Istria – the undiscovered Croatian gem

By Kathryn Quinn

Many holiday plans start with an argument: She wants to lie idly by the pool and bake in the sun, he wants to do something more active – even if it is only sampling the local beer.

Istria, a little known region by the Adriatic Sea, is the perfect solution to this problem.

Located in North of Croatia, bordering Italy and Slovenia, it is easily accessible by car in only a few hours from anywhere in Central Europe. And luckily it has not been gripped by the epidemic called mass tourism.

The area really has it all: A long coast line with picturesque little towns, in-numerous bike and hiking trails through forests and across hills, a millennia-old history with fascinating remnants of ancient times and a fantastic culinary offer to pamper your palate.

Istria’s rich history saw many different rulers bring in their own culture, resulting in a unique blend that seems refreshingly wholesome. The city of Pula on the peninsula’s Southern tip is the perfect example: The Romans built arguably one of their most beautiful amphitheatres here, the Austro-Hungarian Empire used it as the main naval base for its fleet. Add Italian and Slavian influences and you will find an exciting little city that has so much to offer in terms of culture and architecture.

Another lovely place is Rovinj, a little bit North of Pula. A large number of restaurants and bars directly by the coast offer a Mediterranean atmosphere that can usually only be found on picture postcards.

Close to the centre, yet truly secluded, is the four star hotel Eden. Overlooking a cove, guests have direct access to the sea besides two large outdoor pools. Hotel Eden offers the latest spa facilities and wonderful massages for little money, and of course excellent local food.

But the best bit is probably the beautiful pool area and garden: A lush meadow and numerous large pine trees will cool you down even on the hottest of days, setting the hotel clearly apart from most places by the Adriatic sea. It is impossible, not to relax in such an environment.

If large hotels are not really what you are looking for then you should stay at the Casa Romantica La Parenzana in Buje. It is a lovely family-run B&B about 10 kilometres from the coast and the perfect place if you want to recharge your batteries in peace and quiet.

Located along the now defunct Parenzana railway that connected Italian Trieste with Porec at the beginning of the 20th century, it is an insider’s tip for bicycle and hiking enthusiasts – and for gourmets!

Guests from all over the Europe enjoy the highly personal service and friendliness of the staff that make you feel as if you are visiting some old friends and not a hotel. Numerous biking and hiking trails allow for daily trips through the astonishing Istrian countryside.

And in the evening the Casa Romantica’s own restaurant pampers hungry holidaymakers with the finest dishes of the local cuisine. Depending on the season, mushrooms, asparagus and truffles are available, and meat is grilled on an open fireplace.

Everything is made lovingly by hand – even the pasta! – and the food comes exclusively from producers in the area. That includes of course a number of excellent Istrian wines like Malvazija and olive oil of the highest quality.

And if you want to learn a little bit more about the region, owner Guido Schwengersbauer will happily answer all your questions – he indeed is a walking encyclopaedia for all things Istrian.

He also organises tours to visit local wine growers, olive oil makers and to enjoy even more of the fantastic local food. It is impossible to not have a good time here if you want something different from your run-of-the-mill summer holidays and really want to getaway from it all.

Istria is waiting to be explored – and it is well worth exploring!

For more information:-

Casa La Parenzana
00385 (0)52 725 100

Hotel Eden
00385 52 800 250