Inside the Pile Gate, Stradun (also known as Placa), the city's main street, runs straight across the old town, following the line of the channel that originally separated the island of Ragusa from the mainland. A constant surage of turists throngs the Stradun in summer, while the evening korzo is the busiest in the whole of Croatia - the street's limestone surface has been buffed to a slippery polish by the tramp of thousands of feet.

The set-piece uniformity of this thor­oughfare is a result of the 1667 earthquake, after which Stradun was recon­structed with the imposing, outwardly unadorned town houses you see today, displaying a civic commitment to purity and order characteristic of a city gov­ernment which always had a rather disciplinarian streak, and which has been rigorously maintained by subsequent generations. All the houses have identical door and window frames, the latter flanked by uniform green shutters, and though they're nowadays full of tourist shops, laws forbidding conspicuous shop signs mean that the names of boutiques and restaurants are instead inscribed on the lanterns which hang over each doorway.

At the western end of Stradun, the first thing you see is Onofrio's Large Fountain of 1444, a circle of water-spouting heads topped by a bulbous dome where, to guard against the plague, visitors to this hygiene-conscious city had to wash themselves before they were admitted. Built by the Italian architect Onofrio de la Cava, the fountain was the culmination of an elaborate water system that delivered water from Mount Srd to public washing facilities right across town - though even in this relatively liberal city Jews had a separate fountain. Across the street is the small St Saviour's Church (Crkva svetog Spasa), a simple but harmonious Renaissance structure whose facade - featur­ing a rose window beneath a trefoil roof line - may have influenced the cathe­dral at Hvar. The church's bare interior is now used as an exhibi­tion gallery showing contemporary work.


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