Can’t choose between Italy’s vast cultural heritage, world class food scene and picturesque village life on one hand and Croatia’s endless, emerald blue coastline and vibrant island life on the other? Combine both countries’ qualities and visit Istria, Croatia’s northwestern peninsula that is the country’s food and wine capital and once belonged to the influential Venetian republic.
Located in the armpit of the Adriatic Sea just south of the Alps, illustrious Istria is close to northeastern Italy, Slovenia and the gateway to Croatia’s endless coastline. After crossing the Alps Western Europeans will most likely drive past Istria on their way to southeastern Europe. Stop for a few days and use Rovinj as your base to explore the beautiful peninsula. Enjoy some beach time, taste seafood delicacies and hunt for beautiful handicrafts in the charming alleyways of Istria’s most captivating town. Or start your Croatian island hopping adventure here and make your way south to ferry hub Zadar without returning to the mainland.
After rushing through northern Italy on the lookout for good end-of-September weather and a place to relax for a few days before continuing my trek south Rovinj was exactly the right place for me. Despite being a well known touristic hotspot due to its picture postcard historic centre that sits on a small peninsula of itself I never had the feeling that it was overcrowded or unauthentical. Unlike Venice, Zadar, Split or Dubrovnik no big cruise ships visit the port of Rovinj, limiting the amount of tourists that arrive in this charming little town to the roadtrippers and a few unavoidable tour buses. Try to visit in September, when crowds thin and the weather is still warm and sunny.
Sunsets over the historic centre
As a photographer I like nothing more than to take my time to capture the perfect sunset. Choose a spot on the docks and watch the sun disappear behind the St. Euphemia’s bell tower on the hill in the middle of the tiny peninsula. Or walk along the dock to see fishermen bring in their daily catch while the sun sets in the background.
Visit the Old town
Get lost in the winding alleys of the old town and climb St. Euphemia’s bell tower for exquisite views over the town and nearby marina. Handicraft workshops, Airbnb accommodation, cocktailbars and a few excellent restaurants are within easy reach at all times.
Take your time to discover the local food scene, specialising in seafood and truffles. Istria might be one of the most affordable places in Europe to taste this rare delicacy!
Find a strategic sun-drenched terrace along the promenade around the marina, order that giant coupe dame Blanche or refreshing mojito you’ve been dreaming of for the past few days and experience the almost island-like life that characterises Rovinj.
People who are more into an active holiday can rent a bike and discover the surrounding villages and natural parks through one of the four marked cycling trails in the area. Apparently nearby Umag, Poreč and Pula are also quite worth discovering. Water-wise Rovinj offers a range of activities from scuba diving to kayak renting and SUP’ing. Or just hit one of the pebble beaches for those in need of some sun.
Not a typical resort culture
Most tourists you’ll meet here are either older couples that know how to enjoy good food, wine and the sunny weather, families that spend time in, on and around the water and couples looking for a romantic place to enjoy each other’s company. If your wallet allows you to stay in the centre of town you’ll be right in the middle of it all, including magnificent sea views and easy promenade access. Otherwise you’ll most likely stay in the newer part of town or a bit further away. I stayed at the Porton Biondi campsite a mere 20min walk from the old town. Nothing special except for easy beach access and accompanying bar, but it did the job.