Trg Peristil from Split, Croatia

Seen from above, the old town of Split appears like a rectangular box in which someone has placed buildings, streets and markets. Two of the markets in the citadel are large and, starting with the Middle Ages, had a key role in the history of the city, called Spalato in Italian, Narodni trg. The People’s Square, simply Pjaca for the locals, is mentioned already in the 13th century and has a number of superb gothic buildings. A bit further on, at the entrance in the citadel, lies Trg Braće Radić, called Voćni trg by the locals, meaning fruit market, in remembrance of her old, colourful role. Just outside the medieval walls there is the third great square, Republic Square. Newer, its architecture reminds one of the Venetian San Marco. It was built in a historicist style in the middle of the 19th century, in order to show that Split, long under Venetian rule, carries on the tradition. There are beautiful squares, each with a marked individuality, but the oldest and most interesting of the Split squares is by far Trg Peristril, smaller, yet seen by the locals as the historical heart of the area. Its history is special. In the beginning, the square was the interior courtyard of the palace built for the Roman emperor Diocletian in 305, on a huge, 300 square meter surface. In fact, half of the old city of Split lies within the palace walls, the best preserved Roman palace to survive to our time. After the Romans abandoned it, it will remain uninhabited for centuries, until the people of Salona take refuge from the Slavs, turning the former palace into a settlement. And a settlement it shall remain henceforth. John of Ravenna, the first local archbishop, decides the transformation of Diocletian’s mausoleum into a church. It is the moment when the palace courtyard officially becomes the cathedral square, with all the functions of a medieval square. Changes take place, but some features are kept, including the red porphyry columns.

Trg Sveta Eufemije & Trg G. Matteottija from Rovinj, Croatia

The history of this city is tied to Venice, but Rovinj was built much earlier, at the start of the 8th century, on an island separated from land by a narrow canal. Much later, in 1763, towards the end of Venetian rule, the community silts the isthmus and the city is united with the mainland. Through a classic process of synoecism, a new system of markets takes shape right on the spot of the old canal. They are four in number, and the most important is Trg G. Matteottija. Most of the buildings here are from the 19th century, but they celebrate the past link of the city with Venice, even recreating the lion of San Marco on the city hall’s pediment. The main square of the city remains Trg Sveta Eufemije, found at the highest point on the hill. Unobstructed on three sides, it gazes out to the sea, dominated by the 60 meter campanile of the basilica, with the statue of Saint Euphemia at the top, rotating in the breeze.

Tartinijev trg from Piran, Slovenia

Giuseppe Tartini, author of the well known Il trillo del diavolo, was born in this city, then called Pirano, part of the Republic of Venice. The Piran square bears his name, and the birthplace of the composer can be found on one side of the square. At the time of his birth, however, the place looked completely different. Rather than a square, this area was first a loading dock for fishing boats coming in from the Adriatic, found outside the citadel walls . In time, palaces and beautiful administrative buildings were built closer to the piers. By 1894, the importance of the place grew enough that the authorities decided to silt the gulf and build a true square. Two years later, Tartini’s statue is unveiled, thought of as a focal point, and the square, dominated from the hill by the Saint George church and with a campanile identical to the one in Venice, is a harmonious and lively space, with a proper and accomplished balance of form and proportion.