Discover Slatine – A Higgledy-Piggledy Village On The Island Of Čiovo

View over Slatine from its terraced olive groves

Although I have lived in Slatine for 8 years now, not until recently did I realise how fascinating this place was.

Away from restaurants, beaches and holiday homes, the village of Slatine on the island of Čiovo manages to defy modern tourism and maintain an authentic charm.

Just couple of hours ago I returned from the historic village centre with a camera full of photos and a heart full of excitement.

I will try to explain what made me so excited. But first, how would I describe what I have seen? Which word to choose?

I first thought of quirky, than shabby, then peculiar, then odd. I finally decided to pick a word I didn’t know before. Higgledy-piggledy. (In Croatian, it would vaguely be translated as “zbrda-zdola”)

BTW, what does higgledy-piggledy mean? Listen to Merriam-Webster’s podcast explain the meaning of that word…

And this is why I feel higgledy-piggledy is the right word:

A scene from Slatine
A bathtub in the garden. Slatine, Island of Čiovo
Caged bird in Slatine, Island of Čiovo
Scenes from Slatine, Island of Čiovo

You got the point, right? A bit confused, a bit disordered, slightly weird, somewhat messy. But certainly fascinating.

In this post I will not write about OBVIOUS things to do in Slatine. This includes a visit to the hermitage monastery of Prizidnica, which I will cover in another article. Or picking the best beach. Or restaurant. This article will focus on the higgledy-piggledy features of Slatine.

Some Higgledy-Piggledy Features Of Slatine

  • In most parts of the village there are no sidewalks. Pedestrians have to compete with cars. The same goes for cyclists. Riding a bicycle is very dangerous here.
  • Since parking space is really limited in Slatine, the best was to visit Slatine is by boat (Bura Line), operating from both Split and Trogir.
  • There is a regular bus line, number 42, Slatine – Trogir. Keep in mind that the bus might leave BEFORE the scheduled departure time. This is one of the reasons why locals come to the bus station early. The other reason is that they hope to be picked up by someone in their car. Since that often happens, the bus line is totally unprofitable and the buses are usually hauntingly empty.
  • Surprisingly, Slatine is part of the city of Split. It has been so from 15th century. Technically, this means you have to pass through 3 other cities (Trogir, Kaštela and Solin) to reach Split from Slatine by road. Slatine, however, doesn’t benefit in any way from being part of Split. Quite the contrary. Split takes all the tourist tax money, and gives very little, if anything, in return.
  • Another surprising fact is that the village centre is not by the sea. Rather, it is on top of a gentle hill. The attacks of pirates, robbing villages and taking locals to slavery were quite common, especially after 1571. This is the reason why most places in Dalmatia that were’t surrounded by ramparts had to be moved to safety, on hilltops or the hinterland. Also, Slatine is thus somewhat protected from cold winds in the Winter.

So, after you get off the boat, get ready for a gentle stroll uphill. Your visit starts by the parish church.

The Village Park

This miniature park, situated by the church, contains 3 (not quite touristy, but authentic) points of interest.

The construction of this substation, built in 1959/1960 was an exciting event for Slatine.

My father-in-law recalls the entire village gathering around the first black-and-white TV set to watch the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

Being important symbols of progress, contributing to the Communist party’s reputation, substations, like this one, were designed by architects.

Several mysterious stones are placed in the park without any explanation given.

Exactly same stones were used by old Romans to produce OLIVE OIL.

Because of their low productivity, the use of such primitive oil presses was eventually discontinued.

Today, there is a modern oil press in Slatine.

Antifascist Memorial 1941-1945

A monument commemorating the death of 20 antifascist partisans from Slatine is the central figure of the park. One of the names of villagers who were killed in World War II belongs to my father-in-law’s uncle, who joined Tito’s resistance movement in 1943 and never returned home. My father-in-law was named after him.

About 3000 out of 6000 similar monuments in Croatia have been “removed” by those who apparently found them too offensive and reminiscent of the Communist regime. This particular one may have survived because it was updated with the cross (instead of the Communist red star) and a text saying: “WE FOUGHT AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, FOR CROATIA”.

