Croatia was reborn with gusto after the breaking up of Yugoslavia. Occupying the lion’s share of the coast it is hardly surprising why other areas fought for a slice of it!
In simplistic terms the coast is divided into a north (Istria), a central (Split coast and lots of islands) and a south (Dubrovnik and surrounds). We’re taking a closer look at Istria, and more specifically the delightful fishing village of Rovinj, where fishermen do still fish despite the success of tourism there.
Rovinj – the Old Town
Sitting on what was an island secured by medieval walls, the old Town originally had seven gates, three can still be seen today, The Gate of the Holy Cross, the Portica and the Gate of St. Benedict. The confines of its borders dictated narrow streets, small houses punctuated by pretty little squares. This town has signs of life dating back to the 3rd century, however the 16 and 17 hundreds fully document restoration of monuments including Venetian Baroque Church of St Euphemia and Milanese designed bell tower – a replica of the Church of St Mark in Venice – which you can climb for stunning views. July and August sees very high numbers of visitors, so we’d suggest you visit outside of these months when you’ll be rewarded with space to stroll and admire the intricate, complex buildings that have evolved over centuries.
Rovinj – the Islands – ‘outstanding scenic wonders’
Rovinj has an archipelago of twenty islands, two of which are large enough to have tourist facilities (St. Andrija & St. Katarina). These beautiful, pristine land masses lying off an equally attractive coastline comprise forests of holm oak and pine trees with shores of pebbles and stones. You will be able to visit the islands on commercial or private boat trips. You will see the castle on the Island of St. Andrew (Red Island), a 6th century former Benedictine monastery which is now a hotel and charming wedding destination.
Rovinj - nature
The most significant park on the north-eastern Adriatic coast is the protected Zlatni Rt (Golden Cape), situated a pleasant 15-minute walk from the town centre. This is a haven for walkers, cyclists, rock climbers and families with children; it borders the ocean and has one of the best beaches in the area, however the main attraction has to be the interior. If you have hired a bike in Rovinj, or at one of the outlets along the way, you’ll find this a great way of exploring the forest, home to thousands of indigenous and imported plants and trees, it provides a vast, vehicle-free environment. If you travel a little further along the coast, you’ll find Palud Ornithological Reserve, especially rich in wetland birds but containing several rare plant species – it is 10km from Rovinj. Not to be missed in the area is the Lim Fjord and St. Romualdo’s Cave, this beautiful natural site includes a sunken canyon valley in which plant and marine life thrive; you can drive the 20 minutes but we’d recommend taking the boat and approaching the fjord from the ocean.
Rovinj - sport and adventure
The coast, and in particular the ocean, are a huge draw for activity-seekers to the Rovinj area. In the 1990s, a new dive centre was founded, opening up a world of adventure beneath the waves; you can dive ten wreck sites, eight islands and a few local reefs. If you prefer to stay afloat, then you might like to take lessons with the Spark Sailing Team who will drill you in the basics – or the more intricate if you prefer. On land you have oodles of options, the most popular of which is cycling, the area has several trails taking you through outstanding countryside, or you may like to join a guided tour which will include your bike hire, itinerary and gear. If you fancy something a little more combative, why not try paintballing? There is a playground just 5 minutes’ drive from the Old Town where you will be given protective outfits, modern guns and full instruction in games such as Complete Elimination, Capture the Flag and Traitor!
Rovinj – entertainment
Before you decide where to go for your entertainment you may like to consider how – Rent Me is a car hire company created to offer original rentals such as old Volkswagen Beetles, vintage cars and new convertibles – friendly and fun! Nightlife in Rovinj centres around restaurants and bars, however there are also clubs such as The Factory, an ex-tobacco factory in the town centre where every night is party night. Night Club Lone offers a popular jazz club atmosphere whilst Valentino Cocktail and Champagne Bar is a classy, trendy spot with stunning views from its elevated rock location. For live music try Lighthouse Music Club with its open air stage that attracts great bands throughout the summer.
Rovinj – food and drink
Traditional, modern but most of all full of flavour and fresh ingredients! Restaurants in Rovinj make the most of the summer with romantic candles on terraces and invariably serve meals accompanied by great Istrian wines. Fresh fish, crab and shellfish feature prominently as does Istria’s famous cured ham, truffles and wild asparagus. Being close to Italy, you’ll find an abundance of wood-burning ovens, each churning out the ‘best’ pizza in Rovinj!
Rovinj has so much to offer, it is beautiful, cultural, historic and entertaining. Great for families, honeymooners, sports-enthusiasts and foodies, not to mention beach-lovers and water-babes!