Go to Market at Motovun
There is no better way to experience Istrian daily life first hand than with a visit to the market. Motovun's is held on the third Monday of every month and sells fresh fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs along with local handicrafts and souvenirs.
Whilst there, take a walk around the town walls and wonder at the fabulous views. The forest land you see in the Mirna Valley is rich in truffles, a revered delicacy in Istria.
offers a mini market and café bar, the Monte Carlo. But stroll down into the old town for stunning views across to Motovun and look inside the Romanesque church of St Barnabus which dates from the 12th century. 15th century frescoes and Glagolitic graffiti are much in evidence and these were restored and cleaned in 2000. Vizinada was the birthplace of renowned ballerina Carlotta Grisi, star of ballet stages in London, Paris, Milan, Vienna and St Petersburg during the mid 19th century. Cultural events occasionally take place in the town commemorating her life.
You'll have noticed all the Italian influences in the place names, the architecture and the food, well make a visit to nearby Zavraje which has its own leaning tower! The belfry here, 22 metres high, has an inclination of 40 centimetres. Take your camera, it's the most beautiful little village!
Visit nearby Oprtalj, an impressive medieval hilltop town of narrow cobbled streets, small piazzas and buildings in baroque and gothic style, situated across the Mirna Valley from the house. This truly is an atmospheric spot!
Gradski Muzej, Umag
Pay a visit to the Gradski Muzej (Town Museum) at Umag (tel. 052 720 385 and open 1000-1200 & 1900-2200 except Monday). Here, within the town's fortress, you can see Roman archaeological objects such as vessels, pots and lamps. The premises also house a contemporary art museum.
Fancy Purchasing some Fresh, Locally Produced, Olive Oil?
From Oprtalj, take the road to Motovun but turn left shortly after leaving Oprtalj signposted Bencani and Ipsi. When you reach Ipsi, look for Claudio Ipsa on the right hand side - this is the name of the olive oil producer. A very personal service awaits you to help you choose your olive oil, truffle products are also on sale. Tel. 052 644 216.
Try and catch a performance at Pula's Amphitheatre known locally as the Arena. Performers such as Elton John, Zucchero and Norah Jones have staged concerts here in recent years and it is the venue for the annual Pula Film Festival usually held in late July. What better setting?
grows wild throughout Istria and is ready for picking in the spring. You will see stalls at the roadside offering bundles of freshly collected examples, selling for just a few kuna. The locals braise the tops in olive oil until tender and then add eggs, salt and pepper. The result? Delicious scrambled eggs (fritaja).
Visit Istarske Toplice, Istri's most popular inland health resort whose sulphurous waters are said to ease back pain, rheumatism and skin complaints. The indoor swimming pool of the Hotel Mirna (tel. 052 664 300) is fed by spring water which emerges ready warmed from nearby cliffs.
Head for the Beach at Dajla,
on the coast between Novigrad and Umag. Originally a little fishing harbour, it has a sheltered rocky beach.
Groznjansko Glazbeno Ljeto (Groznjan Music Summer)
Head north west to the medieval hilltop town of Groznjan. Since 1969 the town has been the International Cultural Centre of Musical Youth. Strolling around Groznjan at any time of year, you're certain to hear the echo of music being practiced or performed whilst from the beginning of June through to the end of September there are many evening jazz and classical concerts.
Groznjan is a great destination for a lazy lunch and a wander.
It affords wonderful views out to sea or inland towards the Ucka Mountains, or north to the Julian Alps but was abandoned by its mainly Italian inhabitants after World War II. 20 years later, it was re-established by a number of artists and craftsmen who exhibit their work in their studios and shops. Pictures, drawings, pottery, ceramics, hand made jewellery and other crafts are displayed in abundance.
Hum - The Smallest Town in the World
Head east towards the Ucka Mountains to the town of Hum, a fine example of a small medieval town situated on a ridge dominating the surrounding landscape. It has town walls and gate, a loggia and a parish church. Legend suggests that some building materials were left over after a project of town building in the Mirna Valley, enough to create a miniature town, hence Hum was born.
