By: Irena Blažić and Tina Vinković
Istria is a land of myth and magic, of glistening blue sea, vast green fields, and dark red earth. It is a triangle-shaped peninsula at the north-western end of Croatia that sticks out just far enough into the Adriatic to catch the seductive Mediterranean climate. Most of Istria's pine and rosemary-scented coastal landscape is lined with golden beaches and busy marinas framed by Venetian style towns. Istria is full of people with passion for the land and sea, with easy going mood, tolerance for diversity and big love for local food and wine. Istrian cuisine can be described as cuisine which is based on nature-like aromatic spices, wild growing plants, vegetables and seafood. Among traditional Istrian dishes we can find soup called Mineštra, Istrian dry ham - Pršut, various types of cheese, sausages and pasta, delicious truffles and a lot more. Istrian food is served in typical taverns called "Agroturizam".
To find more information: http://www.istria-gourmet.com/
On the web side listed below we offer some suggestions for short or long trips that will enrich your vacations in Villa Paolija: https:/maps.google.com
UPPER COAST OF ISTRA
Few km from Novigrad you can visit protected geomorphologic natural monument cave BAREDINE. The cave has breathtaking chambers filled with stalactites and stalagmites. Entry fees cover the services of a guide, who takes you on a 40-minute tour of the underground halls and galleries, and who tells you all about the caves' flora, fauna and minerals.
More on: http://www.istra.com/baredine/
Town POREC is known for its mass tourism with numerous hotels, restaurants and evening entertainment. Surrounding area can offer a seamless blend of medieval heritage, a well-oiled service industry and vineyard fields. Poreć is listed as UNESCO World Heritage, due to the Basilica complex - collection from early Christian and early Byzantine architecture. Situated in the center, the basilica is the last of four churches that were built between the 4th and 6th century. Interesting website:http://www.to-porec.com/
The medieval picturesqueness can bring us to nearby town of SVETI LOVREC, VIZINADA and VISNJAN.
One of the most photographed cities in Croatia is ROVINJ. Central Rovinj was an island once and was separated from the mainland until the 18th century. Today, Rovinj's Old Town is a protected monument. Most of the roads lead to the town's highest point, where there is St. Euphemia Church, the tallest church in Istria. The town has strong "Mediterranean personality" with its numerous restaurants, galleries and quaint shops, all of them placed in narrow streets.
More information: http://www.istra.hr/en/regions-and-towns/town-and-cities/ltz-rovinj
On the way to Rovinj, we advise you to visit DVIGRAD. These are the ruins of a medieval town of Lim dated from the 8th century. Next to town there is the Lim bay which is 10 km long and offers fresh seafood dishes (oysters and mussels).
The largest town on the Istrian peninsula is PULA. Pula offers rich itinerary of its three thousand year-old history, where each step is a landmark, and which begins and ends with the Roman amphitheater. During sightseeing through Pula you will come across numerous monuments: from Triumphal Arch from the 1st century B.C., to Small Roman Theater in the city center. Pula offers 190 km of indented coastline and crystal-clear sea.
Interesting website: http://www.pulainfo.hr/
When you are in Pula, you should definitely visit Kamenjak. It is one of the last oases of the coastal region that has preserved its original appearance with the perfect spots for sunbathing and swimming. There is a possibility of walking or cycling around Kamenjak. With help of marked trails you can discover the beauty of the peninsula, which provides several options of summer sports, from diving to windsurfing. August is quite hot and shade is very hard to find, so be well equipped with umbrellas and water. Worth mentioning is also the Safari bar near Kamenjak's southern tip, which looks like a beach cabin made from rushes, driftwood and sticks of bamboo.
Check out video: http://www.360cities.net/image/istria-cape-kamenjak-safari-bar#163.82,4.48,70.0.
BRIJUNI ISLANDS lie on the southwest coast of Istria in the area of Pula, and were once a meeting place of the European and world jet set. As the only national park in Istria, Brijuni with its 14 islands cover an area of 736 square hectares. The islands represent a play of nature that brings together remarkable animal species. Unique area gives a chance to enjoy the simple and often forgotten charms of nature – clean air, crystal-clear sea, and untouched Mediterranean vegetation. In Brijuni, there is also one of the largest golf courses in Europe.
