Posted by: viewfromtheriva | November 20, 2013

Our Istrian adventure begins with Rovinj


The most photographed view of Rovinj is probably from this parking lot which shows the Old Town's gorgeous facade, reminiscent of Venice, crowned with a majestic belfry

The most photographed view of Rovinj is probably from the parking lot which shows the Old Town’s gorgeous facade, reminiscent of Venice, crowned with a majestic belltower

My birthday was yesterday–no I am not telling you which one, but it was a monumental double digit doozie that still makes me wonder.  After all, I still have all my wisdom teeth, so how can I possibly be xx?!!

As a present, Natasha took me to Istria!  A real adventure, Istria is a good 450km from Split, but with excellent highways, it only took a bit more than 4 hours.  We stopped every now and then of course, and I will admit, that despite the terrific scenery along our route, when we both saw a McDonald’s in Rijeka we looked at each other and grinned liked idiots.   I zoomed into the parking lot like some desperate outlaw gunning for his first decent meal after years in jail, and there we sat in Mickey D’s  outdoor patio overlooking the city and sea enjoying a Happy Meal and a Big Mac.

“So, what was your first meal in Istria?  A truffle omelet?”

Ummm, no, we decided on the beef….

Ten years ago I spent two days in Istria while on vacation.  I remember Pula the most,  a coastal city whose claim to fame is having the 6th largest Roman amphitheatre in the world (and the fact the Elton John and other luminaries hold concerts there every year!) but this was my first visit to the interior.

Wow, what an eye-opening experience!  Unlike Dalmatia, the zagora villages behind Split, Zagreb, Varazdin, etc. Istria really does feel like another country.  (It actually was part of Italy until after WW2 and still retains a lot of its Italian patina…not only are a lot of signs in Italian, but coastal cities like Rovinj are just an hour from Trieste and two by catamaran to Venice!)

Part of Rovinj's gorgeous waterfront

Part of Rovinj’s gorgeous waterfront

The physical beauty of Istria is just stunning.  Endless soaring hills, deep valleys and local roads that twist and turn,  surrounded by hectares and hectares of lush terraced farms and vineyards all framed by dense forest.

Outside Buzet, the road is just one lane wide  (yes, either pull over and let someone pass or wind up as modern art in someone’s field)!

Driving high up in such dreamy hills, each new valley revealed its own gorgeous checkerboard of beautiful olive groves, small farms and vineyards. With the sun streaming through rose-colored and golden forest leaves, even simple, freshly-plowed rich brown earth fields looked amazing.

Just as we oohed and aahed over another fabulous overlook, there was Buzet’s medieval stari grad, perched way up on its own walled kremlin, looking down on the town it has protected for centuries.

Buzet, "the truffle capital of the world".  Overlooking the city is a walled "stari grad" (old town) dating back 500 years)

Buzet, “the truffle capital of the world”. Overlooking the city is a walled “stari grad” (old town) dating back 500 years)

How different than Split!  Living in coastal Dalmatia, the predominate physical presence here is the sea and an almost unbroken necklace of charming, decidedly urban towns and villages all the way from Zadar to Dubrovnik.  What’s familiar here is blue shutters, stone houses, red tiled roofs and the fjaca way of life (sort of Mexican manana meets laid back Seattle).

Istria looks and feels like what it’s all about–people working with nature; plowing, growing, bountiful earth, lakes and rivers, deep forests….a place where each season makes itself known by what’s happening in the fields as well as what’s on the table.

Rovinj's waterfront winds around a long Riva and includes working boats as well as pleasure craft and excursion boats

Rovinj’s waterfront winds around a long Riva and includes working boats as well as pleasure craft and excursion vessels

The missus rented a terrific Air BnB apartment in Rovinj, so we based ourselves there.  The next day (and my next blog) we took the 45 minute drive to Buzet for some truffle hunting, followed by touring around Pazin and Motuvun, other central hill towns in Istria.

Rovinj's old town is a watten of alleys winding their way up to the cathedral.

Rovinj’s old town is a warren of alleys that wind their way up to the cathedral.

I have seen many photos of Rovinj but had never been here.  The picture postcard view of the old town from the waterfront parking lot was even better than the photos!  The highest point of the old Venetian town is the 60 meter high 1654 belltower of St. Euphemia’s Basilica, which can be seen for kilometers around.

St. Euphemia's Baslica with its1654 belltower

St. Euphemia’s Baslica with its  1654 belltower

The stone alleys leading to the cathedral were just beautiful. Around every corner there was some new surprise, like this jewel:

picture pefect RovinjJust because you don’t have a yard doesn’t mean you can take a tiny piece of the street and make it your own!  As we walked up, around, through, and back down to the waterfront, we stopped probably 20 times just to take it all in….a nun trying to fit a trio of brooms on her bike and then pedaling down the alley….a young mom hanging out the wash (viewfromtheriva blog readers know how much I like laundry, so of course, I couldn’t resist this shot:

Rovinj laundryWhat a wonderful day hanging out in Rovinj…….next up, our truffle hunt with Ivan Karlic, a third generation truffle hunter whose family business in Paladini is thriving thanks to the elusive white truffle, now fetching 1,200E per kilo!

The Venetian Gate to old town Rovinj.  Notice the famous Lion of Venice at the top which you will still see in many Croatian cities and towns like Trogir, Sibenik, Split.

The Venetian Gate to old town Rovinj. Notice the famous Lion of Venice at the top which you will still see in many Croatian cities and towns like Trogir, Sibenik, Split.

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Responses

  1. Ohhhh ain’t it grand? Enjoy.


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