ISTRIA

 

<----   See the map of Istria

 

 

The culture of Istria, the largest peninsula on the Adriatic coast, reflects the

historical heritage of many small towns and a mixture of various cultural

traditions. It shows a strong interaction of land and sea cultures, which is

evidenced by the appearance of towns, by folk customs, and even by

gastronomy.

 

On the northwestern coast of Istria, where the forest comes closest to the sea,

is Savurdija, an old fishing village. According to legend, the Venetian fleet

defeated the united fleet of Friedrich Barbarossa and Pope Alexander III off the

coast of Savudrija in the 12th century. A well-preserved and still operational

19th century lighthouse, at one time the tallest in the Adriatic, is located in the

area. By the end of the 19th century, the tourist trade began to develop in

Savudrija. The first resorts were built at that time, attracting European tourists

with an exceptionally peaceful and gentle coastal landscape.

 

Down the coast to the south is the ancient town of Umag. A nearby area of

hotels and apartment complexes is already several times bigger than the old

town. For a decade now, Umag has been home to the Croatia Open ATP tennis

tournament.

 

A pleasant ride south on the coastal road is the town of Novigrad. It is located

on the northern side of the Mirna river bay. The town originated in classical

antiquity, and some of its lively history is suggested by the range of

architectural styles characterizing its churches and other buildings. Novigrad has

a long tourist tradition, which began at the end of the 19th century. Along with

swimming in the traditionally clean sea, there are many interesting things to do:

hunting in the Mirna river valley, canoeing on the river, or going to a jazz

concert during an annual festival.

 

Further down the coast is Porec, probably the Istrian town richest with

historical monuments. The old plan of Roman streets is still preserved in the

town centre. The Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasius Basilica from the 6th

century, with beautiful mosaics from the period of emperor Justinian, is on the

UNESCO World Heritage List. Porec also boasts several well-preserved

Romanesque and Gothic residential buildings. The town is surrounded by

beaches, and there are beaches also on the island of Sveti Nikola (St. Nicholas),

located opposite the town centre. In and around Porec, pine forests extend

almost to the very beaches. Tourism has a very long tradition in Porec, and the

town already had a tourist guidebook in 1845.

 

Not far from Porec is Rovinj, a town sitting on a well-indented stretch of

coast, lined by numerous small islands. Because of the beauty of the town and

its surroundings, sanatoriums and health resorts sprung up in the 19th century,

before the era of modern tourism. Built on a small island, the town was

mentioned already in the 7th century. Later, the island was connected to the

mainland. It was once fortified with double walls that were later removed or

incorporated into buildings. The cathedral of Sv. Eufemija (St. Euphemia)

dominates the town with the sixty-meter bell tower on top of which is a statue

of the town patroness.

 

The more populous towns in the interior of Istria are Buzet, Pazin, Motovun,

Zminj, and Buje.

Located at the foot of Mount Cicarija, Buzet has existed since Roman times.

The whole area around the town is very picturesque, offering an abundance of

good food and excellent wines.

 

Pazin is the biggest town in central Istria. The old part of town lies above a

chasm more than a hundred meters deep, into which the river Pazincica falls.

In the season of heavy rains, water in the canyon part of the chasm forms a lake

up to three kilometres long. Jules Verne first mentioned this phenomenon, in

the novel Mathias Sandors from 1885. The story of the novel is set in Pazin, and

involves a famous cave connected with the Limski Channel by a secret

underground passage. Of course, that is only true in the novel.

 

Motovun is one of the most picturesque Istrian towns, sitting atop a hill in the

idyllic Mirna River valley. Not far from the town is Motovun Forest, where one

can go looking for truffles, a local gastronomic delicacy.

 

The town of Buje dates back to Roman times; today it is the centre of an

agricultural region in viniculture. The wine roads of Bujstina, which connect

local wine cellars and restaurants that offer good traditional fare, are

well-known among people who appreciate good food and wine. 

 

 

Seven kilometres to the north is Momjan, a small town on Sveti Mauro hill,

from which a beautiful view opens on almost all of Istria-one can see as far as

the sea near Umag and the peaks of Ucka Mountain.