Driving around Istria, look for the kazun, a conical, beehive-shaped field hut built using the dry-stone technique, without any mortar or concrete. Shepherds used them for shelter as well as for storage of agricultural implements. The kazun has become emblematic of traditional Istria.
Purchase your Daily Bread!
Bread in Istria is delicious. Many varieties are readily available either in dedicated bakeries, mini markets or supermarkets, always freshly baked every day. You'll find white and brown loaves and rolls, many seeded or with nuts, the range is endless. Brioche and croissants are also plentiful. A number of restaurants also bake their own fresh bread such as the Istarska Konoba at Bujici, on the right hand side as you head towards Porec, on the road from Zbandaj.
Zavicajni Muzej Buzet (Buzet Regional Museum)
Featuring archaeological, historical and ethnographical items from the entire Buzet region. (Tel. 052 662 792, check for opening days/times). Incidentally, there are two market days each month in Buzet: the first Friday and the third Thursday.
Anyone For Tennis...?
Visit the coastal town of Umag, venue for the ATP Croatia Open, usually at the end of July. It has attained three Awards of Excellence for its organisation and recent winners of the event include Alexandr Dolgopolov (2011), Croatia’s own Marin Cilic (2012), Tommy Robredo (2013), Pablo Cuevas (2014), Austria’s Dominic Thiem (2015) and Italy's Fabio Fognini in 2016.
The Castle of Sipar
Follow the coast road north from Umag where, between the small villages of Katoro and Zambratija, there is a tiny peninsula (sometimes an islet depending on the tides!) which exhibit the ruins of an ancient fort, the Castle of Sipar. Archaeological finds in the vicinity tell of the town's existence as far back as Roman times. Sadly, some remains have been discovered out to sea confirming the gradual sinking of the coast.
Pay a visit to Savudrija on the far north west coast of Istria
Here you will see the tallest lighthouse on the Adriatic. Built in 1818, it has been beautifully preserved and is still operating. The locals also maintain an old tradition of keeping their fishing boats hung on wooden constructions on the beach
Take a drive on road number 64, specifically the stretch between the villages of Gracisce and Pican.
From these two vantage points, absorb the unique panorama of the valley from which Mount Ucka, the highest peak in Istria, rises (to 1,396 metres).
Gracisce is a charming hilltop village offering magnificent views
Wander around its largely deserted lanes and look for the Romanesque gates set in the town walls and, just inside, its loggia dating from 1549. Nearby is the church of Sveta Marija, a square structure with portico and belltower and frescoed walls inside. Notable amongst the other churches is that of Sveta Eufemija with its 14th century crucifix, though largely rebuilt in the 1500's. Look for the Masonic headstones with their 'secret' symbols, some with British names.
The little walled town of Pican was a bishop's see from the 5th to the 18th century and boasts some lovely medieval buildings.
In 24 tanks of varying sizes, discover the fish and other live organisms of the Adriatic Sea. (Open 0900-2200).
Porec Annals - Art with a View
This annual art exhibition is one of the longest established in Croatia. Held in the spectacular historic Parliament Building in August and early September it features work by emerging Croatian artists who are supplied each year with a particular topic. Previous themes have been art and mythology, 90's Baroque and art and mythology.
A great way to unwind! For children and adults alike! (Open 1100-0100). There is also kart-cross here with a 1km track, illuminated at night, with water sprinklers! Take the main road north out of Porec towards Novigrad and you'll see the venue on your right. www.kart-cross.net, tel. 052 622 632.
Go for a Bike Ride
There are a number of dedicated cycle trails all over Istria, enquire at your local tourist office for a map and information on bike hire locally. What better way to enjoy the scenery?
