With its dramatic coastline, stunning islands and world famous historical sites, Croatia is a jewel in the Adriatic. Its rich history has left a magnificent legacy of Roman, Venetian and Byzantine architectural treasures. Despite terrible suffering in the war following independence and the break up of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, today Croatia is a member of the European Union and NATO. Your visit will take in the country's natural and man-made wonders including the island of Zadar and the Palace of Diocletian.
When Emperor Diocletian shook up the Roman Empire by abdicating in 305AD, he had his retirement residence ready: a lavish palace he had just built in Salona, now Split, in his native Dalmatia.
Visit this amazing palace complex that, when completed, held three temples, a massive mausoleum, and could accommodate 9,000 people. For an intimate perspective on how life was organised, this tour includes a walk through the palace cellars. The city of Split grew inside and around this palace, with the population retreating behind its walls when under attack, and then spilling out beyond them in times of peace.
Today the Palace of Diocletian is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but don’t expect a deserted ruin. Discover instead a vibrant warren of museums, galleries, shops and restaurants mingled with medieval fortifications, preRomanesque churches and Gothic chapels. Renaissance palaces testify to a time when Split was a key port of the Venetian Republic. The tour visits Diocletian’s massive octagonal mausoleum, converted into a cathedral in the 7th century and named after a Christian martyred during that emperor’s persecutions.
You’ll also tour the city museum where 15th-century furnishings recapture aristocratic life in that period. Other sights include the palace’s monumental Golden and Silver Gates and the columned Peristyle Square.
Following the tour, there will be free time to visit the colorful local market or explore Split on your own.
Drive along the Riviera of the Seven Castles to two gems of the Dalmatian coast: the town of Salona, home to the most important Roman excavations in Croatia, and the tiny island of Trogir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Leave behind busy Split for Solin, as ancient Salona is now called, and enter a world where time stands still. Long before Split even existed this affluent Roman colony buzzed with over 40,000 inhabitants. Here archaeologists have excavated temples, a necropolis and baths dating from the 1st century AD. There is an amphitheatre where it is thought mock naval battles where held. In this arena early Christians were martyred and their relics rest in Salona's excavated churches. Following your tour through Roman antiquity, your drive continues past the castles built by Venetians to defend against the Turks.
Cross a bridge from the mainland and enter the Middle Ages on the island of Trogir. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a remarkable example of urban continuity starting with the Greeks in 300BC, followed by a litany of other conquerors. In the 13th century Trogir was an artistic centre under the kings of Hungary. The 13th century Cathedral of St Lawrence dominates the town, a magnificent example of sacral architecture with three naves, three apses and a grand main portal carved by a local artist known as Master Radovan.
Enjoy an unforgettable walk along narrow stone streets whose plan dates to the Hellenistic era. Confront the past at every turn from the bright blue face of the massive Clock Tower to the mullioned windows of Cipiko Palace and Town Hall. Later you will have free time to shop for Trogir embroidery or perhaps try some palacinke (jam-filled pancakes) in a cafe.
Please note: this optional excursion can be booked using the signup sheet and paid for on-board the ship (all prices for purchases on-board Aegean Odyssey are listed in US dollars).
From pirates to princes, Korcula has had many masters, all seeking to use this island to ease their passage along the Adriatic. The Greeks who first colonized the island in the 6th-century called it “Black Corfu” because of the thick forests. Mythology provides an earlier 12th-century BC founder, the Trojan hero, Antenor. Much of Korcula's architecture dates from the 15th and 16th centuries when the island was part of the Republic of Venice.
This morning's walk takes us from the ship to Old Town with its Venetian towers, 14th-century walls and fishbone layout, designed to take advantage of refreshing winds. Visit the impressive Cathedral of St Mark, which took over a century to erect, perched overlooking the town. Local stone masters left examples of their art in such details as the 15th-century lion portal, the island's boat wrights gave the main aisle the feel of a ship's interior and a splendid Tintoretto presides behind the altar. The tour also visits the 14th-century Bishop's Palace, where the art collection includes works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Tiepolo.
Next, at the 16th-century Gabrielli Palace, view the City Museum's array of Greek and Roman artifacts, as well as objects detailing the island's shipping history. Korcula lays claim to being the birthplace of Marco Polo in 1254, and our walk takes us by his family home. Some 22 centuries ago, when the island was a favorite resort for the Greeks, the writer Athenaios praised the local wine, so before sailing, why not try a sip of the island's crisp white wine at a nearby cafe?
Lord Byron called this majestic walled city “the Pearl of the Adriatic,” and it is easy to see why. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is held to be the best-preserved walled city in the Mediterranean with a seafront setting and dramatic mountain backdrop. The city skyline is a medley of bell towers, copper domes and massive 10th-century walls.
Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th century AD and was a powerful independent republic from 1358 to 1808, when Napoleon conquered the city. Today the city is an inspiration in self-resurrection. Despite a destructive earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik has managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. This morning’s walking tour of the Old Town takes you along the city’s main street, the Stradun or Placa, once a sea channel connecting two ancient settlements. Visit the Dominican Monastery, home to a beautiful 15th-century Gothic cloister and the city’s finest collection of Renaissance paintings. Next, the Franciscan Monastery is home to Europe’s oldest pharmacy, founded in 1318 and still in existence.
Your walk continues past such landmarks as the Sponza Palace with its elaborate stone exterior, the Baroque Church of St Blaise and Onofriou’s Fountain. Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady, originally built in the 12th century, destroyed in the 1667 earthquake and triumphantly rebuilt. View Titian’s Assumption over the main altar and, in the Treasury, one of Europe’s finest collections of gold and silver, including the bejeweled skull of St Blaise. Following the tour there will be free time to explore the nooks and crannies of the Old Town.