Jackie Cook

Posted by Jackie Cook on 19th Dec 2018 -- Read Time: 4 minutes

Autumn sun in Rovinj, Istria’s most enchanting town

Istria is a green and rural region in the far north of Croatia, and is a destination I’ve wanted to explore for some time. Sitting on its own peninsula by the border with Slovenia, for much of its history Istria has been under various divisions of Italian rule before becoming part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As a result, Istria really does have a distinct identity all of its own. In comparison to Croatia’s wild, rocky Dalmatian Coast, scattered with thousands of islands, Istria’s landscape is verdant, neat and cultivated – and with its pretty hill towns and the influence of Italian culture, it’s also evocative of Italy’s Tuscan landscapes.

First impressions

I flew out to Istria in October, for a few days of soaking up the autumn sun. The highlight of the trip for me was the day I spent in Rovinj, a delightful little coastal town. Rovinj is considered by many to be the prettiest town on the peninsula, so I couldn’t wait to discover it for myself.

Rovinj certainly lived up to its reputation – in fact, it totally exceeded my expectations. As soon as I arrived and stepped off the bus, I was amazed by the beauty of its historic Old Town ahead of me. With the colourful buildings in pretty pastel shades tumbling down to meet the sea, Rovinj was striking from the offset. It has all the charm that you might expect from a medieval hill town, but the difference is that it’s surrounded by the beautiful, sparkling sea: the Old Town sits on its own little egg-shaped headland, coming to a pinnacle at the steeple of St Euphemia’s church.

A place of authenticity

The more I explored, the more I fell in love with the stunning town, despite only being there for a brief time. With its lovely atmosphere and artsy vibe, it’s the perfect place for one of my favourite activities: simply wandering around, admiring the cobbled lanes, ancient buildings and striking architecture. The fact that it’s by the sea was a real bonus for me, as I love to be by the coast. In addition to this ideal combination, the thing that really struck me about Rovinj was its sense of authenticity. Something I love when I travel is finding places where you can see real life taking place amongst the history; places that are beautiful but still lived in as they should be by their communities, not taken over by modern-day tourism. Essentially, I love places where tourism has developed, but not enveloped, the destination and for me, Rovinj has achieved that perfect balance. Although it is undeniably a popular tourist destination, Rovinj feels really genuine and there are signs of local life going on all around. I was pleased to discover an outdoor market taking place as I approached the Old Town, packed with all the regional specialities of Istria – plump olives, aromatic herbs and rich truffles. As a vegetarian, it can at times be tricky for me to really indulge in a destination’s local cuisine, but Istria has plenty of herbaceous delights to sample! And of course, I couldn’t visit without sampling the local ice cream – my day in Rovinj was rounded off nicely with a stroll around the picturesque harbour whilst enjoying a frosty tub of the most amazing stracciatella ice cream.

Following the winding lanes past pretty piazzas and intriguing alleyways, I eventually found myself at the imposing Church of St Euphemia. This Baroque hilltop church looks out over the town, and the views from here towards the deep blue waters of the Adriatic Sea were just incredible. St Euphemia is the patron saint of Rovinj, and the myths surrounding her are fascinating. Churches are nearly always interesting buildings to look around, but I found that St Euphemia’s had a really special atmosphere – it was a beautiful place to relax and reflect.

My glimpse of Rovinj left me yearning for more. The friendly and talkative locals, romantic streets and relaxing seaside air meant I truly fell for this lovely little town. I’d love to return and climb the bell tower for a bird’s eye view, or perhaps take a boat trip to the islands just off the harbourside to see Rovinj from a different perspective.