There is a lot more in Croatia than just Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar and Hvar!
Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar and Hvar may be one of the most beautiful cities in Croatia, but they are also the most visited and crowded places in the country. Don’t get me wrong, you definitely should not skip these cities when you are in Croatia, but you should set some time aside to look for other beautiful locations in Dalmatia.
Croatia has many hidden gems and places where perhaps, you will be delighted even more! One of the hidden gems of Central Dalmatia is Solin, a cute little city I will be telling you about in this post. The Roman Emperor Diocletian, whose palace still adorns the city of Split today, was supposedly born in this small town called Solin, that is situated right under the Kozjak mountain.
From Roman ruins, amphitheater, churches, tombs over imposingly carved stone works of art, Salona is the jewel of Dalmatia and totally worth exploring. Relatively unvisited, wandering via this empire will take you on a journey to a Roman era of emperors and gladiators.
Although I was born in Split, Solin is my city because I grew up here and my roots are here. I also have to admit I am extremely sad that Solin is only in the shadow of Split, little known and even less visited. For this reason, with this article, I want to present to you only a part of the beauty you will find in Solin, in the time machine of antiquity and archeological artifacts of Salona. So welcome to the virtual tour of Salona guided by a local! 🙂
SALONA (SOLIN) – ANCIENT AND ROMAN CAPITAL OF DALMATIA
Salona is located at the estuary of the river Jadro of the present city Solin, a suburb of Split on the Adriatic coast in Croatia. Before the Romans came, Salona was a settlement of Illyrian people who lived on the shore of the Adriatic. Around 3rd century BCE, Greeks came and then later Romans. Back in the ancient times Salona was a large town and the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia.
How one big city looked like back in the Roman times, you can learn if you visit Salona!
THE HISTORY OF SOLIN
The Croatian name Solin is formed from the Latinized name Salona, with its roots in the Illyrian language. This name is mentioned for the first time in 119. The remains of the ramparts, objects of Greek origin found in Salona and its surroundings, point to the Greeks as the founders of this city. So, in the beginning, Salona was a Greek-Illyrian settled.
During the history, Salona was one of the most important cities of this area. The city was ruined by Avars and the Slavs around 614. The surviving population that managed to escape, took refuge in the nearby area in and around Diocletian’s Palace as it was much safer place to live. This is how the city of Split originated. You probably didn’t know this, right? 🙂
WHERE ARE ANCIENT RUINS AND HOW TO FIND THEM?
These ancient remains you can find in a small town called Solin, located only 5 km from Split city center. The best way to get there is to rent a car or scooter, but you can also use public transport (bus number 1 is taking you directly in front of Salona, bus number 16 and 37, but you will have to walk around 10 to 15 minutes if you take one of the last two).
WHAT TO DO IN SALONA?
Many people will advise you to enjoy in picnic in Salona. However, if you just lay there, eat and enjoy in surroundings, you will miss some of the greatest works of stone art in Dalmatia. I advise you to bring a backpack with plenty of water, some food and just stroll around the ruins and try to explore every corner. You will find many details and trust me, you will be amazed!
WHY IS SALONA SO IMPORTANT?
Some compare Salona to Naples’s Pompeii due to its monumental ruins and great and representable importance of our history. The greatest importance of Salona is in the study of early Christian society and architecture.
Besides, Salona is the biggest archeological park in Croatia. Some ruins are excavated but many are not due to lack of investment and Croatian politics that is not so interested in this area in preserving this historical landmark.
If you stroll around, you will find many explanatory panels both in Croatian and in English so you don’t even need a tour guide. All the paths are well-marked and there are many stone benches as well as tables to take a break and enjoy the flowering shrubs.
ROMAN AMPHITHEATER IN SALONA
This specific Roman building could accommodate almost 17 000 people. The arena of the amphitheater was a place to have fun, where people enjoyed in spectacular and bloody gladiator fights.
This place was a center of fun in Roman times both for rich and poor. The building is an ellipsoid with three floors on the south, two on the side.
Amphitheater was built in the 2nd century. Believe it or not, there was even a system to cover it all with canvas to protect against sun or huge rains. Unfortunately, The Venetians destroyed the amphitheater in the 17th century in a war against the Ottoman Turks.
I advise you to start your Salona journey here at Manastirine, just before the entrance to the archaeological park. Here the martyr Bishop Domnius was buried and his cathedral with famous bell tower is located in the city center of Split.
The best thing to do in Manastirine is to wander around and enjoy in artistic engravings on stones. If you are lucky, you will see many squirrels climbing up the trees.
Besides Roman ruins, you can enjoy in small museum and its souvenir shop. Construction of this small museum dates back to the 19th century and its construction was ordered by an important archaeologist of Croatia – Frane Bulić.
Here you can find some artifacts from Salona but the major and the most important archaeological finds, you will find in Split Archaeological Museum.
The episcopal center was built for religious purposes together with two basilicas dedicated to the early Christian martyrs. Here you an find Roman public baths, Caesar’s Gate, octagonal towers and the remains of an aqueduct. Caesar’s gate was the eastern exit of the old town.
Kapljuc is another early Christian cemetery with many details.
WHAT TO WEAR WHEN YOU VISIT SALONA?
Good hiking shoes and a backpack are must.
For more information about Solin
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