Following an exciting few days and a proposal later in Slovenia, we embarked on our long bus journey to Istra as a newly engaged couple ready for some Croatian sun and Vitamin SEA. After a pit stop in Trieste, Italy, we arrived at sunset in what seemed was still Italy, the charming town of Rovinj, Croatia. Istria or Istra is a heart-shaped peninsula nestled in the northwestern corner of Croatia on the coast of crystal blue Adriatic Sea. Because of its proximity to Italy, the two towns we visited, Rovinj and Pula embodied the spirit of Italy. Rovinj, with its delicious Italian inspired food, wine and Tuscan like structures and Pula, with its very own amphitheater.
Rovinj ~ Little Venice on a hill
Rovinj is a town city planning dreams are made of. It is one of the most beautiful coastal towns we have visited thus far. From the dazzling narrow cobblestone streets lined with stunning pastel facades, Juliet balconies, decorative window shutters and clothes dangling from laundry lines to the rhythm of the lively commotion down below. You can find restaurants hidden away in small alleyways and courtyards all while being surrounded by clear blue water as Rovinj is on a little peninsula off a slightly larger peninsula of Istra. What is known as the most Italian town in Croatia’s most Italian region, Rovinj is full of charm, history and hands down #1 contender for the most romantic place to catch a sunset. As a pedestrian, if you want to be completely bewildered at the changing scenery every 5 seconds, then this is the place.
During our 3-day stay, a Salsa Dance convention was in town, so at night, the streets were filled with live music and dancing. Our days were filled with long leisurely walks, sun bathing on the rocks, eating loads of ice cream and produce from the local farmer’s market (see below), several coffee breaks a day along one of the beachside cafes, evening sunsets and a rather petrifying climb to the top of the bell tower at the forewarning of our apartment host. See below for description – the jello legs were so worth the climb to the top!
What we took away from this picturesque town was not only its beauty, but the culture and ambiance as well. Hour long coffee breaks are not only encouraged but obligatory and you don’t have to consume numerous alcoholic beverages to have a good night. We saw a number of young couples wearing their weekend best sipping on coca-colas at one of the beach side clubs at sunset choosing to instead focus on the beautiful environment and each other.
Day Tripping to Pula
Following our stay in Rovinj, we made a stop in Istria’s biggest city, Pula before heading south to Split, Croatia. The much larger and industrial city of Pula was quite the contrary of Rovinj but a splendid surprise full of ancient history. There are a number of Roman ruins, including an amphitheater – a fully intact mini-Colosseum which hosts number of movie festivals, concerts and events – our only regret was not having reserved a day to attend one of these events during sunset.
Walking through the amfiteater on this hot summer day, with birds flying above us, it was quite remarkable to take in the rich history of this ancient structure and the events that took place in that same spot some years ago. The amphitheater’s “entertainers” were gladiators but nowdays one can catch world’s top music performers such as Sting taking to the stage instead surrounded by 5,000 cheering fans.
Fun fact: the 1999 movie Titus was filmed here.