Istria worth it whether seaside or inland
This Adriatic peninsula in Croatia is a magical, 21st-century playground
ISTRIA, CROATIA—SPEND enough time on this verdant peninsula and someone will tell you: “I have a friend here who has lived in four different countries and never moved.” A 100-year-old Istrian, for example, would be able to say that she was born in Austrohungary (which ended in 1918), came of age when Istria was part of Italy (until 1947), spent most of her adult years as a Yugoslavian, and, finally, starting in 1991, became Croatian.
This peninsula in the northern Adriatic is made up of about 90 per cent Croatian territory (the rest is Slovenian with a tiny sliver going to Italy). Istria may be a microcosm of 20th-century southeastern European history, but it is also a magical, 21st-century playground for those who like sun, beaches, hill towns, Roman ruins, local wine, truffles and top-notch dining. Italophiles will feel at home here as most of the population is still bilingual, speaking Italian and Croatian. The stunning seaside towns of Rovinj, Porec and Pula may attract most visitors. But the inland medieval hill towns of Motovun and Grozn- jan and their artsy communities and restaurants serving truffle-laden pasta dishes are certainly worth a visit.
An afternoon beer soak When the San Servolo brewery first began producing beer, or pivo, in 2013, little did anyone know that people would be soaking in it five years later. The newly opened San Servolo Resort & Beer Spa, next to the brewery, just outside the hilltop town of Buje, offers guests and non-guests the chance to have a 45-minute soak in hoppy beer while drinking unlimited amounts of lager from the bathtub-side tap. For this reason, it mi be a good idea to book a ro at the hotel. After a beer bath, spa guests can sweat it out in the sauna or go for a swim in the pool (which is filled with water, not beer). The spa (including the beer bath) is 525 kuna for guests (or about $105 CDN), 700 kuna for non-guests.
On the rocks Hidden down some steps on the southern side of Rovinj’s Old Town is Valentino, a cocktail bar that mostly attracts a foreign clientele. The appeal here is that seating is on lounge chair cushions situated on rocks just above the Adriatic Sea.
Clockwise from top: Rovinj, a coastal town on the Istrian peninsula; Valentino, a cocktail bar hidden down some steps on the southern side of Rovinj’s Old Town; and restaurant Toklarija, housed in a 600-year-old former olive mill.