Sit somewhere at many places to enjoy your coffee or local black wine or cedevita. It's one of the best things to do after you've feed your eyes with Pula's historic sights and city has impressive culture of socializing by the sidewalks and wide pedestrian streets and squares.
Those small bars in side streets, where local men hang out are great places to observe daily flow of life outdoors - at sidewalks, bus stops, intersections, benches under trees... at street. While you'll sip your glass you may catch interesting and passionate conversation among locals who'll frequent their favourite bistro.
Fondest memory: Local cafes and bars are vivid expression of Istrian temperament - and they feel simple and friendly, so is their service.
There is one and only one reason to make a special trip to Pula, and that is the magnificent Roman amphitheater. It is in such a great state of repair that it is still used for concerts during the summer. Our 5-year-old son had a blast being a gladiator in the arena. The basement under the arena, where the animals were kept, is now a somewhat underwhelming little museum of olive oil presses (I'm not kidding); however it is pretty impressive traversing that long tunnel and imagining what it would have been like back in the day.
There are numerous other historical sites in Pula, the most impressive including the temple of Augustus
Favorite thing: While everybody associates James Joyce with Trieste, very few know that he lived and worked in Pula also. Admittedly this was not for long and came about by accident rather than design. When he first came to Italy the Berlitz School in Trieste had no vacancies and sent him to Pula instead. He was only here fom October 1904 to march 1905 and by all accounts had nothing even remotely complimentary to say about the place, but nonetheless Pula have done him proud. A wonderful bronze statue of him by the Croatian sculptor Mate Cvrljak is placed outside the Cafe Uliks. Here Joyce sits and forever gazes out over Portorata and the Arch of the Sergei. Just nearby is the plaque that marks the building he taught in. Thank you Pula for this mark of respect to a countryman of mine.
In this city the Roman remains tend to eclipse all other historical monuments and this is very obvious when you finally come upon the cathedral. The Cathedral of The Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary is so unobtrusively situated that if you blinked you'd miss it on Ul Kanderlova. This is between the Foum and the Arena and right next to the Riva on the edge of the sea.
The cathedral has a lot of history though and was built on the original site where the then persecuted Christians used to gather. It has a very basic church shape and is remarkably lacking in the usual ornate pomp and splendour we tend to associate with cathedrals. In the Istrian style, the campamile is seperate and this particular one was erected in the 17th century, well after the late renaissance facade of the church was completed. Stones from the amphitheatre were used in the belfry's construction and it make you wonder how many buildings in Pula have bits of that same arena incorporated in their walls or foundations.
Favorite thing: The most amazing thing about this temple is that it was completely destroyed by a bomb in 1944 and by 1947 was standing again, perfectly reconstructed. There were originally two temples here and the remains of the Temple of Diana have been incorportated into the present municipal building. This temple has all the classic features of a Roman temple and the photos show details of the Pediment and columns. Almost all my photos of the temple have cranes in the background ( as the port is just behind ) but this one was carefully composed to omit them. At lunchtime the temple wasn't open but it is currently used to display a collection a of ancient stone and bronze sculptures.
The Forum is really special and I liked it so much I even sat down at one of the strictly-for-tourists restaurants and had lunch. This must be the first time I've ever eaten in a major square but the urge to sit and feast my eyes on this stunning architecture was just too strong. The square is surrounded by arcades and has an air of gracious elegance about it. If you sit at one of the restaurants at the Via Sergia end , then you are gazing right at the small but perfect Temple of Augustus and the Communal Palace which must be the Town Hall as it had all the flags flying outside.
This building (Town Hall )that you see in the photo is the most fascinating architectural mish-mash I've come across in a while. When you go round the back you discover that one wall is actually part of a second temple that stood on that spot. From the 10th to the 16th centuries bits were added on and now there are Romanesque arches, Gothic and Renaissance columns plus Baroque windows. I don't like the final result and I think it looks a little odd next to the temple but that did not spoil my pleasure in the overall impact of the Forum.
The main tourist office is on this square and supplied maps and an invaluable little booklet on what to see and do in Istria. A sign of how much I liked this square is that I didn't photograph my food and have forgotten the name of the restaurant. So no restaurant tip unfortunately. What I can say is that the service was indifferent but the half-price Pizza offer and a couple of beers was definitely the cheapest meal we had in Istria. This was a pleasant surprise because I was fully expecting ot pay dearly for my view.
Before Pula's city walls were removed there were at least 9 gates through which you could enter. The most impressive of these gates is this one known as the Twin Gates which now stands splendidly alone in Ul Carrarina. The double-arched gate was the main entrance to the city and today it is the entrance to the Archeological Museum and the castle.
On Trg Portorata, a large open space at the end of Giardini stands the Triumphal Arch of the Sergei , erected in the end of the first century BC. This arch originaly leant against the city walls and now it also stands somewhat precariously alone. Through the arch you can see Ul Sergeijevaca which must originally have been on the imperial route as it leads straight to the forum.
