BY EMMA PARLONS
Istria – she said.
Where? – I asked.
And while the PR was explaining the magic of this extraordinary peninsula in the Adriatic ocean and explaining why we might want to photograph with our (Olympus) cameras, I was busy Google-imaging and nodding simultaneously.
Shared by Croatia, Slovenia and Italy during its long and troubled history, this region boasts beautiful scenery, pretty towns and some really warm and inviting inhabitants.
Our first stop was Motovun, a village in the hills in central Istria. We were spending the first of three nights in an eclectically-designed family-run hotel over looking the River Mirna. Roxanich Wine & Heritage Hotel is serious about its wine. Complete with its own vineyards, wine tasting tours and a totally indulgent and rather vibrant design, these 32 rooms and suites plunged us into an adventure of colour as well as great wine.
The next morning we headed into Motovun forest on the hunt for truffles. Quite literally. The Karlić family business dates back to 1966 when Grandfather Ivan first realised what lay just below the surface of his local area. His granddaughter educated us, fed us (the most unbelievable scrambled egg with truffle which I can still taste when I think about it) before her cousin took us down into the woods with the family’s truffle hunting four-legged friends.
Both the white and black truffles found locally here are considered the very best quality truffles in the whole of Istria. The dogs performed well, digging out 2 sizeable beauties during our walk and the whole process was quite thrilling to witness.
The second and third nights we stayed in a very pretty small town called Rovinj. Car-free and fully cobbled, these small picturesque streets were a photographer’s dream. Off-season and therefore beautifully peaceful, we wandered around, cameras in hand utterly delighted by all that we saw.
Our favourite restaurant was La Puntulina with its dramatic coast view overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Only serving local and fresh produce, the restaurant is run by two brothers with white table clothed tables set up just a few metres from the crashing waves.
Pula, as the largest city in Istria, was absolutely on our visit list. Known for its ancient Roman buildings, the most famous of which is an incredible amphitheatre – now an incredible arena for live music. Any tourists visiting this city should also stop by Istria’s Olive Oil Museum. Here we learnt of the region’s olive growing and production since the Middle Ages before proper secrets were shared as to how Istria’s extra virgin olive oil is created today and why it is indeed considered one of the best in the world.
Next stop had to be a beach. And we didn’t need to look far. Hawaiian Cove Beach, which is just outside Pula, is one of the most popular in the area. Clear blue-green water and the most charming little alcoves, we captured it all – while wishing we had time for a dip.
The last day was spent in the historic old town of Poreč. Here, in this out-of-season sleepy port-side town, we found the 6th-century Euphrasian Basilica, famous for its gem-studded Byzantine mosaics and a superb but traditional restaurant, Sveti Nikola, rustling up creative interpretations of Istrian classics.
Over three days of whistle-stop touring, we had seen a great deal of Istria. And we loved all of what we had seen, eaten and learnt. But one question remained…
I asked one of our tour guides: are you Croation or Istrian?
I’m Istrian – he replied – but I happen to live in Croatia. It’s complicated – he added – as Istria is a melting pot and once you’re Istrian, you don’t want to be anything else.
Thanks to Visit Istria for an amazing trip!