What to see and do / A travel guide to Istria
ICONS, FRESCOES AND PRESERVED REMAINS OF SAINTS
Peroj, Sveta Foška, Vodnjan, Galižana
The blue line of the sea follows us on the left side, towards the west and northwest, while we take the bike trail towards Peroj, passing through the woods of campsite "Pineta". A sight worth visiting in Peroj is the Orthodox church of St. Spiridion, famous for its valuable icons, iconostasis from the 16th century. In this church Orthodox masses are celebrated. The remote ancestors of the locals of Peroj arrived here from Montenegro in 1645 rebuilding the town that had been earlier devastated by plague.
Heading towards the tourist village Barbariga – also famed for its ancient villae rusticae and workshops – there is a signpost indicating the way to the Romanesque church St. Foška. With its characteristic arches, the church offers a view of the surrounding macchia and the open sea in the distance. The frescoes in St. Foška’s Church date from the period between the 11th and 13th centuries. The scene of the Assumption dominates the interior: Christ, angels and apostles. This church attracts thousands of pilgrims who come here to pray since miracles of healing and recovery are said to take place.
|We continue along the unpaved road through the forest to the asphalt lane that, by turning right, takes us to Vodnjan and its 65-meter high bell tower, the tallest one in Istria. The streets and squares of Vodnjan are a collage of old town images. The collection of sacral art in the parish church of St. Blaise is one of the most famous collections on the Adriatic Coast. Especially interesting are the renowned Vodnjan mummies, saints whose bodies mysteriously failed to decompose, reliquaries, mass vestments, paintings and sculptures. The church also keeps the painting "Blessed Leon Bembo", a work by Paolo Veneziano from the 14th century.|
In the Beticca Palace is an ethnographic collection and collection of paintings from the period between the 16th and 18th centuries.
The road leads us to Galižana, town full of cultural monuments such as the church of St. Just, St. Anthony and St. Joseph, as well as the parish church of St. Roch from the 17th century. Passing through the woods, called "Ližnje more" by the locals, over Stancija Barbo, where you can taste the best varieties of Istrian wines at the wine cellar, once again the road takes us back along the seaside to Fažana.
A STROLL THROUGH THE 3000-YEAR-OLD CITY
Pula is about three thousand years old. It is a city with pre-ancient traces collected in the legend of the seafarers Argonauts who arrived here from the distant shores of the Black Sea carrying with them the stolen Golden Fleece. The people of Colchis, wearied by their pursuit and hopeless because of the unreturned Golden Fleece decided to found Pula.
|The greatest number of preserved monuments in Pula date from the Roman times, such as the magnificent Gate of Hercules, Temple of Augustus, Triumphal Arch of the Sergi (Golden Gate), Twin Gate... The most imposing monument – sixth by size, and by shape certainly the most beautiful in the world – is the Pula amphitheater, popularly called the Arena, dating from the 1st century BC. The Arena, which was once the site of gladiator fights, place where the first Christians were tortured, among them St. German, today is the venue for concerts and programs of the Pula Film Festival.|
With a population of just over sixty thousand, Pula is the largest city in Istria and one of the leading tourist centers in Croatia. Other interesting sights in Pula are the Archaeological Museum of Istria and the Historical Museum of Istria, Istrian National Theater, University and City Library, Naval Library, galleries and cultural institutions. Shipyard "Uljanik" is known worldwide, the imperial Shipyard and Arsenal were opened in 1856, whereas the first ship "Kaiser" was launched in 1858.
The Austro-Hungarian fortress Fort Verudella, one of the many fortifications preserved in the city and its surroundings, is an interesting sight because of the Pula Aquarium. It is a very special place to relax and explore the north Adriatic marine life.
