Recently we ventured across the Adriatic to visit Croatia, a land… not so far away & surprisingly similar to Italy from the sun-bleached beach towns dotting the Adriatic Coast & friendly locals to the Marche-Emiglia inspired tagliatelle (local pasta) & brodetto (fish soup) these two countries, are like cousins with a long & tumultuous family history. We had our 10 year anniversary coming up and thought it was be a great Spring getaway! With just a few nights we were able to get a great taste of Split and already planning our return.
A few of the differences we noticed:
1. Cheaper (an exchange of 1 Euro = 7.5 HRK)
2. English is spoken (almost everywhere)
3. Faster internet (seriously much faster/better coverage!)
4. The water – not only are the fish bigger (the better for eating!) but the water is bluer/cleaner than our neck of the woods (the Dalamatian Islands help create a current that moves the water whereas we call our area of the Adriatic ‘the bath tub’)
I’ve been curious about Croatia since I was a kid – one of my best friends is Croatian and her baba (grandma) would speak of a far off land, I remember her well since she was really the first immigrant I met. A feisty tiny woman with the weathered hands of a hard worker, the salty tongue of fisherman and huge heart. She was no nonsense, I both admired & feared the woman. No surprise her daughter & granddaughters (my friends) are strong-willed women, just like her and love going back to visit the old country.
So after almost 10 years of living in Italy, and to celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary we booked 3 nights in Split. (Be sure to read about our memorable arrival: Ancona to Split on a Seaplane)
Here’s our recommendations for five places to eat, see, things to do, what to book & where to sleep in Split:
FAVORITE 5: SPLIT, CROATIA
See – Diocletian’s Palace
Considered to be one of the most imposing Roman ruins, Diocletian’s palace is certainly the main attraction of the city of Split, Croatia. Grab a gelato and go for a stroll where the old wold and new collide. It is stunning especially at night as the soft sound of music and poetry echo off the marble and into the starry night sky.
Diocletian’s Palace is an ancient palace built by the Roman emperor Diocletian at the turn of the fourth century AD, that today forms about half the old town and city center.
Book It – Open Water Boat Trip
This is the way to see Split – by sea! After a last minute TripAdvisor search I contacted the highly recommended Open Water Croatia. Alina, was incredibly quick to reply and full of enthusiasm! She helped us plan a sailboat trip to Brac Island, lunch at sea and back by dusk. It was the perfect day – a cool quiet morning, opening up to blue skies and ideal weather for a leisurely homemade lunch at the boat. The captain and his mate were pros and answered Jason’s endless questions on knot tying and weather.
The stop on Brac island was a great way to break up the trip, stretch our legs and with plenty of time, we explored the sleepy fisherman’s island…daydreaming of returning here to rent a house for 2 weeks! A glass of wine later and we were back on the boat and sailing off into the maze of Dalamatian Islands. (Check out my photo story of Brac featured on Steller!)
Eat – Konoba
“Konoba” is basically the same as an Italian “osteria” family run, local, seasonal & rustic food… It means eat here!! Baccala with potatoes & spring greens, fresh fresh grilled fish served at hole in the wall restaurants. This is my kinda food! If you visit over the weekend it’s smart to make reservations, with seating for 20 these places fill up fast! Friendly waiters offer up the daily catch on huge platters and liters of local white wine to help you make your decision.
On a food side note: We live in Le Marche, Italy, we eat the local food here every day and love it BUT when we travel – all we want is something different!!! As I mentioned before the food is almost identical to where we live. That being said it was always perfectly prepared and kept simple – these people know how to cook (& perfectly filet) fish!
Below, in THE DETAILS are a few of our local recommendations.
Sleep – Podstrana
A sleepy cluster of five fisherman’s villages, it’s about 8km/10 minutes outside of Split (or about 120HRK or 15/16 Euro taxi ride). Perfect for couples looking for a retreat from the city or families wanting to stretch out a bit. We walked the stony beaches each morning as fishing boats dotted the coast…
…and at sunset watched the last of the fishermen reel in their catch with the city lights twinkling off in the distance.
We stayed at Le Meridien Lav Split – more corporate than boutique but a great value, amazing view and located at the quaint but luxe Marina. There are a handful of konoba’s and pizzeria’s within walking distance. Unfortunately for us, we visited just a little too early in the Spring so many were still closed until June. From the marina you can easily rent boats and arrange SCUBA or fishing trips.
Watch – Soccer/Football
This image is found on bus stops, back packs, street signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, tattoos – damn near every where you turn. The people and city of Split our proud of their football team!
By chance we stayed at the same hotel as the local rival football team. We wondered why suddenly there was security guards and police roaming the grounds. Then we saw the team bus & all our questions were quickly answered. We brushed elbows with the enemy – curious what all the fuss was about. Later that night as we ate dinner at the Marina fireworks erupted over the Adriatic, creating the most romantic anniversary dinner…complete with the ceremonious drum beats and screams for GOOOOOALLL! as our waiter explained in detail the deep rivalry between the two cities/teams flash bangs exploded. It was perfect!
I wish we had been able to get tickets to the game, next trip for sure! My friend told me, “it is NOT to be missed, even though there are no women’s bathrooms!!”
Konoba Matejuska – Fantastic! We sat a long & leisurely lunch outside along the tight alleyway, happy we had scored a table. Go with the special of the day the waiter’s fish recommendation and you can’t go wrong!
Tomica Stine 3, Split 21000, Croatia
Konoba Varos – Recommended by the taxi driver – a mix of locals and exhausted travelers carrying the tell-tale blue Rick Steve’s guidebook made me nervous…until the food arrived. We ordered the last of the slow cooked baccala and potatoes (normally you have to put in your order the day before, but we got lucky with a cancellation) – I was in heaven!
Ban Mladenova 7, Split, Croatia
Leonis – Podstrana located at the Marina, we ate here twice and loved it. Local families filled the rustic-chic restaurant for local seafood. The dishes were sophisticated without the fuss.
Grljevacka Ulica 2A, Podstrana, Croatia
Hajduk Split Tickets
Le Meridien Lav Split