with the usual colourful mix of produce, clothes and household goods. Walking away from the market and Palace around a small headland brought us to the lovely sheltered sandy Bacvice beach which even in early October was being enjoyed by locals.
As a cruise destination Split certainly fulfilled a lot of criteria. It had history in abundance alongside all modern requirements, there was a family friendly sandy beach but best of all it had all the bustle and activity of a living, thriving city not just the tourist trappings of an ancient monument. It showed that whatever Diocletian had appreciated in the location of his retirement home had been equally valued by other later visitors and was still being cherished by its locals today.