If You Like Tuscany, You’ll Love Istria
ABOVE: Rovinj’s charming waterfront
We’ve all seen Under the Tuscan Sun and heard tales of Tuscany’s singular elegance: warm breezes off the Mediterranean, a smattering of Cyprus trees, a soft sunlight that caresses, vineyards for days. And sure- it’s absolutely amazing.
But right across the warm, crystalline waters of the Adriatic Sea lies the Istrian Peninsula. Currently a part of Croatia, Istria was settled long before it changed hands so many times during the 20th Century, initially by the Greeks, who were feared by the Romans due to their reputation as a fierce pirating community. Notoriously difficult to defeat in battle, the Istrian people eventually succumbed to the Romans, the Venetians, Austrians, French, Austrians again, Italians, Yugoslavians… finally establishing themselves once again as a part of Croatia following civil war in the 1990’s.
Without the throngs of tourists, as in Tuscany, Istria brims with local life. In Pula (its old town center’s Roman Gates at the entrance, pictured left), lively shops line the Roman streets, and ancient temples share piazzas with local artisans. You’ll find bustling alleyways and smiling locals, hawking their wares in small stands and charming shops. In the town center stands a Roman amphitheater, an impressive stone reminder of days past. Marshall Tito was so inspired by the coliseum and the town that he spent half of the year just off the coast on the island of Brioni.
After Pula, if traveling with Adriatic Luxury Journeys, you can travel up the coast in our comfortable minivan through rolling hills to Rovinj (its charming city streets, pictured left), an ancient sea-faring town. Surrounded by water, the (now) peninsula was created when the original canal separating the small island from land was filled in and covered in smooth stone walkways, typical for the region. At the top of the town sits Saint Eufemia, a Catholic church purported to contain the remains of Eufemia, an early Christian martyr, whose lifeless body was thrown to sea and washed up on the shores of Rovinj in quite the miraculous manner. As her sarcophagus floated ashore, her body and coffin were taken to the top of the hill and a church was built as a pilgrimage site, and St. Eufemia is believed to watch over the town to this day.
Up the coast a bit more lies Porec, another in a line of seaside towns. Bombed out in WWII, much of the city’s interior has taken on the form of public squares where houses once stood. Near Porec, however, is Motovun (pictured left), a town so familiarly Tuscan-looking and fairy-tale like that if one didn’t know where one was, one would swear they were in Tuscany. Sitting atop a substantial hill and surrounded by protective walls, the town is host to a film festival every year, and locals take in the views and the wine in equal measure. The orange roofs and stone facades are an enchanting reminder of our proximity to Italy, and of a rich Italian heritage in the region.
From the undulating hills and Tuscan villages to translucent Adriatic waters, Istria provides an ample bounty rich in history and heritage.
Explore some of our recommended private-guided itineraries through Istria and the surrounding lands here.
Or create your own tailor-made journey through Istria by clicking here.