It would be fair to characterize Trogir, Croatia as a “hop, skip, and a jump” sort of town. The biggest part is located on the mainland, there’s a smidgen that sits on a small islet, and the rest of the town is on a larger, but still small island named Čiovo. And while all of Trogir is charming, the islet – designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO – gets most of the attention and has been attracting people for more than 2,300 years.
Located in Dalmatia about 17 miles due west of Split, the islet that is part of Trogir (troh-gear) is tucked between the mainland of Croatia and protected by the island of Čiovo (chee-oh-voh). By way of size comparison, Čiovo is just over 11 square miles, while the islet of Trogir is a mere 27.6 acres. But make no mistake, there’s a world of history and charm to be found on that small parcel of land.
As far back as the 3rd Century B.C. the small islet has been settled. First by Greeks, later by others that included Romans, Saracens (generally considered to be Muslims and Arabs), Byzantines, Venetians, and Hapsburgs, among others. During World War II Trogir was annexed by Italy (at its closest point about 126 miles away), then liberated by Josip Broz Tito in 1944, and subsequently subsumed into Yugoslavia until 1991 when Croatia became a nation of its own.
From its earliest days the town thrived as a trading center, and a place to conduct business, and sign contracts. Despite its small size, Trogir has an excellent concentration of towers, churches, palaces, and a small fortress on the southeastern corner of the island. The upside for visitors is they can see a lot in one day, or they can slow their pace and soak up the history of Trogir.
The Venetian Empire ruled Trogir for about four centuries. Consequently, much of the original islet’s architecture has a Venetian influence with terra cotta roofs, limestone buildings and columns that support archways and walls. In 1997 UNESCO designated the old city of Trogir as a World Heritage Site, citing it as a “remarkable example of urban continuity… Its beautiful Romanesque churches are complemented by the outstanding Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period.”
Trogir offers her visitors a wonderfully preserved arc of history, including 13th Century gems such as the Duke’s Palace, the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence (including the gorgeous portal produced by Croatian artist and architect Master Radovan), another 10 or so churches and a number of buildings. There is a collection of 15th Century wonders such as the Kamerlengo Fortress, the old city walls, the loggia, and the large and small palaces of the Cipiko family, and even into the 17th Century there is the Trogir city gate.
A climb up the stairs of the bell tower of the Cathedral of Saint Lawrence affords a panoramic view of Trogir and shows how small the islet is and its proximity to both the mainland and Čiovo.
Tourism is clearly the economic engine the powers the islet, and all of Trogir. There is a good selection of restaurants and cafes to choose from featuring local dishes. Getting to the islet is as simple as taking a ferry from Split, riding a bus, or driving. It’s best to park on the mainland and walk across a short bridge and through the north gate. There is very limited parking on the islet, and the interior streets of the islet have all been pedestrianized.
Visitors stroll the islet’s streets and imagine life in the old city of Trogir from centuries past, taking in the sights, and snapping photos. The dearth of cars and slower pace makes it clear there is as much charm and beauty in Trogir today as there was 2,300 years ago when the first settlers stepped ashore and decided to call it home.
For more information about the old city of Trogir, click over to these websites: