Visiting Trogir, Croatia With a Small Dog
The great thing about Split is that there are also many towns right next to it to see, as well as the fabulous old city of Split proper. You can hop on a bus — easily found on the promenade where the cruise ships dock — and within a half hour or so, you can be somewhere else. Somewhere possibly a little quieter and a little smaller. Somewhere like Trogir.
Now, before I tell you about Trogir, a note on the buses. It isn’t clear whether pets are allowed on the buses. From our experience, it seemed to be a bit of an up-to-the-driver situation. Our workaround was to adopt a just-in-case approach and use stealth mode. That means me inside a bag that no one would suspect is a pet carrier. It’s not legit or maybe it is and we didn’t break any rules; it’s tough to tell given nothing was clearly indicated on the city bus. But we did it, and in the name of full disclosure — there you have it. Having said that, you can rent a car or scooter for a very reasonable price so you do have options.
If it had not been raining on and off, we were going to rent a scooter and try out my new kangaroo pouch. Another time. But enough about that!
Because it’s one of the jewels of the Dalmatian coast, Trogir is a bit of an overcrowded nightmare in the summer — or so I’ve heard. But that is not what we saw — likely because we were there in October on a cool, rainy day. We arrived in Trogir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just as the rain stopped for a bit. We were certainly happy for that. The water everywhere made for some fun puddle-hopping and, even better, the streets were nearly empty. We felt like we had Trogir to ourselves.
This town is not just a fishing hub founded by the Greeks in the third century BC. It’s also been an important centre for the arts since the Romans occupied it in 48BC and, even more so, when the Byzantines invaded and established a permanent fleet there in the Middle Ages.
That era — the Byzantine one — is the most visible in terms of architecture, making Trogir different from many other towns on the Dalmatian coast.
Sure, Trogir has suffered years of neglect, starting with the Saracen attack in 1123 and a subsequent 70-year abandon when everyone moved to Vis, only to be saved by the Hungarian, and then Venetian, rulers. The town weathered some heavy hardship during the 1997 war but it’s slowly being restored to its former glory. Everywhere you look, you will find carved doorways and window frames, beautiful building façades, and courtyards tucked away behind ornate fences where the smell of lemon trees and other plants call out to you in a gentle whisper. The architecture you’ll find is fun, whimsical even in some places, and often ingenious.
Most of the old town is charmingly on an island, surrounded by a wall with only two gates. A bridge joins the town to the mainland where the bus stops. Another bridge joins the island to … well, another island, called Ciovo.
Let me take you through our Walking Tour!
The land gate once supported a draw bridge, but no longer. Rebuilt in the 17th century, it’s a pretty gate made from a local stone. It’s carved with patron saints, as is the norm; I believe they are St. Mark and the Blessed John of Trogir (or, more properly, Sv. Ivan Trogirski).
We found the biggest puddle at the land gate, which required some interesting footwork for the bipeds to carry me inside. Sometimes being small has perks … like air lifts!
This palace, built in the 15th century, is sadly closed to the public. You can, however, admire the Venetian Gothic-style windows. They are pretty with flowers and leaves carved all around them. I tried to find out why the palace was closed to the public, but no luck. I still have no idea.
Cathedral of St. Lawrence
The cathedral is newer than most of the town because it was built where the Saracens had destroyed the previous church. Dozens of artists have worked on the cathedral and it’s truly a masterpiece. You’ll have to do a hand-off if you want to go inside since pets are not welcome, but I recommend going to the trouble if you have time. Even if you don’t, the door alone will take your breath away.
That door. Let me tell you about it. Just … well take a look.
Carved in 1240 by the Dalmatian sculptor master Radovan, the door is said to be the finest example of Romanesque sculpture in all of Dalmatia. Two lions support statues of Adam and Eve on either side of the main entrance. There is an abundance of saints carved into the pilasters as well as symbols for every month of the year — an odd marriage between the Catholic church and the Pagan beliefs still alive and well. Above the door is a vignette of the birth of Christ and some other scenes from the life of Jesus. Like I said, the front entrance alone is worth a stop.
We only saw the town hall from the outside. It’s worth noting the many coats of arms decorating the façade. We loved the three Renaissance doors framed in stone and, of course, the lovely covered courtyard that is open to the public. The courtyard often hosts singers and other musicians.
Loggia and Clock Tower
The loggia is really neat in that it has a total of six columns holding up the roof. The loggia also has some nice art — reliefs (sculptures projecting from the walls) depicting Justice. The clock tower, like many we saw in towns along the Dalmatian coast, stands tall, to the left of the loggia. The clock tower is incorporated into the loggia infrastructure and supports a pavilion dome. This dome was salvaged from a chapel that was destroyed sometime in 1447… although I can’t recall why.
