Dalmatia, a historic region of Croatia, is today peopled by three distinct groups. The ‘Fetivi’ occupy the urban coastal cities, the old towns and historic attractions clear descendants of a heavy Italian and classical Roman heritage, while the further inland you venture the more you encounter the influence of the Turkish Ottoman Empire and its descendants, the Vlaji. The largest city in Dalmatia, the city of Split, stands testament to the influence of the Roman empire, built as it was around the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian, and historical hubs such as the city of Dubrovnic offer a wealth of cultural intrigue.
From Dubrovnic you can catch a ferry to the island of Korcula, which many describe as ‘Dubrovnic on a smaller scale’. It is as rich in history but less populated a true idyll away from the tat of tourism and bustle of the crowds.
Legend has it that the Trojan hero Antenor founded the island in the 12th century, but Dalmatia’s Roman roots reach as far back as the 4th. Tradition has it that Marco Polo was born here, and today it has a population of 16,000 spread over a dozen beautiful towns and villages. The Marco Polo Museum and his birth house are two must-see attractions, together with the medieval Old Town and more of Dalmatia’s walls and towers.
The City of Dubrovnic
For those with a taste for the historical, the city of Dubrovnic in Southern Dalmatia is an ideal starting point. History is the main attraction here, and the city serves up a vibrant slice of yesteryear (yestermillenium, truth be told). Here, attractions such as the Ancient City Walls garner the highest rankings on sites like TripAdvisor, where annual holiday insurance exists only to further one’s sense of adventure.
The Onorphian Fountain by the Church of St. Salvation, Sponza Palace, and the marbled Placa Thoroughfare – the city’s main street, pedestrianised and illuminated by charming octagonal wall lamps – represent only a glimmer of the town’s rich heritage. Take a ride on the Dubrovnic Cable Car to truly enjoy a panoramic view of the city, with all its historical highlights. Dubrovnic has the charm of a walled city infused with the pleasure of amenities such as near-by beaches. Many describe it as simply ‘magical’, a wonder of faithfully preserved origins, an ancient town speckled with eight museums and more winding old-stone side streets that you could do justice in a single trip.
Diocletian’s Palace, Split
Dalmatia’s heritage is unmistakably Italian, with many Roman monuments scattered throughout its cities. The influence of the Italians only grew with the Renaissance, and today its architecture is characterised by Venetian flourishes. Diocletian’s Palace is perhaps Dalmatia’s most forward expression of its Roman past, and a stunningly well-preserved site.
There are so many historical attractions in Dalmatia that it would take at least one book to list them all. This inimitable region of Croatia has preserved not only the sites but the magic of those times, and to walk the streets of its towns and fishing villages is to enjoy the views, monuments, even some of the smells of its still present lineage.