A walking tour of the inner city of Split will have you weaving in and out of the walls of an ancient construction dating back to the end of the third century A.D. Built by Roman Emperor Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus, the imperial palace is rectangular in shape; its two main streets run N-S and E-W, creating 4 quarters and 4 fortified gates. Intended to be his ‘retirement home,’ it was spared no expense: it is constructed of white limestone, tufa rock, imported marble, and massive granite columns and sphinxes from Egypt. As settlements emerged around it and buildings of succeeding historical periods were built within its walls, Diocletian’s Palace gradually transformed into the town of Split.
Split’s historic section is included in UNESCO’s register of World Cultural Heritage. A few thousand people currently live in buildings constructed within the imposing Roman ruin’s boundaries.
Split is now the second largest city in Croatia and a popular tourist hub. The wide maritime promenade, Riva, is lined with bars, palms, and plenty of benches. The city has an active port, with regular ferry service for exploration of the Dalmatian coast and the Adriatic islands of Hvar, Vis, Brač and Šolta.
The Peristil is a partially-colonnaded central courtyard whose original purpose was to allow access to the Emperor’s living quarters, mausoleum and temples. Now people gather day and night in the open space for walking tours, musical performances and dancing. On a ceremonial loggia under the central arch where Diocletian was long ago viewed and worshipped, actors re-enacting the emperor and his entourage stage a daily appearance at noon to the delight of tourists.