Church of St. John the Baptist
If manuscripts, ornaments, paintings, and gold artifacts are your thing, then it’s worth doing a hand-off to pop inside the church. It’s really a museum now, called the Museum of the Sacred Art.
Sea Gate and the Fish Market
The sea gate, remodelled at the end of the 16th century, has two beautiful columns made of the pretty light-coloured stone Trogir seems to favour. Beyond is a lovely promenade with many restaurant terraces available for you to stop and enjoy a meal or a coffee. We certainly stopped a moment since the sun came out briefly. We enjoyed an espresso and treat, and let the warmth dry off our wet feet and cold noses.
Sitting there, you can see the really neat structure of the nearby fish market. It’s an open, covered loggia with nine columns supporting a pretty terracotta tiled roof. Interestingly, the structure started off as a customs house for the little marina and port along the promenade. I’m not sure how or when it became a fish market, but it is still a fully functioning fish market today.
Kamerlengo Castle and St. Mark’s Tower
Past the Church of St. Dominic and off toward the southwestern end of the island, you’ll find the Kamerlengo Castle. I was really thrilled to find out that it’s pet friendly! For €3, we went inside and pretty much had the place to ourselves. The skies were threatening rain again and there weren’t many tourists about.
You get the feeling that the castle was once something grand, but it’s pretty sparse now. Still, you can climb up the stairs to the wall (you may want to take your dog in your arms for that) and try to visualize what the castle was like once upon a time when it was the residence for the Venetian governor.
Built around 1430, the castle surrounds a square with massive walls connecting three towers, which we visited. The large inner courtyard is used today to host concerts and plays all summer long.
We even climbed to the top of the tower overlooking the sea. The bipeds put me in my sling bag for that because the steps are wide open, steel things. Watch out for the pigeons roosting everywhere! But the view … the view of Trogir from above is worth the climb.
You can see St. Mark’s Tower from up there. It’s a big and imposing thing. Designed for defensive purposes rather than for a residence like the castle, the tower is all about the artillery. The tower’s sole purpose was to defend the small strip of water between the island and the mainland.
And in one of the coolest re-uses of historic space I have ever seen, the parade grounds that once connected the castle to the tower have been converted into the town’s sports field.
By that point, we were weary, cold, and wet. But instead of stopping for another coffee, Dad decided his beard and hair were far too unruly after eight days at sea, so we took advantage of a barber Dad found! We settled in: Dad got a shave, hair cut, and beard trim; Mom warmed up and I watched. It was nice to do something so wonderfully mundane in such a pretty place. Plus, it was the only barber we had seen along the Dalmatian coast. We had seen plenty of hair salons, but no barbers!
We asked the young man who ran the shop why that might be. He pointed out that very few Croatian men wear beards; therefore, there is no need for barbers. The barber had a lovely beard himself, so we asked, “Well, you have one!? So …?” The barber chuckled and explained it off as, “I am half-Italian, you see … .” Still perplexed, we prodded a little more and learned that the Serbs are fond of beards but the Croats favour a clean shave. And with the 1997 war still fresh in everyone’s minds, Croatian men are not likely to adopt the bearded hipster look just yet. Luckily for us, tourism has given this young man the opportunity to open a barber shop and make a living. Amazing what you learn when you chat with locals!
After that, it was time to eat. We found an amazing restaurant that was more than happy to let me inside to dine. In fact, almost all of restaurants were happy to do so. We had our meal while being warmed by the heat of the open kitchen.
Then off we went to catch the very, very last city bus back into Split. The bus wasn’t as clearly marked as one would think, so do ask. And the late buses take longer than the more direct tourist buses. But the tourist buses stop after 5:00 p.m. whereas the city buses go until 9:00 p.m. The bus dropped us off nowhere we knew in Split. It wasn’t the old town area we had come to know. But after asking a few locals to point us in the right direction, we made our way back to familiar grounds.
After a last cup of hot herbal tea and honey, we crashed in our nice bed in our warm little apartment.
P.S. To see more photos visit my FB page album on Trogir!
In review: Visiting Trogir, Croatia with a small dog is totally worth it! The town is rich in history, museums, and so many beautiful landmarks. Have a coffee on the sunny promenade (the Riva), enjoy the market, grab a treat at a local bakery, enjoy meals in fantastic restaurants — all of them pet friendly, although many closed in bad weather and in the winter months. An absolutely delightful day trip from Split, but leave early to get to it before the crowds ruin it for you.