The second photo is the Sergei Arch
Fondest memory: After the overpowering splendour of the Arena we were glad to get back down to earth in a little park by the sea. This park is just a medium-sized green area between Ul Amphiteatarska and Ul Sv Ivana but it's shady and inviting and reveals tantalising glimpses of that blue, blue Adriatic. There are lots of parks in Pula many of them like this one running right down to the sea. In this park was the most striking monument we saw and I hope I'm not inaccurate in describing it as anti -facist. There are scenes of conflict below and the leader triumphantly striking a blow for freedom on top. We examined this monument from behind and moving to the front found it occupied by a group of teenage boys who had a definite look of lads enjoying an unauthorised school-free morning. I contemplated asking them to move so I could take a photo but then decided that the picture would look better if it included them. Later in the day when we passed by here again, they'd gone and the park was now in the hands of small children and their parents.
I'm not going to give a lot of physical or historical details about Pula's arena as these are easily checked on Google. As a visitor to Pula what sturck me most about their famous Arena is how little hassle was attached to visiting it. I've seen other amphitheatres but never before actually went inside as the queues and general hassle usually put me off. In Pula however there were no queues at all , no pushy guides or fake centurions and you can wander round in total peace and freedom. The entrance fee was about EUR 4.50 and when I said Hvala to the man taking the tickets, he smiled and shook my hand. I was very pleased that my one word of Croatian was received so well !
Inside the seating is on one side only and the capacity for concerts here is about 5000. Downstairs in the exhibition area are hundreda of old amphoras and a few things like olive presses. I was expecting wax models of gladiators and wild animals and was absolutely thrilled when they didn't materialise. The only animal I met here was my favourite species in the whole world - a tabby cat who was pleased to accept rubs and compliments. She strutted around happily, every inch the mistress of the sixth largest Roman Amphitheatre in the world.
I think it would be impossible to miss the Arena if you come to Pula. It would also be very silly because this is the perfect opportunity for a relaxed and thorough visit to a Roman amphitheatre. Some of the photos included ,show close up details of the walls and arches.
Fondest memory: The centre of the city has some lovely pedestrianised streets. Giardini with its central walkway shaded by two lines of trees is a good place to stop and have a coffee or an ice cream and get a feel for mornings in Pula. Fortified by a sinfully delicious gelato we carried on to Portorata with its Roman triumphal arch and decided to go left rather than right. Here is Ul Flanaticka a very busy shopping street but its sides were lined with outdoor cafes and people lingering over their morning coffee. To me, the whole atmosphere of downtown Pula seemed overwhelmingly Italian and the people seemed really in tune with La Dolce Vita. Though I'm referring to all the streets by their Croatian names, they felt more like vias than ulicas. This Italian feeling was epecially strong when we left the market and went through the arch into Ul Sergijevaca. I suppose it's not hard to understand, the Romans and Venetians having ruled here for so many years, but I had to keep reminding myself that I was in Croatia and not in Italy. But Croatian these streets are and they are definitely very pleasurable to linger in. In fact I got so relaxed in the pedestrianised zone, I almost forgot to check out the Forum and the Temple of Augustus.
Before we reached the open-air market a beautiful green building caught my eye. It immediately reminded me of the indoor market in Bratislava so I decided to climb up the two flights of steps to check it out. It was indeed an an indoor market though there were cafes there also. I'm wondering if the same rules apply here as seem to apply to the food market in Rovinj. In Rovinj, there's a notice at the market stating that no meat or fish can be sold there and these can be bought in the shops round the edge of the square. There were some shops in this lovely airy building though not as many as I'd expected. The back wall has a huge colourful mural and there's an interesting sculpture of woman in the centre. None of the guideboks or web pages I've read on Pula mention this building and I would love to know the significance of the statue and the mural. The statue, I feel, coud be just a shopper but maybe it's a suitcase she's carrying in which case it could be something quite different. I wonder .........
I really enjoyed both the indoor and outdoor markets here.
Fondest memory: On a Sunny Monday mornng the marketplace at Narodni Trg was buzzing. We came upon it about halfway up Ul Flanaticka and my insides did a little flip with excitement. I love markets, especially food markets and if a sunny morning is thrown in, then all's right with my world. This market takes place in a sylvan setting under huge trees that provide plenty of shade. We bought pistsachios and grapes and nibbled as we admired the produce. Where I live, chestnuts are either trodden underfoot or used as playthings by children, so I particularly liked seeing large trays of them for sale. The only thing I didn't like here looked like vacuum-wrapped cabbage. I saw those a lot in Istria and to a non-cabbage person they looked pretty gross.
Favorite thing: The interior of the amphiteatre, the auditorium on stone steps, and a substantial part of under-structures on the west side of the building were not preserved, because the amphiteatre, which was neglected for centuries, served as a quarry for the material for churches and other buildings in Pula.
Gladiators fights were arranged in the amphiteatre for spectators from the widest layers of the Roman population.
Most of the gladiator-fighters were the slaves or the prisoners of war. The only criteria was if they were of big proportions, over average body strength or famous as a very brave fighters
Favorite thing: The central part of the amphiteatre is the fighting area, the so-called arena, and 67,90 meters by 41,60 meters in size. During games it was covered with sand in order to remove the traces of the blood of the fighters and slaughtered animals, hence ("harena"=sand) the name of the fighting area, and even the whole building.