The Parenzana is a narrow gauge railway which ran from Trieste to Porec. Opened in 1902, its track covered a distance of 123km. Daily, the small train would follow the route carrying passengers and a cargo of, variously, salt from the salt pans of today’s Slovenian coast, olive oil from Motovun, Buje and the surrounding area, Istrian stone and other items such as wine, fruit and vegetables. It sadly closed in 1935 but remained affectionately in the hearts of the Istrian people. So much so that parts of it have reopened as a cycling and hiking track and a small motorised passenger train now runs along its route, a great way to see parts of northern Istria’s spectacular landscapes.
Spice Up Your Life!
Buy some Vegeta. First conceived in 1958, Vegeta is a powdered condiment comprising a mixture of various vegetables and a combination of spices. Add it to soups, potatoes and meats for an extra 'zingy' flavour. In its distinctive blue packaging, you'll find it on the shelves of every mini market and hypermarket in Istria, in a number of different varieties and is established as one of the most recognised brands in Croatia. Now sold in over 30 countries worldwide, you can find it on sale at British retailers such as Tesco and Asda.
The Glagolitic script was the first Slavic alphabet, which was used for many years in Croatia. The so-called Glagolitic Alley is a 7 kilometre stretch between Roc and Hum where 10 monuments have been erected in recent years dedicated to this script and commemorating many Istrian Glagolitic scholars.
Visit Another Country - Slovenia!
Istria's northern border is with Slovenia. From Buje in northern Istria, either take the road into Slovenia via the border point at Kastell or cross the border at Plovanija-Secovlje. From here you might like to explore some of Slovenia's pretty coastal towns such as Koper, Izola, Piran or Portoroz, all within 30 minutes of the border. You'll need your passports and some euros. If you picked your hire car up in Croatia, you'll need to check with your supplier that you can cross the border with it.
Spend a day in Venice
Take the Venezia Lines hydrofoil service from Rovinj, Porec or Pula to this unique city. Don't forget your passport and some euros. We recommend you book in advance via www.venezialines.com
Palmanova Outlet Village near Trieste, Italy
Palmanova Outlet Village is situated to the west of Trieste on the A4 Trieste-Venice (Venezia) motorway (Palmanova exit, 2 exits further on from Trieste Airport) and features about 90 retailers such as Benetton, Deisgual, Guess, Gap, Kappa, Tom Tailor and Stefanel. It opens every day between 1000 and 2000. Catering is surprisingly ordinary, so go in to UNESCO-protected Palmanova town itself, a spectacular hilltop fortress town, in the shape of a nine pointed star, dating from the late 1500s. A meal here, sitting at one of the terraces on the hexagonal-shaped central ‘square’ is a much more authentic Italian experience!
Get your Kicks... on Route 66!!!
For a beautiful scenic drive, take the road no. 66 north east along the Kvarner Riviera. Start from Barban, passing through Rasa, Labin, Plomin, Moscenicka Draga, Lovran, Opatija and round to Rijeka. Any of these places would make a good stop for a drink or a meal. Return to your house taking the inland route via the Ucka Tunnel (toll payable). You will need to allow at least half a day for this.
In Rijeka, take a stroll down Korzo, the main pedestrian street. Wonder at the grand secessionist and art nouveau architecture which betrays the Austro-Hungarian heyday of the port, Croatia's third largest city.
Chocoholics should call in at the Kras shop at 2a Korzo in Rijeka. Dating back to 1911, Kras was the first Croatian company to manufacture chocolate and is now the largest producer of confectionery products in south east Europe. Try Bajadera, for example, with its distinctive flavour of fine nougat enriched with almonds.
Workaday Rijeka is at its no-nonsense best beside the port: maybe a little scruffy but full of character. Stock up for a picnic in the art nouveau market and purchase cheeses, unusual pastries and a great variety of breads or go for a bargain-priced snack in one of the workers' bars amongst the tangle of streets behind.
Trsat stands guard over Rijeka, a gentle hilltop suburb. Over the years its castle has been home to the ancient Illyrians, the Romans and the Frankopans. With its views inland to the Ucka Mountains, out to sea over the Bay of Kvarner and across to the islands of Krk and Cres, you can understand why.
