A foodie tour of Istria and the city of elegance

ISTRIA, Croatia: “The Mediterranean as it once was,” says the Croatian National Tourist Board motto, with respect for a sustainable tourism. As a passionate traveller I followed the local advice; concentrate on one region and what it has to offer. One week in Istria taught me that this region has built a new identity with a clear vision for the future. This area of Croatia its about old hill towns, Roman ruins, gourmet cuisine and vineyards.

Rovinj is the star attraction of Istria with certain elegance, not only a Venetian-style tourist destination but also the pro Fishers harbour. Meet up in the early morning when the armada of ships deliver the catch, followed by a horde of squawking seagulls. Prayers for the Fishers come out from the Church of St Euphemia with a 60 meters-high tower in the old town.

Scent and taste. From the hill town of Motovun I had wonderful views of the Mirna river valley, vineyards and the forest said to be the most truffle rich place in the world. Black truffle is on the menu all year, while white truffle is more unusual. If you wonder what is so special about these magic mushrooms, it comes down to two things; the scent and taste. I should also add the price – 2,500 Euros per kilo for white truffle.

Food Istria. Manestra is the most famous Istrian dish eaten with a spoon. I tasted this thick soup at restaurant Alla Beccaccia (beccaccia.hr) located at Valbandon between Pula to Fažana. The Croatian president was here for a lunch. Manestra soup is made of potato, beans corns and bones from Istrian prosciutto, the famous dried pork. Add fish, seafood and some olive oil of exceptional quality, and you will have a gastronomic holiday.

Meet the Artist. In beautiful Groznjan I met artist Marko Brajkovic in his studio filled with colourful expressive Paintings and Sculptures. Marko is engaged in today’s political situation in Greece and expressed this in one of his Paintings. Another one, which had attracted a lot of attention was of Lady Gaga and Friedrich Nietzsche and had been exhibited in New York. With great enthusiasm he served a very tasteful homemade Grappa made from Muscat and Grape. His wife Susanne sells it from a stall at the Market in Groznjan.

Lighthouse. With two apartments available for rent the lighthouse of Cape Savudrija is a special location to stay when visiting the area of Pula in Istria, and perfect for fans of water sports and diving. Here the sunset is fantastic. But you need boat transportation to get here and back to the mainland. The lighthouse has been in use since 1818.

Rovinj. Last stop was Rovinj. Viewed from the sea, the crumbling pastel facades of the old town have at least fifty shades of lights. Along the harbour front, there are cafés, bars and endless of restaurants with view to the fishing vessels and the islands. No wonder poets and painters have flocked to this city and 21 islands on the Adriatic.
At summer it is more tourist than poets. If you want to avoid the crowd stay at Hotel Istra on an island of its own for sea and sun, only 15 minutes boat ride from Rovinj. My first visit to this city is like a first jump into the warm sea. One more is most likely.

Make it Happen!

Touch Down: Fly direct to Pula with Lufthansa, Croatian Airlines, Austrian, Jet2.com, Norwegian, Ryanair, EasyJet, Scandinavian Airlines or Thomson. You’ll need a car to get around Istria.

Stay: For the best view, Hotel Kastel in Motovun has rooms from 100 euro. Hotel-kastel-motovun.hr The 4-star Hotel Istra has private beaches a boat ride from Rovinj. In Pula, the best choice is the Park Plaza Histria, rooms from 80 euro

Eat: In the town Momjan, Rino Taverna has the best meat. For fish gourmet, visit restaurant Marina in Novigrad. If you love seafood, Sidro Trattoria is the place, located at the seafront in Rovinj.

Play: Spend the night strolling Rovinj’s narrow streets, dipping into bars and watch the sunset over cocktails. Or go for truffle hunting in the Motovun forest with a hunter and his dogs – with luck you can dig up a black truffle.

Mini Guide: Don’t miss the Basilica of St Euphemia and the charm of the old town in Rovinj. Set aside a day for the city of Pula and visit the Roman Forum. The coastal resorts are busy in July and August. The months of May and June and September and October are ideal for sunny days and swimming in the sea, with excellent hotel offers but no crowds. Sailing holiday and water sports are two options.

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