Kastela are not often part of my visits. Once a beautiful part of the coast (if not the most beautiful), now is simply a mess of modern construction, 50 years of socialist industrial “planning” and 25 years of not doing anything… or at least anything good. So, even the 7 lovely historic towns definitely deserve attention, it is just a narrow strip by the sea that is worth visiting. And for all the good reasons! History and architecture: typical Dalmatian coastal villages, wine: Bedalov cellar is right by the water and we offer a very unique “behind the closed doors” foodie experience in Sućurac at our friend’s beautifully restored place. So when a friend of mine, Mr. Ivan Šuta, director of Kaštela museums invited me for a short tour, I was more than happy to come along.
All of Kastela got their names after castles that were built in each 7 of them and most of them are still standing. Today, Kastela are making up one large, 40 000 inhabitants big town but it was not like that in the past and each of them was a separate little town with its own history.
Arguably, Kastel Gomilica is the prettiest one. It was built in the first half of the 16th century by Benedictine nuns from Split who built it for protection of their servants from the Turks that were pillaging in the region. This patch of land was donated to them all the way back in 1078 by King Zvonimir of Croatia and there is still an ancient church nearby standing as a silent witness. They also erected Catholic Monastery on a small island, that became today’s Kaštilac.
Kastilac today is in a very poor shape. The local authorities have bought one ruined building right next to the entrance and they are starting the renovation of the main tower as well as a nunnery at the opposite end of a short street. Kaštilac is fairly quiet and very few people still live there. And cats…
But some folks are quite creative with elaborate seashell design :)
The Kastilac will have a very interesting appearance on the Game of Thrones in season 5 acting as a distant and mysterious Braavos! That will bring more visitors for sure and, hopefully, some funds for full restoration of this beautiful heritage site.
Next door, the boats are getting painted for the season… Just a picture perfect Dalmatian scene!
Then we ventured into the town itself. Mr. Šuta warned of several Roman monuments that, over the centuries, became parts of the the local house walls and facades.
One of the walls is even holding Aesculapius head! This gem of late antiquity is now in a fairly risky spot next to cables and wires and there are discussions of its removal.
So, Kastel Gomilica holds many secrets but it is still a mess. This is not a place you enjoy just as a typical tourist destination although it can be such a lovely seaside town attracting flocks of people just for an easy stroll or some nice sightseeing.
For now, the doors will remain closed and we can only hope that a better times are coming.