Plitvice Lakes National Park
halfway between Zagreb and Zadar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unique in Croatia, and accessed via a succession of wooden walkways, it has the appearance of a procession of infinity pools where water and vegetation have learnt to co-exist in curiously compelling hanging gardens. Waterfalls gush over hillsides with trees, shrubs and mosses clinging to the rock leading to crystal clear pools below rich in aquarium-coloured fish.
Park Vjeverica (Squirrel Park), Umag
This recently opened park is a joint project of Istria Tourism and a local primary school. Situated near the Hotel Sol Koralj, you can watch the squirrels at play in their natural habitat and there are information boards posted about the squirrels so that you can learn while you view!
Go Diving! Crystal clear waters, underwater plant life, rock formations and sea life are all irresistible reasons to explore the ocean. Off the coast of Rovinj, explore the sunken shipwreck Baron Gautsch, said to be one of the 50 most beautiful diving sites in the world!
Purchase a necktie!
Around the year 1635 a number of Croatian mercenaries arrived in Paris to support King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu. The traditional apparel of these Croats, in particular the picturesque scarves tied around their necks, aroused interest amongst the French who were delighted by this new article of clothing, previously unseen in Europe. In contrast to their starched white lace collar piece, this new neck scarf was much more practical and manageable. During Louis XIV's reign, this neckwear was accepted in the French courts, the style known as a la croate. This evolved into the French word cravate. The style soon spread across Europe and to the colonies on the American continent.
Grimalda and Draguc
Head up into the hills and visit the hamlets of Grimalda and Draguc. Here you will be rewarded with magnificent views to the west over Lake Butoniga, to the north towards Buzet and the foothills beyond of Slovenia's Julian Alps or to the east over the Ucka Mountains.
Wander through Draguc
Wander through Draguc to the charming little church of St Roch at the far end of the village. Here, in addition to its view, wonder at its beautiful frescoes which cover nearly the entire interior, created by one master Anthony of Padova. Not to be mistaken with the well known Italian town, Padova is in fact the old name for the little town of Kascerga, near Motovun.
The Mirna Viaduct
For an uninterrupted, elevated view out to sea, or inland into the Mirna Valley, cross the Mirna Viaduct. Completed in 2006, this engineering wonder forms part of the A9 main road known locally as the Ypsilon, the principal north-south artery of Istria. 1.4km in length, it is supported on 21 concrete pillars. You will have to pay the toll of 14 kuna per car for this pleasure, however. Alternatively view the structure from the road between Tar and Novigrad along the old pontoon bridge crossing the Luka Mirna at Antenal.
Etnografski Muzej Istre/Muzej Grada Pazina (Pazin's Ethnographic and Town Museums).
Both housed in the medieval castle there is an ethnographic collection representing traditional Istrian life as well as a display of archaeological finds from the area. (Tel. 052 622 220, open 1000-1800). By the way, Pazin's market takes place on the first Tuesday of the month.
Go to Hell!
More accurately, visit Pazin Castle, a 16th century structure standing on the remains of its 10th century predecessor. It overhangs a gorge into which the river Pazincica disappears, supposedly the inspiration for Dante's description of the Gateway to Hell in his Inferno as well as a major scene from Jules Verne's 1885 novel Mathias Sandorf.
Located close to the A9 Ypsilon motorway, between Brtonigla and Novigrad, Istralandia was the first waterpark to open in Istria. Built on an 80,000 square metre site overlooking the sea, it offers a number of different water slides, different pools, various sports activities and a number of eating outlets. A great day out for all the family. For further information, details of prices and opening hours, please visit www.istralandia.com
This village is the highest rural settlement in Istria, located at an elevation of 995 metres above sea level. It boasts typical rural architecture and has retained its long established tradition gained over the years for production of sheep’s milk cheese (look for U?karska sir - U?ka cheese – in any shop) however today only one family of sheep farmers remains. Take the Ypsilon E751/B8 towards Rijeka and take the turning just before you enter the U?ka Tunnel.
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