Possibly the most interesting feature of Pula is the impressive amphitheatre near to the harbour in Pula at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula.
Built by Emporer Vespasian it was enlarged later in the 1st century to entertain around 20,000 spectators on the demise of a few gladiators and wild beasts.
You can wander round freely and imagine the events that took place there back in first century AD. Included in the entrance fee ( In 2012, 40Kuna Adults, 20Kuna students) is access to some underground passages that feature displays about the site.
Visit the website below for some photos of the amphitheatre and other Roman/historical features of the city.
In the middle of the Istrian peninsula is the small hill top town of Motovun. It was very quiet, being the end of December but there were a couple of shops open including one that specialised in Truffles. Apparently the woodland around Motovun is particularly good for hunting this precious fungus. We didn't try any truffle hunting nor could we afford to buy any of them but the friendly shop keeper gave us a little free gift - a box of chocolate coated prunes. I guess they look a bit a like truffles? It was a very unexpected gesture because all we had bought were a few postcards.
You can walk around the edge of the hill top town and get a 360 degree view over the countryside. I think all it lacked was a castle though the church on top was second best.
We enjoyed our hot chocolate drinks in the cavern-like coffee bar by the ancient gate.
Continuing inland we moved onto a spa located at the foot of limestone cliffs at Istarske Toplice. Here there was a hotel that had a pervading smell of sulphur about it. I knew my kids wouldn't like it so instead we went to the smart, new but small, health and fitness centre next door. Luckily we didn't have to be members and we all enjoyed the swim in the clean modern pool.
If you get a chance it's worth a visit especially to help counter some of the excesses of the Christmas period.
Rovinj is glamourous. Some say it's the jewel in crown of Istria. You can visit it at any time of year, even on gloomy misty cold day in winter and it will keep shining. One can easily get lost in side streets of the old part which was island in past, separated from continent with a canal. Plenty of well preserved historic architecture to see, many bars, trendy cafes and restaurants to try local food and wines, pleasant tiny squares adorned with ancient and contemporary works.
Iconic is the image of settlement clustered above the sea, below the church of Saint Eufemia, whose bell tower dominates panorama.
As you approach towards the town's heart from the side, it will reflect within thousands lights on the surface of the sea - the views are enchanting.
If you need more history and interesting stories, take a book or ten of them, hundreds were written on Rovinj. Or briefly glance in the Tourist union site below, they will guide you better than my biased tip here.
If you wanna avoid crowds, avoid holidays and summer, of course.
Dvigrad is nowadays just a little bit more than a pile of stones. Hardly anything remained intact. Would you believe that five centuries ago it was actually two towns and hence name Dvigrad = Two Towns? The two towns used to stand on opposite sides of the valley, but the other one has completely collapsed and is now nothing more than a plateau with a few stones.
Typically, ruined old castles and towns interest us because they were destroyed either in battles or devoured by fire. Dvigrad was simply abandoned by its inhabitants and left to decay. But don't expect great mystery surrounding its abandonment. The reason is very plain -the town which successfully fought enemies was helpless before plague and malaria. It was abandoned it in the 17th century.
The little that has remained of Dvigrad seems to be under preservation project. Hopefully it will be preserved from further deterioration and all parts made accessible. As it is now, the ruins are home to weed, underbrush, snakes. Tourists discover it more by chance than planned. I too would have not known about it had I not been on a team building trip.
Draguc (drag-ooch) was one of the towns we visited on our excursion into the middle of Istria and one of the best of the day! Our guide told us that there were only about 5 families still living here, and it was mainly used for movie production! He thought that parts of "Red Cliffs"
was filmed here just the previous year. There is a small church with some incredible 14th century frescoes on the wall, just open to the air. A real find for photographers, because we normally cannot take pictures of these fragile paintings. Try to get here if at all possible--it is really worth it! There is a small bar if you get thirsty....
In the old town of Rovinj you can't miss the splendid Cathedral of St Euphemia perched on the highest point overlooking the narrow, cobbled streets and harbour of the town. It's well worth the small fee to climb up the rather old and battered wooden steps to get to the top where the view makes the effort all worth while. Apparently the bell tower is 60m tall so you might need a short break to get your breath back on the way up. But as you stand still try not to look down - the gaps in the stairs and the drop below might make you wish you'd never started!
The Rovinj tourist office website have a terrific photo on their homepage that gives you an aerial view of the town.
On the top of the tower is a statue of St Euphemia, loaded on bearings, she spins in the wind!
Our trip to Rovinj was certainly one of the highlights of our Croatian winter holiday.
go to exlore the Baredine cave close to Porec, visit the wine producers (Poletti in San Marco village), visit the town of Motovun and buy the truffles from the Motovun forest in many local stores. close to Motovun is Livade where the biggest truffle of the world was found. try to organize with Zigante restaurant truffle hunting demonstration.