UPPER BUJŠTINA REGION
Central Istria has beautiful unspoiled landscapes with gorgeous medieval towns like GROŽNJAN. Every year at the beginning of May, the little streets and squares of Grožnjan turn into a truly artistic atmosphere. In that time, Grožnjan opens its summer music academies with dance and drama workshops. During those summer months, Grožnjan becomes one big stage on which there is an interchanging of the sounds of jazz and a classical music. Town offers more the twenty galleries with Croatian and Slovenian pieces of art, from paintings and photography, to jewelry and unique souvenirs.
In the Valley of Mirna River lies MOTOVUN which is placed on the hill, and is known for best truffles in the world. Motovun is the perfect venue for a large number of events. The most significant is International Motovun Film Festival that takes place at the end of July when world-known film artists may be seen. Forest which stretches along the Mirna River valley is full of truffles, the underground aromatic fungus believed to be an aphrodisiac. Opposite from Motovun stands charming little town Livade, famous for the "Days of Truffles" with a contest of choosing the largest truffle. The contest is held every year from September to November.
Interesting website: http://www.tz-motovun.hr
In the surroundings of Motovun there is also a thermal spa complex with curative water, known as ISTARSKE TOPLICE. The Istrian thermal resort is settled in the untouched nature outside the city where greenery, quietness and peacefulness offer a particular atmosphere for a perfect relaxation.
More info: http://www.istarske-toplice.hr/
From Livade there is one road that leads to OPRTALJ. We recommend you to take a short break and visit a collection of stone monuments and the gate of interesting portals. You can continue the trip, passing the town of Sv. Lucija to ZRENJ. Zrenj is a well preserved Roman town with excellent agro-tourism (Tončić et al.).
Other road from Livade goes along the river Mirna to BUZET. Buzet's old town of town is dated from the 16th century, and rises on a high hill, surrounded by a city wall. From there you can enjoy beautiful views on Istrian landscape.
More about the interesting history and architecture worth seeing: http://www.istra.com/buzet
On a hill above the Mirna valley a town HUM is located. This small habitation has maintained all the features of medieval urban architecture and organization. It was first mentioned in documents dating from 1102. The "Hum Glagolitic wall writings" are preserved in the Church of St. Jerome, and were written in the second half of the 12th century. They represent one of the oldest examples of Croatian Glagolitic literary culture of the Middle Ages. Hum has a population of only 17 people but it is officially a town, and is the Guinness World Record holder for the smallest town in the world. More: http://www.hum.hr/
Great place to stop and visit is also a village KOTLE, where you can enjoy in beautiful landscape of upper canyon of river Mirna. Try to find beautifully restored ancient mill and taste local specialties.
To view the inland of Istrian peninsula, we recommend you to take the road to VIŠNJAN, where an old part of the town can be seen. Check the observatory http://www.astro.hr . Road leads through Karojbe, passes Beram, where stands the church of Blessed Virgin Mary from 15th century.
Next stop is PAZIN. City is recognized as the center of Istrian County with thousand year-old castle, a beautiful painting in the church of St. Nicholas, and interesting ethnographic museum.
Over Gračišče, the path will lead you to LABIN. This is the town of miners and art. Old town, which is extremely well-preserved, is situated on a hill, and offers a beautiful view on the sea. Worth visiting are the national museum, church, art gallery, and a nearby mine tour.
Under Labin gulf there lays a tourist resort RABAC with its beautiful beaches and bays.
The way back you can visit BARBAN (http://www.barban.hr), SVETIVINCENAT, ŽMINJ and complete the trip in TINJAN (on the road between Pazin and Poreć) in a tavern Điđi.
In addition to previous destinations, you can also explore Istria from the sea. Marina Novigrad offers full-day boat excursion to coast towns, islands and bays, including the time for swimming time and sea food lunch.
From Poreć and Umag, you have an opportunity to go on an interesting day trip by catamaran to the town of VENICE.
DAY TRIPS TO NATIONAL PARKS
From Villa Paolija it is possible to make a longer trip through Gorski Kotor and see the beauty of national park RISNJAK.
More on: http://www.risnjak.hr
Other option is the national park PLITVIČKA JEZERA, heading to Rijeka direction, by highway to Karlovac. This park is part of the UNESCO world inventory of natural beauty - definitely something special and worth visiting.