If you want to travel to a region in Croatia where you can discover several, very different, beautiful cities, I suggest that you visit the region of Istria. I visited a total of five cities during my stay: Pula, Porec, Tar Vabriga, Rovinj and Motovun.
My favorite city of them all is Rovinj. If you love old, romantic cities, then the old town is a treat. Picture a labyrinth of smooth marble cobblestone streets, beautiful venetian architecture, and restaurants and public swimming areas jutting out onto the sea. Not to mention walls dripping with flowers. Rovinj is by far one of the most beautiful cities that I have visited, and I am definitely coming back. I want to rent a house/apartment in the old town, overlooking the Rovinj Riviera.
Rovinj from the sea
Luxury bars and restaurants lead right to the water in Rovinj
Rovinj old town from the sea – we rented a boat to get a good view of the city
walls dripping with flowers
We lived quite close to an ancient Roman town called Poreč. The city is of historic significance, famous for its Byzantine Mosaics and The Euphrasian Basilica, which is a UNESCO heritage site. Being a family with kids that wanted to swim on the beach, we spent most of our time on an island called Sv. Nikola, which is a short 5 minute ride away from the city harbor by ferry. The island has been developed by a luxury resort chain called Valamar, which may not sound very appealing, but they have developed Sv. Nikola island in good taste. Because of this the island has great amenities like public outdoor showers, bathrooms, lounges and restaurants. You can choose from a variety of different beaches on the island. We always stayed on Sandy Beach – the perfect beach for young children. I made sure to arrive on the island early in order to rent a large luxury sunbed right on the beach, at the very edge of the water. I loved that I could watch James play in the water from my little cocoon while yachts drove by. Staying on the island isn’t cheap, but it made going to the beach with young children so much easier for us.
the ferry that leads to Sv. Nikola island from Poreč harbour
Sv. Nikola island
Have you ever visited a medieval town on top of a mountain before? I hadn’t. That is until I visited the village town of Motovun in Istria ,with a population of just 500. Famous for its truffles and beautiful countryside views, this tiny town overlooking vineyards is perfect for a day trip. We spent the day eating all types of foods topped with black truffles. White truffles weren’t in season, but I also ordered a dish made from frozen white truffles, just because. Having spent the day in Motovun, I would love to come back and live in one of the charming old hotels on the top of the little city. You know, just to pretend that I am in a beautiful movie. A great place if you like to relax, eat good food and breath fresh country air. Motovun is in my opinion the perfect town for foodies that want to learn more about delicacies like truffles, honey, olive oil and wine. Like me.
pasta topped with fresh black truffles
our two boys and the view from Motovun
We lived in a little municipality called Tar-Vabriga. John chose the area because it was close to all of the cities that we wanted to visit, and because of the house that we rented. I couldn’t be more pleased with his choice. The town also has a resort area which has been developed by Valamar, called Lanterna Beach, but we didn’t visit it once. We were happy enough to hang out in our gorgeous garden with olive trees, intoxicating lavender bushes and a pool to cool off in. The town had great local restaurants and a relaxed small-town atmosphere. The house was spacious, easily housing three families without feeling claustrophobic.
my fifteen year old brother
the garden, complete with olive trees and the intoxicating scent of lavender bushes
we loved coming home after long days exploring cities
the entrance of our house
On my last day in Istria we spent a day in the city of Pula, which has an airport. I didn’t fall in love with the city at first, but it slowly seduced me with its history. Pula was founded 3000 years ago. That fact takes my breath away. It has one of the most preserved amphitheaters in the world, and throughout the city you can find ancient roman architecture. We took a guided bus tour around the city, which definitely added to it’s allure. Did you know that my ultimate idol Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were hosted there by the president of Croatia at the time, that James Joyce lived in the town for a few years, oh and of course all of the ancient Roman history that is right in front of your very nose in Pula? Amazing.
My son, my brother and Pula Arena
How to get to Istria: fly to Pula airport, and rent a car for the duration of your stay. This way you can drive around and discover the whole region.