Go to Groznjan/Grisignana (italian name) and discover the most beautiful town in Istria and it's modern art galleries!
Do a hike from Groznjan to Monticello/Montizel or go by bike (10km) on the former Parenzana train track.
Go to Pazin and visit the castle from the 11cent with its Ethnographic museum. Do a cave tour in the area under the castle.
do the tour of the little towns with gothic frescos (Beram, Draguc are the most beautiful).
Go to Labin, visit the museum and the old town. Swimm in Rabac, 5km south.
Go to Opatija on the east coast. The first climatic resort of the Austro Hungarian Monarchy. Have a walk on the Kaiser Franz Joseph Seaside promenade. Enjoy the villas and hotels from the 19cent. Visit the Villa Angiolina and the museum of the tourism.
From Opatija go to the 3rd largest town in Croatia Rijeka...Trsat castle, baroque churches, pedestrian zone Korzo, Guverner's palace.
Moscenice,about 20min away from Opatija, a typical Istrian town on the rock about the see is another gr8 place to visit.
take a ferry to Cres island and visit Beli,Lubenice, Cres, Marinscica.
OF COURSE- OLIVE OIL FACTORIES(VODNJAN), WINE (ALL OVER), NATURE PARK KAMENJAK AND GR8 AGRITURISMO RESTAURANTS ALL OVER THE PENINSULA,PREROMAN SITES IN VALTURA, MONDOKONJA,ISTRIAN STONEHENGE...ENJOY AND WELCOME. WWW.ISTRA.COM
hi there and welcome to our region Istria.
Day 1 you can visit the town of Porec starting to walk from some of the bays where normaly are the hotels and reach the downtown. Visit the Basilica Euphrasiana (UNESCO) with the Museum of the sacral art. The old town is little so u will do that in 2 hours.
The afternoon u can go south of the town and visit the town of Vrsar (Orsera in italian), and if u have more time go and to Lim fjord (about 30min south, close to Vrsar).
From there try to catch the boat to bring u back to Porec.
Visit the national park Brioni islands. Call day before to see what time they have tours (included in the entrance fee) in your language (English,Italian, German, French or Croatian). you need to come to Fazana and from there there is 15min ride by boat. This is also included in the price of the entrance fee.
The visit is 4h but u can stay longer. You will visit the roman sites, byzantine castrum, early christian churches, 2000 y old olive tree, museum of glagolitic script, Tito's photo museum, see the safari park...check their web site.
The same day u can visit the Mummies in the St Blaise church in Vodnjan/Dignano.
Something incredible! There is also inside that church the Sacral art museum.
Close to Fazana is Barbariga where u can see some old roman olive oil factories, almost on the rocky beach where u can swimm , normaly with not so many ppl.
Great is to see in Mednjan St Foska church, in the middle of nothing with some miracolous stories. about 20min walking from the little church from the 6 cent. try to find the 3 biggest Istrian KAZUNs. Kazun was a shelter for the farmers from the heat or rain, a place where to leave the tools...looks like Trullo in southern italy...
in the morning go to Pula and exlore the sites of 3000 y old town (6th largest roman amphitheatre of the world, entrance 40 HRK, almost 6 Eur, very interesting Archeological Museum 20 Hrk (3 EUR), Hercules gate, Twin gate, Sergi triumph gate, Roman theatre,Augustus Temple, Cathedral, venetian Castle...
Take the local bus and go to Veruda and see some of the forts from the austrian times (19 cent), in one of them is the aquarium.
Afternoon - Rovinj and its Franciscan monastery, Euphemia church and first of all fish restarants (Puntolina, Al Gastaldo,Monte...)and the beautiful Grisia street inside the old town with its art galleries.
have a coctail sitting on the rocks at Valentino's.
Very good night life in Monvi .
Night - don't forget to go to out clubbing in , damm, ex International ,now is called ?..hmm. cannot rember now. but everybody knows. LOL.
Hum has all the attributes of a small town: a church, walls, town gates, campanile, loggia.... It doesn't matter it only has 17 inhabitants, it is still considered a town - in fact, it proudly claims it is The Smallest Town in the World.
The town is dominated by huge neo-Baroque Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Town streets have mostly rural feel, but just as you start wandering if this is really a town or a village you will find a museum around the corner and some real graffiti art nowhere else but inside the cemetery chapel! The Glagolitic graffiti inside the Chapel of St. Hieronymous date back to 12th century when frescoes were made.
Hum was one of important Glagolitic centres (Glagoljica was a script used in Croatia during the Middle Ages), and on the road between Hum and Roc there is a series of modern sculptures that make the Glagolitic Alley.
