Dalmatia – the Croatian coast

Text in italics taken from the Wikipedia article on Dalmatia:

Dalmatia (/dælˈmeɪʃə, -tiə/; is a region on the east shore of the Adriatic Sea, a narrow belt stretching from the island of Rab in the north to the Bay of Kotor in the south. The Dalmatian Hinterland ranges in width from fifty kilometres in the north, to just a few kilometres in the south, and it is mostly covered by the rugged Dinaric Alps.

Seventy-nine islands (and about 500 islets) run parallel to the coast, the largest (in Dalmatia) being Brač, Pag, and Hvar. The largest city is Split, followed by Zadar, Šibenik, and Dubrovnik.

The name of the region stems from an Illyrian tribe called the Dalmatae, who lived in the area in classical antiquity. Later it became a Roman province, and as result a Romance culture emerged, along with the now-extinct Dalmatian language, later largely replaced with related Venetian.



With the arrival of Croats to the area in the 8th century, who occupied most of the Hinterland, Slavic and Romance elements began to intermix in language and culture.

Possible Slavic migrations to the Balkans, per Relja Novaković (1981)

After the medieval Kingdom of Croatia fell in 1102, its cities and lands were often conquered by, or switched allegiance to, the kingdoms of the region during the Middle Ages. The longest-lasting rule was the one of the Republic of Venice, which controlled most of Dalmatia between 1409 and 1797, with the exception of the small but stable Republic of Ragusa (1358–1808) in the south. Between 1815 and 1918, it was a province of the Austrian Empire, known as the Kingdom of Dalmatia. After the Austro-Hungarian defeat in World War I, Dalmatia was split between the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, which controlled most of it, and the Kingdom of Italy, which held several smaller parts. After World War II, the People’s Republic of Croatia, as part of Yugoslavia, took complete control over the area. Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, Dalmatia became part of the Republic of Croatia, and it is today considered one of its four historical regions, alongside Croatia Proper, Slavonia, and Istria, though it is not an official subdivision.

Culture and ethnicity

The inhabitants of Dalmatia are culturally subdivided into two groups. The urban families of the coastal cities, commonly known as Fetivi, are culturally akin to the inhabitants of the Dalmatian islands (known derogatorily as Boduli). The two are together distinct, in the Mediterranean aspects of their culture, from the more numerous inhabitants of the Hinterland. Referred to (sometimes derogatorily) as the Vlaji, their name originated from the Vlachs with whom they have no ethnic connection. The latter are historically more influenced by Ottoman culture, merging almost seamlessly at the border with the Herzegovinian Croats and Herzegovina in general.

Diocletian’s Palace is a seaside compound consisting of a villa, temples of worship, public square and walled military garrison. It was built for the Roman Emperor between 295-305 CE. Klapa – meaning “group of friends” – is Dalmatia’s traditional a cappella singing. The Palace Vestibule was intended as a place to greet visitors before they entered into the residence. The most dramatic feature of the Vestibule is its open air oculus. “Oculus” is Latin for “eye.” The oculus is seen as a path between earth and sky. UNESCO has inscribed klapa in its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and listed Diocletian’s Palace as a World Heritage site. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnb7G-revKc

The former two groups (inhabitants of the islands and the cities) historically included many Venetian and Italian speakers, many of whom identified as Dalmatian Italians (especially after the Italian unification). Their presence, relative to those identifying as Croats, decreased dramatically over the course of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. The Italian speakers constituted (according to the Italian linguist Matteo Bartoli) nearly one third of Dalmatians in the second half of the 18th century. According to the Austrian census it had decreased to 12.5% in 1865 and 3.1% in 1890. There remains, however, a strong cultural, and, in part, ancestral heritage among the natives of the cities and islands, who today almost exclusively identify as Croats, but retain a sense of regional identity. Although that heritage is weaker in the Hinterland, the architectural and cultural legacy remains evident in many villages and towns that have a distinct Mediterranean style.

Geography and climate


Most of the land area is covered by the Dinaric Alps mountain range running from north-west to south-east. The hills and mountains lie parallel to the coast, which gave rise to the geographic term Dalmatian concordant coastline. On the coasts the climate is Mediterranean, while further inland it is moderate Mediterranean. In the mountains, winters are frosty and snowy, while summers are hot and dry. To the south winters are milder. Over the centuries many forests have been cut down and replaced with bush and brush. There is evergreen vegetation on the coast. The soils are generally poor, except on the plains where areas with natural grass, fertile soils, and warm summers provide an opportunity for tillage. Elsewhere, land cultivation is mostly unsuccessful because of the mountains, hot summers, and poor soils, although olives and grapes flourish. Energy resources are scarce. Electricity is mainly produced by hydropower stations.

Hidden beach in southern Dalmatia
Let’s not forget Dalmatia’s most iconic image, the dog named after it’s homeland, the Dalmatian.

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