Diocletian’s Palace in the heart of Split is the heart of Split. Locals today not only work within the ruins of the two-thousand-year old Roman palace but also live within them. Not so palatial these days, the site is now a labyrinth of attractive alleyways lined with restaurants, shops and apartments albeit housed in some of the best preserved and reconstructed Roman ruins found outside Italy.
The ruins of the palace offer a stunning backdrop to modern life in Split today, and nowhere can this be observed better than by the four original Roman gates to the palace.
The emperor Diocletian believed his life was constantly under threat by assassins and to appease his paranoia he ordered vast halls to be built between his living and sleeping quarters. If an assassin tried to approach the emperor’s quarters, the assassin’s presence would echo through the adjacent hall alerting the emperor of the impending threat. One will never know whether this early example of a security alarm was effective in keeping Diocletian alive (it is believed Diocletian himself ended his life), but the acoustics of the halls were never in doubt. Even the remains of these halls have great acoustic qualities. Local buskers use every inch of these hallways today to enhance their performances of traditional Dalmatian klapa music; melancholic folk songs and deep, masculine harmonies reverberate daily around the ruins to the delight of passing tourists.
The acoustics of the palace vestibule may well be a treat to the ear by day, but by night this rounded hallway still relatively intact since the days of Diocletian, is an utter feast for the eyes.
Entrance to the grounds of Diocletian’s Palace is free and opened day and night. Access into most of the protected buildings within the grounds like the Cathedral of Saint Dominus, the belfry and the Temple of Jupiter do have opening hours and a small entrance fee. Prebooking restaurants and hotels within the grounds (some of the best in Split) is recommended and often essential.
During the high tourist season klapa music is performed daily in and around the ruins, usually around 10am-12 noon. There is no timetable nor schedule on performances (none I could find anyway) so stumbling across a performance is usually just pot-luck. The best place to find singers performing klapa music is in the palace vestibule. Performances are free – just turn up and join the crowd – but performers will make a big push to sell their CDs to the crowd afterwards.
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