Buzet is one of largest settlements of inland Istria, and most of its population lives and works in a valley under the hill that is occupied by old Buzet. Like other hilltop towns of Istria, it takes some effort (and lots of stairs) to reach it. Two town gates from the 16th century are still there, and the central place on its main square belongs to the local church.
On one of the squares there is a well preserved Baroque public well, that tells the story of communal organization and public services that were offered to local residents in ancient towns.
The view from the hill opens towards the valley of river Mirna, but nowadays it is mostly obstructed by modern developments. The lower town, on the other hand, has some good restaurants that offer dishes with truffles - a local specialty found in the surrounding forests. Every September an enormous omelette with truffles is prepared here for the celebration of Buzetska Subotina ("Buzet Saturday") festival.
Motovun is probably the most scenic of all Istrian hill-towns. Its spiraling urban structure winds up the hill pass the cemetery, through two town gates and ends on the main square that is dominated by the Renaissance St. Stephen Church.
The gates display the stone reliefs of Venetian lions, and from this point there is a great view of the surrounding landscape of the Mirna valley. On surrounding terraces some of the best Istrian wines - Teran and Malvazija - are grown, and the nearby Motovun forest hides some of the best truffles in the region.
During the summer Motovun is home to Motovun Film Festival - unlike the "official" Pula Film Festival that takes place approximately in the same time, Motovun is more "off-event", featuring mainly European art movies. The Festival generates a huge pilgrimage of film lovers who camp under the stars in the surrounding areas and enjoy the unofficial atmosphere among the film stars.
Groznjan is one of the best examples of deserted Istrian towns - after the WWII many Italian families fled to Italy, not feeling safe enough in Istria that now became part of Yugoslavia. Nearby Motovun and Oprtalj had a similar destiny.
From 1970s onwards there were attempts to bring life back to these deserted towns. While the artists' colony was formed in Motovun that became the center of painting a similar musical colony was formed in Groznjan. Abandoned houses were given to artists as their studios and life was back here, at least during the summer months.
In Groznjan the main summer event is Groznjan Musical Summer when various concerts are held in town. A musical summer school also takes place here, run by Jeunesses Musicales Croatie.
If there is no concert taking place, Groznjan can be very quiet and you can wander for hours among the small galleries and enjoy the views of the surrounding landscapes - the view of the neighboring Motovun being one of the most rewarding.
At the first look Pazin may seem somewhat bland and uninspiring. Its main attraction is the impressive castle built on top of the gorge of Pazincica river that is connected to a mysterious underground lakes, caves and waterways. The scene had supposedly inspired Dante to write a description of the gateway to Hell. Jules Verne also found an inspiration here for some of his works.
Pazin is located at the geometrical centre of Istrian peninsula and also serves as an administrative centre of the Istrian County. It is also the biggest bus hub on the peninsula, so if you are using a bus transport to get around you will most likely end here.
Pazinski puran (Pazin Turkey) is a well established brand in Croatia and if you happen to be here (and like poultry) then why not treat yourself with some of the local turkey dishes? (Hmmm, turkey farms that surround the town can be somewhat smelly but that's the price that has to be paid, I guess.)
Pula is the biggest town in Istria and its cultural centre. The impressive Arena (amphitheatre) from the 1st century BC is one of the remainders of its Roman past. Today the Arena is the venue of many summer concerts and the main screen for the well known Pula Film Festival.
A 17-th century fortress overlooks much of the Pula centre, and its ramparts are the best place to walk if you want to enjoy some of the best views. During the Austro-Hungarian rule Pula was one of main naval bases of the Empire. James Joyce spent some time here teaching naval officers English. Apparently he was so bored in Pula that he spent most of his free time writing "Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man".
Today Pula is a mix of old and new, definitely not a postcard-pretty tourist place like the rest of the West Coast towns, and it not unusual to spot the cranes of the Uljanik shipyards above its rooftops and Roman ruins.
Rovinj is definitely one of the most picturesque places on Croatian Adriatic. It is situated on a small peninsula (that was once an island), and overlooked by an impressive church and campanile of St. Euphemia. Its historic centre is full of colorful Venetian-influenced houses and narrow streets, and its busy port is filled with fishing and tourist boats.
Rovinj has a large artistic community, and for one day in August its main street Grisia becomes the largest gallery in Istria. Between the two events the town's Adris Gallery - situated on the grounds of the former tobacco factory - organizes some of the best exhibitions of Croatian modern artists. (If you can't visit then at least take a look at their well designed TV commercials).
Big tourist resorts are located at a slight distance from Rovinj's historic centre, which is great since it leaves the centre untouched and if you choose carefully you'll be awarded by some of the best views of the old town from your hotel balcony.
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