Idyllic Istria: More Than Just Olive Oil
With a name like Olive Tree Escapes, we can’t help but cheer for Istria. For the fifth year in a row, Istria has been declared the world’s top olive oil region. Flos Olei, considered the “bible of olive oil,” lists 77 extra virgin oils from Istria in its 2020 guide. No small feat since only two olive oil producers in all of Croatia made the list back in 2005! Exceptional olive oil aside, Istria boasts many other worthy attractions. Let’s take a look!
Blue Istria VS. Green Istria
Istria (Istra to Croats) is a teardrop-shaped peninsula in Croatia’s northwest corner. The region divides neatly into two: the coast (Blue Istria), and the rustic hilltop villages inland (Green Istria). Istria’s easy-going lifestyle is defined by fine restaurants and a culture heavily influenced by neighboring Italy.
Poreč for Culture
Blue Istria’s major historic landmark is the extraordinary Euphrasian Basilica complex. Glittering 6th century mosaics adorn this UNESCO World Heritage site. Poreč’s Old Town is like an open-air museum. Its narrow streets are lined with Roman temples, Gothic palaces, tall towers, and fortification walls.
Rovinj for Romance
Twenty miles further south you reach Rovinj, Istria’s most beautiful coastal town. Wander the cobblestone alleys to admire the Venetian-style houses. There’s even a hilltop bell tower modeled after St Mark’s in Venice! Part of Rovinj’s charm is that it’s still an active fishing port. You’ll see fishermen haul in their morning catch and get to feast on the results at dinnertime!
Motovun for Truffles & Wine
The most atmospheric town in Green Istria’s interior is Motovun. Reminders of its former Venetian rulers are everywhere. The telltale lion motifs are found carved on the town gates and the palace facades. Walking the town’s walls is a visual treat in and of itself. You can see the vineyards home to fine Teran and Malvasija wine, as well as the forests that shelter prized white and black truffles.
Grožnjan for Music & Art
Perched on a hill above the Mirna river valley, sits Grožnjan. A 14th-century Venetian fortress reborn as the most important arts colony in Istria. The village was nearly abandoned until 1965. That’s when the first painters and sculptors moved into its crumbling stone buildings and began restoring them.
A few years later, the International Cultural Centre of Jeunesses Musicales set up a summer training program for musicians in Grožnjan. Nightly, from July to early September, the students give free open-air concerts. Yes, you could indeed say that the hills are alive with the sound of music.
And fuži pasta everywhere!
One last word to whet your appetite for a trip to Istria? It’s fuži, fun to say and even better to eat. This traditional Istrian egg pasta is hand-rolled around a stick. It’s served al dente and topped with a variety of sauces, the so-called šug. Delicious and oh-so-authentic!
Which side of Istria would you want to visit? Let us know in the comments below. By the way, there is no wrong answer, both is perfectly acceptable too!