We spent the day touring the Istrian Peninsula which comprises the northwest corner of Croatia. It is much flatter than anything we’ve seen so far with not a mountain in sight. It is home to wild asparagus, a few turkey farms, wild boar, deer, griffon vultures …and… truffles. In fact the largest truffle on record was found here. One point three kilos worth 10,000 euros. The guy who found it, a restaurateur, decided not to sell it but had a party for his friends and ate it.
The peninsula is bilingual so all the road signs are in Italian and Croatian. We passed small, round stone sheds/huts that looked so cute. They are used to store small tools and equipment, take shelter in bad weather, stash lunch or a snack for later, or maybe sneak a nap.
Our first stop was in Pula, home to the 6th best preserved amphitheater in the world. It originally held 25,000 but today hosts concerts and events for 2,500. It is made of limestone. The lower level, below ground, is now used as a museum and has an ancient wine press, an olive press, and a large collection of multi-shaped amphoras which were used centuries ago to transport and store things like fish, oil, and wine.
On our way to the next stop, Rovinj, we passed the town where quinine (used to treat malaria from the 17th to the 20th centuries) was discovered. We also passed the small, obscure town that boasts the second largest collection of relics from saints (the Vatican has the most) in the world. Think teeth, small pieces of clothing, arms, legs, fingers, and even a few mummies. Rovinj, an important stop on the Venetian trade route, was an island in its heyday and remained so until fear of the plague subsided and the land between it and the Istrian Peninsula was filled in. We had lunch there …guess who had truffle spaghetti… and then visited a beautiful church with an amazing alter overlooking the sea. We lit a candle for Aunt Geri.
Last stop: Porec (with a tiny v over the c). The area of Porec was the westernmost reach of the Byzantine Empire. A church is the main attraction. It is built on the site of an illegal, clandestine church from the 4th century. The remains of some mosaics, including the floor of the secret church, are there to be marveled at as well as jaw dropping mosaics in the main part of the church. It was stunning.
We came back to last night’s hotel in Opatija (oh-Pot-e-uh) in time for dinner. On the way back into town we learned about how Austria’s Hapsburgs came to enjoy this lush, beautiful seaside town. Once word got out, just like today, that royalty liked it, others stated to come and it became a tourist destination. Isadora Dunkin, Albert Einstein, and American movie stars started coming to see what all the fuss was about.
3 thoughts on “A day on the Istrian Peninsula”
Porec sounds cool
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As usual Schele…you never disappoint with your blog of the day and great photos!! Thanks!
Wow, no down days on this trip! Every one filled with beauty and history! Thank you!