When mayor Gaj Bulat ordered the construction of the largest theatre in the region, he understood the prestige it would bring the city. He had Italian artist Eugenio Scomparini of the Venice Accademia design the interior, and Split architects Ante Bezić and Emil Vecchietti create a grandiose building that still dominates the square, later named after Bulat. After the theatre’s opening in 1893, Italian-language drama gave way to performances in Croatian. Name changes, from Split Municipal to Dalmatian National Theatre also reflected its increase in status. Today’s Croatian National Theatre stages some 300 productions a year.
Built in the early fourth century as a fortified retirement complex for a Roman emperor, Diocletian’s Palace remains a grandiose construction of white stone and marble transported from nearby Brač island. More a labyrinthine complex of courtyards and alleyways than a single building, Diocletian’s Palace is also the core of modern-day Split. Overlooking the Adriatic, it’s a constant bustle of activity. Many locals live and run many businesses within the palace and even around the grand central square known as the Peristil, with its pristine sphinx from 1,500BC.
Born in Slavonia, the great Croatian sculptor Ivan Meštrović learned his craft in Split. Three decades after his apprenticeship, this extraordinarily prolific artist returned to Split to build a family summerhouse overlooking the Adriatic. According to his design, the property was to be a villa, a studio and an exhibition space. Renovated in the late 1990s, the building is now the Meštrović Gallery, housing two floors of his works, including hundreds of paintings and architectural plans. Outside is a small sculpture park.