CASTLE ON A CLIFF, DANCE OF DEATH, TRAIL OF THE GLAGOLITICS – GREEN ISTRIA, TRADITIONAL FOOD IN AGRITOURISM
Pazin, Beram, Roč – Hum
The administrative center of Istria County is Pazin, town above the abyss of the Pazinčica River, situated in the very heart of Istria. The cliff rises 130 meters above the abyss called "Pazin’s Pit" in which the river water descends into subterranean passages. High up on the cliff is the Castle of Pazin, the best-preserved castle of this kind in Istria. The Castle and Abyss are said to have inspired the famous writer Jules Verne – "father of science fiction" who set part of his novel "Mathias Sandorf" here, following the destinies of two conspirators, who were imprisoned in the Castle but managed to escape down the cliff and into Pazin’s Pit...
|Pazin is an ideal starting point for a number of interesting routes. The most interesting sight when visiting Beram is the small church of Our Lady on Škriljinah with the most famous frescoes in Croatia, a work by Vincent of Kastav from the end of the 15th century. The famous scene presenting the "Dance of Death" definitely stands out among other such scenes in the world by its suggestiveness and message.|
Along the winding trail from Roč to Hum are a number of stone monuments known as the Trail of the Glagolitics. The Glagolitic script is an old Slavic script with characteristically shaped signs, a cultural monument of the highest rank. After the turnoff at this road we arrive in the village Kotle, to discover the remains of old mills on the Mirna River and one-time farmhouses.
Throughout central Istria there are many typical Istrian inns, restaurants and taverns included in the agritourism project, wine trails and places where you can learn about the customs and traditions of county life. Along these "continental itineraries" you can sense hospitality everywhere: with frescoes, Glagolitic graffiti, vernacular architecture and the unforgettable Istrian specialties and typical taverns.
MAGICAL TOWN OF ST. EUPHEMIA, ISTRIAN “FJORD” AND MEMORIES OF STONE
Rovinj, Limski kanal and Dvigrad
|Rovinj, the town whose beauty dominates above the sea, is surely one of the most famous "nests of stone" in the Adriatic. It is also referred to as the town of St. Euphemia, saint and martyr, whose body appeared on the Rovinj shores in 800. Today it is kept in a stone sarcophagus in the parish church of SS. George and Euphemia, whereas the church bell tower is topped by a bronze statue of St. Euphemia. Until 1763 the historic core was an islet, which was then connected to the mainland. Rovinj has a very long fishing tradition, so it has the Museum of "batane" boats, dedicated to the traditional and characteristic flat-bottomed square-sterned fishing boats.|
The Town Museum, Franciscan Monastery Museum, Tobacco Factory Museum and Adris Gallery, "Gandusio" Theater, art studios... are all attractive sights in the town, which is already a museum of its own.
The nearby Lim Channel is often called a "fjord" because it resembles Scandinavian fjords cut deeply inland. The surrounding lush vegetation is reflected in the water that is known for its oyster and mussel beds. The Large and Small St. Romualdo’s Caves were for three years the home of this hermit who found here an ideal place for mental concentration and meditation.
|The road towards central Istria takes us to the remains of Dvigrad, medieval castle and tower in the vicinity of Kanfanar. Due to frequent epidemics of plague the town was completely abandoned. Each year on the feast of St. Jacob, popularly called "Jakovlja" Kanfanar is the venue of the attractive traditional fair of Istrian oxen "boškarini".||d|
FAMOUS MOSAICS, UNDERGROUND SECRETS, ISTRIAN OXEN "BOŠKARINI"
Poreč, Jama Baredine, Višnjan
|Just like it was in the past, today Poreč is the see of the Poreč-Pula diocese. It has one of the oldest Bishop’s Palaces in the world, which houses the Diocesan museum of sacral art. However, one of the most famous religious structures in Croatia and the entire Adriatic is the magnificent Basilica of Euphrasius, called Euphrasiana. Its mosaics from the 6th century have inspired generations and generations over the centuries with their striking beauty of motifs and splendid harmony.|
The Regional Museum, Our Lady of Angels Church, Romanesque House, Zuccato Palace, Town Hall... are all sights worth visiting.
