We called up Marija in Split to talk about Splendida Palace, the hotel where she is General Manager. The centrally-located boutique has 10 rooms and is run by Marija and her family. We talked to her about the history of the hotel, its features and the hard work that makes it special.
Splendida Palace: One of the Best Hotels in Split
Heather: Hi Marija! How are you?
Marija: Great thanks, you?
HK: Yep, I’m well, thanks. How are things in Split? Are you still in lockdown, or has it been lifted?
M: Well, actually things are getting back to normal. There are more people on the streets, enjoying coffee, eating outside and so on. So you can’t feel the effects of the virus as much as you could a month ago. Children are starting back at school.
We are used to having a lot of tourists in Split around this time, but now there are none. They say that by mid-June there will be lots of tourists arriving from non-EU countries. I hope we do get some. But no-one knows what will happen. We hope everything will get back to normal.
HK: Same here. In the meantime we thought we’d do some interviews with our friends in Croatia so people can see some of the best things to do and places to stay.
M: Yes and we appreciate it so much. Our Splendida Palace Hotel and Unforgettable Croatia actually opened at the same time, so we have been working closely together from Day One.
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HK: Tell us about yourself and how you came to work at Splendida Palace.
M: So Splendida Palace was my family’s home. My parents were in the hospitality business for their whole lives, so it wasn’t a big surprise that my brother and I followed in their footsteps. The Splendida property has been in our family for many years. It’s a culturally protected property. My brother got married but the house was too big for them to live in. Even though it didn’t fit our needs as a family, we knew that we didn’t want to sell it because it tells a story about our lives and holds so many memories of us, our parents and grandparents. It was important to keep it in the family. Selling it wasn’t an option.
At that point we decided to open a hotel. There was a small property next-door that my brother decided we should buy. We refurbished everything whilst still keeping the aesthetic style of the building. It presented some challenges as you are not allowed to make structural changes to a cultural heritage building. We put our whole heart and soul into the property. It took several years to build. Five years ago we opened our doors to our first guests.
HK: What is your role at Splendida Palace?
My actual role is General Manager at the hotel. But of course whenever my colleagues need my help, I’ll always help out where I can. All of us work where we’re needed and help each other. I think it makes the team very happy because we are always willing to help each other.
HK: Sounds like a very close-knit group.
M: Yes, most of the staff are family members. It’s much easier to work with people that you know. Not only does it make the job easier, but the atmosphere inside the hotel is warmer. People can feel it.
HK: Yes definitely. So, of course as you mentioned, there’s the family history, but what features of the hotel make it special?
M: We have worked hard to make sure everything is first-class inside the hotel. But what really sets us apart is that we are a family business and literally everybody that works here puts their heart and soul into his or her work. Guests that stay with us can feel it and they really appreciate it. We have a personal approach to each guest and we fully try to understand their needs and help them with any advice they might need to have an unforgettable time over here.
It’s not just about the hotel, but their experience of the city. If we can help people who might be new to Split, I think they really appreciate that advice from us. We share our knowledge of the city we love from the heart. We don’t get any sort of reward from things we recommend.
An example of how we look after our guests is that we provide a cell phone for every guest so they can have 24-hour assistance in case they get lost in the city or if they need anything whilst away from the hotel.
And, I’m not sure if you noticed, but our motto is ‘Splendida Palace treats you like a jewel’. We really do our best to do that. I feel judging from the client feedback and the numerous awards we’ve received, we have succeeded in our mission.
HK: Absolutely. One of the other amazing things for a city-center hotel is that you have a pool!
M: Yes, true! We do have a small plunge pool in the hotel and guests really love it. It’s a really great thing when you’ve explored the city in the heat with lots of crowds. We are so close to the Old Town and guests arrive and say we are like a piece of heaven, because it’s so quiet and they can enjoy a dip in the pool. They can have drinks on the pool terrace and then they are ready to go out in the evening for dinner.
Also we have parking which is very rare for the area. We are the first street back from the pedestrianized Old Town, so we are the closest point to reach the city by car. It makes a great package. We are very proud of the pool, terrace and parking.
HK: Please could you describe for me your perfect weekend in Split?
M: You mean when I’m not working?!
I think the morning would be spent drinking coffee on the Riva promenade with my close friends. Then in the afternoon I would spend time with my nephews in Forest Marjan and exploring local beaches. My evening would be spent in the Old Town streets eating delicious food and enjoying the history and atmosphere with my friends and family. So I don’t have excessive needs! Just some local relaxation with loved ones.
HK: What should visitors do in Split?
It depends on how long they are staying in Split. The must-sees are the Riva promenade where you must drink coffee as it’s such a big part of life here. Also Diocletian’s Palace and the Old Town to learn about the history to discover why Split is here. I think they should try a local konoba (traditional tavern) with local food, definitely city beaches and Marjan Forest. There are plenty of sights and activities to keep everyone entertained. Of course, it all depends on the travelers’ preferences, but whomever they are, they will find something they like in Split.
HK: I’m sure. It’s a good place to spend time. Do you have a favorite konoba that we should recommend?
M: I have two restaurants that I recommend to guests. The first, a traditional konoba, is Otprilike Ovako.
HK: Ok, you might have to text me that so I can spell it!
M: Sure! I’ll do it now. So I love it because I know they have extremely fresh fish. The owner tells people if he doesn’t have fresh fish today, then he won’t open the restaurant.
HK: What a great mantra.
M: Yes, it really is! All the dishes made there are made the traditional way with traditional ingredients so I think it’s definitely something that people should try to get an authentic taste of Dalmatia.
And for those people who prefer modern ambience and good service instead of something very local, then my favorite restaurant would be Bokeria. It’s really excellent – very good waiters and service, the food is excellent, they have a great wine list. It’s not fine-dining but it’s definitely a step above a konoba. The two are completely different experiences; a konoba is mostly fish dishes, the atmosphere and service are more relaxed.
HK: Thanks for the recommendations. Is there anything that visitors should avoid doing in Split?
M: I can’t think of many things. But actually I think they should avoid taking money from the ATMs that are not official banks.
HK: That’s a good tip.
M: Yes, those places take a huge commission, so that would be my personal advice! Search for an ATM belonging to a bank, not one that is privately owned.
Everything else I think they should see, because Split is a really special city. It’s kind of a mindset that I believe each traveler needs to experience.
HK: So how do you think things will change for Splendida Palace for the rest of 2020 and in 2021?
M: So I can give you some exclusive news, you are the first people to know. During the last few “normal” seasons, we had high demand for apartments, so we are opening ‘Residence by Splendida Palace’. It will be five five-star apartments available to rent.
We are always looking to improve. So now for example, we are currently 9.8/10 on Booking.com, but we are always aiming for 10/10. Last year we won the Best Bed & Breakfast in Croatia from TripAdvisor –
M: Thank you. So I really hope to keep up that good work. We hope that guests will be as satisfied with the apartments as they are with the hotel.
HK: Are the apartments nearby to the hotel?
M: The site is near the Archaeological Museum of Split, a perfect location for people who want to stay a little bit out of the city-center but want hotel service. It’s still only 15 minutes’ walk to the beach or 10 to the Old Town. This is for a different sort of traveler than those who stay at the hotel. The Residence might be more for those who want to stay longer, for two or three weeks.
HK: That’s exciting news. Thanks for letting us in on the secret.
M: You’re welcome.
HK: Thanks so much for your time Marija. That’s been really interesting.
M: Thank you very much.
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