Top 10 Things You Have to Try in Istria
1. Try the olive oil
Istria has always been synonymous with quality olive oil. According to certain historical sources, the first olive groves were here in 50 AD and it was in that period the Roman Empire determined Istrian olive oils be used as a production standard for the Empire as a whole. The most relevant world guide for olive oils – Flos Olei – named Istria best olive oil region in the world, for the fourth year in a row. The guide includes a total of 79 producers from Istria. So the olive oil standard is still being set in Istria! A lot more about the history and tradition of olive oil making in Istria can be learned at the House of Istrian Olive Oil in Pula.
There are just a couple of things you need to know before you start your olive oil journey. The dominant varieties in Istria are bjelica, buža, oblica, rosinjola and crnica. There are others as well, but these are the most common. Look for oils with an EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) marking, which means they have only been mechanically processed, with no other procedures used. With a meticulous guide, you can also find out a lot about the aromas of the different varieties, their pairing with food, and all the possibilities real virgin oil offers you.
Mastercard holders are in for a special treat: a guided tasting tour with only the best Istrian olive oils, including a couple of surprises along the way. If you want to know why Istrian olive oils are the world’s best, make sure you book a tour today in the Priceless.hr online store.
2. Go truffle hunting (and eat them later)
Truffles represent one of the products Istria is most well-known for – that being said, we have to warn you that there are not a lot of places where you will be served the real deal. At most taverns and restaurants, you will be served a synthetic version of truffles that has a strong aroma but little else of the real stuff. Truffles are similar to potatoes – and are extracted in the same way. Buried deep underneath the ground, they are uncovered by specially trained dogs. In Croatia, truffles can be found around the Mirna River, which is also the safest place to find them. There are three kinds of black truffles in Croatia, as well as the particularly high-quality white truffle, which is very rare and extremely pricy. White truffles can be found from September to January, whereas black truffles – although different varieties – can be found year around.
Truffles – the real ones – are added to pastas, combined with poultry, in patés, red meat...
If you would like to see how truffles are harvested, embark on a truffle search tour, available for bookings in our Priceless.hr online store. And if you would like to try the real flavour of these unusual mushrooms, and see if they are true to their reputation as an aphrodisiac, book a table in one of the best Istrian restaurants, renowned for its truffle dishes. Zigante Restaurant is part of the notable JRE restaurant group.
3. Visit the Pula Arena
The Pula Arena is one of the most recognisable Istrian landmarks. The Pula Arena is the best preserved monument of ancient architecture in Croatia and, by its size, the sixth Roman amphitheater. It is presumed that in the ancient times, the Arena used to be able to hold a total of 20,000 visitors, i.e. spectators. The Arena has been used throughout its history – a long time ago it was where medieval knight battles and tournaments were held. Today, it is primarily a place for tourist visits and entertainment: a number of film festivals and concerts are organised there. You can find more about the Arena on this link.
4. Try Istrian wines.
Istria is perhaps the most famous wine region of Croatia. On a relatively small area, a number of excellent, award-winning wines are produced here. If you are set on trying some local, autochthonous varieties, make sure you try the white Malvasia or the red Teran. You can find more about the wines of Istria following this link. Also, be sure to explore Istrian wine roads leading you to interesting wineries and wine regions.
The winemakers – and it is a well known fact – make for an eccentric crowd. One of the famous Istrian eccentrics is winemaker Bruno Trapan – book your place for dinner with this winemaker and learn everything about the wines produced in Istria first hand.
Additionally, you can explore the wondrous world of natural wines and the few winemakers who specialise in such wines. You can book your tour here.
5. Visit Cape Kamenjak
Kamenjak is the southernmost cape of Istria, only about 10 kilometres away from Pula. Kamenjak is perfect for all-day sunbathing and various other enjoyable activities. There are some sandy beaches, steep rocks, lush plant life. Our recommendation – hire a bike and explore Kamenjak first hand! More information about Kamenjak is available here.
6. Visit Motovun and its surrounding forest.
Motovun is a small town in central Istria. As the legend says, Motovun used to be the town of Veli Jože, a kind-hearted giant who protected the town. The town of Motovun is located atop a hill that offers views across the entire valley of Mirna. When the weather is nice, the landscape sprawls for as far as your eyes can see... And that view alone makes climbing the steep, stone streets of Motovun worthwhile. A film festival usually takes place there at the end of July – and it is an opportunity for you to have fun with many movie stars. You can find more information about Motovun here, and the Motovun Film Festival programme can be found here.
7. Try Istrian cuisine.
Istrian cuisine is in part influenced by Italy but still very distinctly its own. Unlike the rest of the littoral Croatia, Istrian cuisine is special for the way the ingredients are prepared and for the special ingredients used as well as the spices. Still, no better introduction to Istrian cuisine than to try it! And we know the best place for it – the award-winning restaurant San Rocco is proud to present the best of the best in Istrian (and Croatian!) cuisine. Make your reservations right now!
8. Bathe in beer.
At some point or another we all wanted to get into the bath of some drink – perhaps it was wine, perhaps champagne, but maybe even beer. If you are a beer drinker who dreams about beer baths, we have the perfect experience for you! Visit the award-winning Croatian brewery San Servolo and try out their beer bath. Guaranteed, this experience is one you will never forget! Make reservations here.
9. Visit Casanova’s town.
Vrsar is a small town in Istria, perhaps best known for being visited twice by the world’s most renowned lover Giacomo Casanova during his lifetime. Both visits are described in detail in his memoirs, where he even boasts about having an adventurous time with a local girl. You can explore Casanova’s wanders through Vrsar on your own, but you can also find some of the tours that will put you in his footsteps. More information about Vrsar is available here.
10. Drop by our Mecca for artists – Labin.
Labin is a town on the eastern coast of Istria. It used to be a mining town, and the remains of the mine are still visible in the town centre. Today, Labin is a true Mecca for artists of all kinds, far away from beaten tourist trails and paths. We recommend Labin because of the beautiful surrounding nature, the legends about the Slavic goddess of Sentona who, as per one of the legends, resided in the vicinity of Labin, but also because you can take a peek into the lives and art of numerous painters and sculptors. You can find more information here.