From its maze of medieval streets to its picturesque harbour setting, the Croatian town of Trogir offers a sense of solace and serenity that's a world away from sweaty flip-flop destinations
In a world where bustling crowds, second-hand iPod music and sweaty flip-flops seem to dominate the holiday experience for so many, it’s no wonder people are seeking a more individualistic approach to their valuable time away.
Some opt for secluded beaches on obscure islands; others choose a holiday of exploration and discovery. Personally, every year I try to find somewhere that successfully blends the two. Somewhere less notorious, yet not undiscovered, offering relaxing beaches but also with its fair share of interesting historic buildings to wander around on a lazy afternoon. I found the perfect place in Trogir.
Connected to the Croatian coast by a small brick-built bridge, and joined by a second slightly larger bridge to the island of Ciovo, Trogir is an archetypal Venetian town. The Venetian occupation, which lasted 400 years and well into the 18th century, has left a lasting architectural mark in the form of houses, towers and the fort that still dominates the entrance to Trogir harbour.
Like Venice, Trogir is very much a self-contained community, accessible now by the main road between Split and Sibenik. The centre is typically Venetian, with a large central square flanked on one side by the majestic cathedral and cloistered within a maze of tiny alleys and twisting side streets that are reminiscent of medieval towns the world over. Many appear unchanged from that time to this, save for the odd tourist wandering past you with a fabulously impressive-looking ice cream!
Whilst no longer bound by its original city walls, Trogir has UNESCO World Heritage status, and it’s easy to see why. The buildings that encase the centre contain countless treasures and the cathedral boasts numerous revered works of art. Yet the smaller buildings are, in many ways, no less impressive.
Serenity by the sea
Entering Trogir from the main road can be quite chaotic, as lazy meanderings meet 21st-century fervour. However, once inside, the hustle and bustle of modern life fades away, and you’re left with only the sounds of the occasional motor-powered boat gliding across the harbour to remind you of the year.
Lining the harbour is a promising jewel box of architecture, housing specialist shops, relaxing cafes and wine bars and restaurants shaded by palm trees. You'll find everything from local fishing vessels to oak-decked clippers and million-dollar yachts moored along the promenade, and from the top of the fort a panorama of glistening sea, white-tipped sails and sloping islands easily dispels any reservations you might have had about your destination.
A gentle boat trip exploring other islands places you on secluded coves or busy stretches of sand within minutes, if the mood strikes. Or circumnavigating the town will bring you along the canal that separates Trogir from the mainland. A walk across the bridge to the lively local market offers some of the usual tourist traps mixed with delicious pastries and breads, dairy produce, seafood and fresh fruit and vegetables.
Unsurprisingly, fresh seafood is abundant in Trogir, with fresh catches prepared every night in most of the restaurants. An Italian undertone is present in many dishes and although (being an awkward veggie!) I found choosing meat-free options could sometimes prove challenging, a very basic knowledge of Italian can usually get you out of a pickle. And regardless of your tastes or linguistic ability, the people are so very hospitable and eager to assist that problems such as this are quickly resolved.
Made for romance
Hotels in Trogir are high quality, and our research showed that they can be pricey. We chose the Domus Maritima as our base and were delighted with the results. A converted palace, situated directly across the harbour on Ciovo, it offers modern, stylish, boutique-style rooms in the most picturesque and relaxing surroundings. Our room faced the marina, with beautiful Trogir as the backdrop, and the garden below, with its palms, flowers and stunning sculptures, just added to the tranquil feel. The upper floors house the rooms and are beautifully decorated, incorporating the original features of the building alongside very modern and quirky decor. As it is also the residence of the owners, the hotel, like Trogir itself, mixes captivating antique grandeur with a wonderful, homely charm.
Trogir is said to be a museum city, and with so much beautiful art and architecture at every turn, it is an historian’s dream. I myself am not an historian, or an art critic, but I completely understand why so many have fallen in love with this place. From the charming facades of the ancient domiciles and the crooked, narrow streets to the gently lapping waves on the shore and the meals by candlelight, it is pure romance spread across 250 square kilometres. I won’t be switching back to the sweaty flip-flop destinations any time soon!