Saturday, March 19, 2011

Istria - The Mediterranean as it Once Was

This is the first time that I am happily posting an article contributed by another of our senior agents whom just returned from Croatia where he traveled with his wife.  Over the past couple of years, I have seen a big surge in travel to Croatia and last year sent clients there for their honeymoon as well.  This is definitely an area that is worthy of note.

Istria is the westernmost part of Croatia, an arrowhead-shaped peninsula dipping into the Adriatic Sea directly east of Italy and Venice.  In fact, the history of the Istrian peninsula is closely tied to Italy; from the Roman Empire to today's vineyards and olive groves, Istria owes much to its sometimes stormy relationship with Italy.

Basilica of St. Euphemia Dominates the Rovinj Skyline

Today, Istria is a paradise of small towns and villages, many expanded during the Middle Ages on the ruins of Roman fortresses and villas.  After Rome completed the conquest of Istria in approximately 50 BC, it became a popular "vacation" destination, even then.  Many towns and villages owe their existence to the summer villas built by Roman "royalty".  Even today, Pula, Istria's largest city, contains the amazingly well preserved remains of the 6th largest arena (coliseum) ever built by the Romans which still plays host to concerts, plays and even an annual film festival.  Remains of the Roman gateway to the city as well as the paved Roman roads can still be seen today.

Remains of the Roman Arena - Pula

Another View of the Roman Arena - Pula

The true beauty and charm of Istria lies not in the cities, but in the many towns and villages that dot the coastline and hillsides of this picturesque and diverse region and in the warmth and generosity of her people.

Opatija, Istria, Croatia

Due to its proximity to western Europe, Istria is gaining in popularity as a tourist destination for many Europeans whom are looking to experience all the Mediterranean has to offer without the prices of Italy and France.

Rovinj with St. Euphemia in Background
Rovinj Looking West

Rugged, rocky coastlines and calm and serene beaches highlight access to what Jacques Cousteau called "the clearest water in the Mediterranean" thus providing some of the best sailing and diving experiences in the Adriatic Sea.  You can relax on one of the many beaches or by the pool of your 3 or 4-star hotel or rent a villa or townhouse for a week or two; go biking on the miles of roads through the rolling hills of the countryside or explore the Ucka National Forest.  You can even go searching for the mushrooms, truffles and asparagus that grow wild in the forests.  Explore the villages of Pazin and Buje in the interior; visit the churches and basilicas built from the 16th to the 18th centuries that seem to rise from the center of virtually every town and village and take note of the Venetian architectural influences.  Sample excellent Croatian wine from the hundreds of vineyards that grace the hillsides and be sure to taste the famous olive oil produced in the region.  But, most of all, you must enjoy the seafood!  It is fresh, varied and delicious and caught in the morning and on your plate in the evening; truly a gourmet's delight!

Rovinj Harbor at Dusk

If you are looking for a true Mediterranean and/or Tuscan experience without the crowds, commercialism and expense, then consideration should be given to this beautiful, diverse and grand region.  It has it all!

Article submitted by and all photos are courtesy of Dana Thompson

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