Be transported back to the Roman Empire by wandering around the ruins of the ancient city of Salona, situated at the foot of the mountains just northeast of Split. Now part of an archaeological park, the Salona ruins are extensive and provide compelling and captivating evidence of the importance of this colony under Roman rule. These remarkable ruins are just outside Solin, a sleepy suburb just 5 km northeast of Split. It is easily accessible on Split City Bus 1, which goes to the parking lot every half an hour, departing from Trg Gaje Bulata.
An important part of the Empire
Located in the Jadro river delta, protected by mountains and surrounded by fertile fields, Salona is found in the annals of history as an Illyrian town in 119 BC. The Romans seized the site in 78 BC and made it the administrative headquarters of the empire's Dalmatian province. Emperor Diocletian even built his palace in Split at the end of the 3rd century AD, because it was close to Salona. However, that grand history was to come to a crashing halt in the 7th century when the city was destroyed by the invading Avars and then the Slavs. The residents fled to take refuge within Diocletian's old palace walls and on the neighboring islands, leaving Salona to decay.
Enjoy an evocative journey back to an era of emperors, gladiators and Christian martyrs. There's a surprising amount of the original city still in situ. Enter via the Tusculum Museum, which serves as a ticket office and souvenir shop and contains some fascinating artifacts from Salona. Head along the path of the old city walls, which may be unimposing now but were once impressive structures lined with 90 towers. Explore the foundations of the Episcopal Center, including a 5th century cathedral and the remains of Bishop Honorius' basilica. To the rear of the basilica, you'll find the ruins of the public baths, a feature of all towns of the Roman era. Next, you'll come across the Porta Caesarea, the monumental 1st century eastern city gate, which was swallowed up the city as it grew. Look carefully, and you'll see grooves in the stone left by ancient wheels. Other sights that you won't want to miss include the remains of a covered aqueduct that was vital for the local townspeople and an amphitheater, which could accommodate up to 18,000 spectators who would watch gladiators fight.
A visit to this ancient town, remarkably well preserved considering its age, is a well worth a journey from Split. The paths are well marked and there are many explanatory panels, with English translations. Bring a picnic and enjoy something to eat on the stone tables and benches provided close to the entrance.