Unlike the heavily urbanized French Riviera or overbuilt stretches of the Spanish and Italian shorelines, Croatia’s Dalmatian coast remains remarkably unchanged. Bone-white mountains rear dramatically above the Adriatic, an expanse of cobalt blue bordered by aromatic shrubs and dotted with more than 1,000 islands. Here, you can rediscover the Mediterranean world of 50 years ago.
The sparkling city of Split to the south is growing increasingly more accessible. Croatia Airlines continues to add direct flights from Europe (including a new Frankfurt route), and the low-cost Ryanair just completed a new base outside the city that offers 16 direct routes, including Dublin, London and Paris.
Split is the site of one of the most famous retirement homes in antiquity, the sprawling palace of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The Harper-recommended Hotel Vestibul Palace is set within its ancient stone walls.
From the August 2008 Hideaway Report:
“Sometimes a hotel room is not just a hotel room but an immersion in history. Our Suite at the Vestibul Palace Hotel in Split provided an example. Our arrival at the property was slightly complicated by the necessity to call ahead to ensure that a bellhop would be waiting for us in an adjacent waterfront parking lot. This was because the hotel is actually inside the walls of the sprawling palace that the Roman Emperor Diocletian built more than 1,700 years ago, and you have to be escorted through a subterranean tunnel, or vestibule, paved with ivory- colored Brac stone (which was also used at the White House) to reach the lobby.
There, you find yourself beneath a dramatic glass roof through which sunlight streams onto the massive and ancient stone walls. The designers have sought to integrate a contemporary boutique hotel, with customized modern furniture, into the venerable structure of a World Heritage site. And in this improbable task, they have been surprisingly successful.
After a warm greeting and efficient check-in, we were escorted up to our suite. We immediately formed a positive impression, thanks to a flood of natural light, handsome oak floors, vigorous air-conditioning (in the former Eastern Europe, climate control can still be a bit half-hearted) and an array of modern amenities. It was while we were sitting on the very comfortable black leather sofa next to the DVD player and plasma-screen television that we realized that two of the walls were actually part of the original Roman palace.”