Hidden Treasures Of Slatine

The narrow streets (well, let’s call them streets) of Slatine hide some of the most fascinating architectural patchwork I have ever seen, coupled with decrepit cottage houses, old wooden doorways and shutters and stone roofs.

Even the more recent constructions seem to be very peculiar in style, such a higgledy-piggledy concoction.

A decrepit house in Slatine, Croatia

In order to allow cars to pass into these ancient alley, street corners have been “trimmed”.

In some cases, houses just fall apart because there are too many legal owners scattered all over the world.

As you can imagine, if you decide to move to Slatine, you have to say Goodbye to privacy.

This “trimming” of old houses and making them fit into the modern way of life is another higgledy-piggledy feature of Slatine.

Old co-exists with the new with minimal intervention.

I am fascinated by this kind of “crude” architecture.

How would you describe it? Do you like it?

Higgledy-piggledy architecture of Slatine, Croatia

What Is The Origin Of Name Slatine?

The island of Čiovo annually gets some 900mm of rain. Sometimes not even that much. Building a water cistern was essential. However, in Summer, most of the water cisterns dry out. So having a source of any kind of water, even if it were brackish, would be so welcome.

And you guessed it. Slatine has such a source (or sources). The water is somewhat salty though. Hence, SLATINE (you can recognise SALT in the name) is a village that had an alternative source of (a bit salty) water, which was precious anyway.

To find the source, look for this street sign.

“Slatišćak” is the name of the source(s).

BTW, don’t even try to pronounce it.

Irrigation pool filled with rainwater, Slatine, Croatia

BTW, I found out that, although brackish, this water is still potable (don’t try to drink it, please). Some other Dalmatian regions have supply of similarly brackish tap water still today.

Not only did Slatine have some kind of fresh water, it is blessed with patches of fertile red soil. Potatoes just love it, as they seem not to mind the salt content of the soil. Neither some other cultures do, like tomatoes or cabbage.

Because of the mild climate, potatoes can be grown twice a year. So, around Christmas time, the Slatine potatoes are served as a delicacy.

So Slatine became known for its fine produce. My wife’s grandmother used to grow all kinds of vegetables and take it to Split to the market. As her husband was behind the steering wheel of their Renault 4, she would count the money! Before they bought the car, the grandmother would mount a basket full of produce on her head and walk down to the harbour to catch the boat to Split.

Although mostly abandoned, these fertile gardens still remain the landmark of Slatine.

Autumn potatoes growing in Slatine, Croatia

Until recently, DONKEYS were used instead of cars, like Renault 4, to carry stuff, including vegetables.

Instead of a horseshoe, a DONKEYSHOE is placed at the doorway as a lucky charm!

Do People Still Live Here?

Well, they do. There are over 1000 inhabitants living in Slatine (keep in mind that there are many more houses here, but they are actually holiday homes). Unlike many small places across Croatia, Slatine still keeps a primary school! Although just for a handful of kids (I believe there were only 3 first-graders this year), but anyway, it’s been a real blessing for the village.

School building in Slatine, Croatia, surrounded by dry walls and terraced gardens

Apart from the primary school, an important feature of the village life is the local fire brigade. Also, there’s the village doctor, dentist, a post office (which is open just couple of hours A WEEK).

Time and again I get impressed with the ability of these hard-working people to survive and thrive under such challenging conditions.

Once common in Slatine, stone slab roofs required so much hard work to make. These heavy stone roofs are now symbols of a bygone age.

Hundreds of miles of dry walls run across the island. Thousands and thousands of olive trees seem to grow from out of nowhere!

Another special moment from Slatine – a cat playing around a bumblebee orchid

As I walked through the alleys of Slatine, I had a feeling that it was going to disappear soon, that this time-bubble was soon going to burst.

So, while it’s still there, get on bus number 42 and capture the higgledy-piggledy atmosphere of Slatine!

4 Replies to “Discover Slatine – A Higgledy-Piggledy Village On The Island Of Čiovo”

  1. Very interesting and informative article! To answer authors question about crude architecture, I feel like Dalmatian cost buildings and structures are fair witness of the majestic masonry and local masters make sculptures look like they made of clay and not of hard rock.

    1. Thanks, Karim. Starting from dry walls, over small cottage houses to majestic cathedrals, Dalmatian reality is all about limestone. I might write a post about it. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

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