|Višnjan, a small town near Poreč was first mentioned in 1203. The main altar in the parish church features an altar painting presenting SS. Cyricus and Julitta, a work by Zorzi Ventura dating from the 17th century. An especially harmonious church is St. Anthony the Abbot from the 15th century. Višnjan is famous for its astronomical observatory, constant discoveries of asteroids and other similar activities. Višnjan also has a genetic farm of the autochthonous Istrian ox, the popular "boškarin" whose strength and span of horns have become a legend.|
If you want to discover the magical world of stalactites and stalagmites, be sure to visit the 132-meter-deep Baredine Cave where among other things you can test your abilities in rope climbing.
THE TOWN OF VELI JOŽE, MUSICAL YOUTH – TASTES OF TRUFFLES AND ISTRIAN WINE
Motovun forest, Motovun, Grožnjan
From the hilltops offering a magnificent view of the highest Istrian mountain, Mt. Učka (1396 m), we can see the surrounding hills and valleys, towns perched on hills and very often even the glare of the sea from the east and west coasts of Istria.
|The town of Motovun, set amidst vineyards and forests is surely one of the most captivating sights of central Istria.
With its crenellated tower-belfry, old town walls and rooftops it is part of a legend about a giant from the story written
by the well-known Croatian writer Vladimir Nazor, the hero Veli Jože who defends the rights of the oppressed. In summer Motovun
is the venue of the "Motovun
Motovun forest is also part of the mentioned story, but many natural beauties as well. This region is especially known for the subterranean tuberous mushrooms, and the key to a successful truffle hunt are Istrian truffle-hunting dogs known as truffle-trackers. Truffles are a true delicacy in the gastronomic offer of Istria. During the traditional event "Truffle Days" the largest and most impressive truffle is chosen in the village Livade. There is also a truffle-hunting demonstration organized for visitors.
Heading from Livade along hairpin bends that offer a breathtaking view of the surroundings we arrive in the old town Oprtalj, and then further on to Grožnjan, the town of music and the International Cultural Center of Jeunesses Musicales Croatia. This entire area is famous for its fine wines, wine trails and gastronomic offer of agritourism, inns and taverns.
CHIVALROUS COMPETITION, THE NEWEST TOWN IN ISTRIA, ART REPUBLIC
Barban, Raša, Art Republic
Surely, everyone is interested in seeing a chivalrous competition where horse riders in full gallop aim and try to hit a metal ring with a lance. This traditional competition is held in Barban every year in August, accompanied with various events that attract a large number of people of Istria, as well as many tourists. Barban’s "tilting at the ring" was first mentioned in 1696 and was revived again in 1976 and since then has been held each year.
From Barban the winding road takes us down to the Mirna River valley and then to Raša, town that because of its rich coal mines was built in 1936/37 in the "Novecento" architectural style inspired by the Roman imperatorial style. The town of miners is a collection of interesting architectural sights. The church of St. Barbara, the patron saint of miners, was built in the shape of a turned over coal wagon, whereas its bell tower resembles a miner’s lamp.
|Labin proudly stands above Kvarner Bay and its clear waters. From the Venetian period until the end of the 20th century
this area was famous for the exploitation of pit coal, which can be seen in the National museum and a miniature coalmine.
Labin is especially attractive owing to its conglomeration of squares and narrow streets, with interesting sights such as the Parish Church of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Lazzarini-Battiala Palace (museum), Scampicchio Palace, Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Collection of sacral art), Franković Palace that houses the memorial museum of Matthias Flacius Illyricus, the Labin-born theologian and writer, Gate of St. Flor... Along the lovely promenade with a splendid view of Kvarner and Velebit, we arrive to Fortica belvedere. In summer, this is a town of numerous artists who take part in multimedia events of the Labin Art Republic.
Heading by road towards Pićan, the one-time see that today has a Collection of sacral art, and Gračišće, inviting us for a hiking tour along the St. Simeon trail, we come to the end of the eighth day of the recommended excursion itineraries.