Istria: more than a magical place overlooking the sea
The first time I visited Istria was to attend a social theater festival. About Istria I remember mostly people from all over the world and a magical place overlooking the sea where I relaxed on big rocks on the edge of an infinite blue. On my return to Istria, I had great expectations, but I still did not know that I would actually receive big surprises. First of all, having discovered a country not only made of sensational beaches but also of green, mountains, trekking and adventures. I did not expect to get upturned by colorful villages and flowered windowsills, to enjoy stunning sunsets and have fun with unknown local people or to taste mouth-watering dishes. On my last trip I discovered that there is not only one Istria, but that there are many and today I tell you three different Istria, which I had the pleasure of personally meet on my last trip in this wonderful part of Croatia.
Discovering the blue soul
There is an Istria known to most that overlooks a blue and turquoise sea made of wild rocks. This is the idea of Croatia that reaches everyone. And it’s beautiful definitely. This part of Istria is represented by the Premantura Natural Park and in particular by the Kamenjak Cape that occupies about thirty kilometers of coastline. A landscape surrounded by unspoiled nature composed of more than 500 species of plants and twenty species of orchids.
Then, there are the Brijuni Islands, a natural paradise in Croatia a few steps from the coast of Fazana. You can get there by ferry in less than twenty minutes. It is a place where you can breathe a strange peace and the memory of the presence of Titus, who here received the main heads of state, hovers everywhere. On the main island there are three large hotels, a safari (Tito loved animals and all the heads of state gifted him) and a museum. At the port of Fazana they sell the combined ferry tickets and visit the train of the main island, but I advise you to visit it by bike breathing deeply into its slow living.
Discovering the green view
There is an Istria that not everyone knows, it is green Istria, made of trekking up to 1400 meters and cycling routes. I tasted a piece thanks to the ascent to Učka (a mount) and the bicycle trip of almost thirty kilometers on the Parenzana.
Many people told me that real Istria is that of the interior and after a few minutes I realized that they were absolutely right: gentle hills as far as the eye can see, which reminded us of my favorite landscapes like those of Tuscany and Provence. Thanks to the Parenzana cycle path, born on the ashes of the old railway line built during the Fascist era, which connects Trieste to Poreč, I immersed myself in this green lung that houses all the villages to visit. Riding the bikes I traveled the route from Groznjan to Levade, about 25 km, practically all downhill between tunnels and forests.
Finally, if you are looking for a moment of real adrenaline, my advice is to try the Zip Line Pazinska Jama that will take you to fly over a green forest for more than half a kilometer.
Discovering the charming villages
There is an Istria made of small villages that look to the sea and others perched on rocky points as if to control the valley around them. There are villages populated by artists and others of murals. Villages to visit and discover all definitely.
I understood that I would have liked just as much as I saw it. In 2013, an artist from Paris decided to do something special: a street art festival that would give color and beauty to the country that gave birth to her mother. This is how the Boombarstick Project was born. Graffiti from all over the world have made 30 graffiti and once the project has started, the inhabitants have remained so enthusiastic that they were the first to ask the artists “Paint my house too!”. Do not miss the Eco Museum Istrian de Dignan which, in addition to giving a glimpse of the traditional life of the village, gives the possibility to book excellent tastings of wine, salami and homemade bread.
Novigrad is a small village on the sea with a lovely marina and installations of colored umbrellas just about everywhere.
Grožnjan is known as the city of artists from all over Istria and its history is beautiful. The second world war made it deserted therefore in the 60s the municipality decided to give the houses to the artists at low prices. Today it is full of art galleries, classical music comes out of the windows and the view of the valley leaves you breathless.
Fazana is a mix of white, pink and blue walls on every side. It is a village overlooking the sea and the beautiful Brijoni islands. I stayed here, a stone’s throw from the main square where the church bells played on Sunday mornings and where the city life revolves around it every day. Definitely gorgeous.
Arch of the Sergii
Pula was the only city in Istria that I already knew and this time I got to appreciate it even more. I was thrilled listening to the story of this part of Croatia and the Italian ethnic minority narrated by Erika, in the shadow of some stones inside its marvelous amphitheater which hosts great festivals in the summer and I was surprised in front of the chromatic arch combination of the Arch of the Sergii and the contiguous yellow ocher palace.
Rovinj is one of the most beautiful cities in Croatia and, although it is very visited, it has an unchanging charm. I suggest you this itinerary, to enjoy the city at its best. From the bus station, go down towards the sea, head towards the southern part of the promenade, go up to the Church of St. Euphemia and then go down the most commercial street (which usually everyone uses to climb), the Grisia Street.
Besides the sea, the nature and the characteristic villages, Istria is also much more. In fact, my trip to Istria was unforgettable and led me to discover a region that has so much to offer, much more than one might think.