Is­tria worth it whether sea­side or in­land

StarMetro Vancouver - - THE FEED - David Far­ley

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.

SUSAN WRIGHT PHO­TOS FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES

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.

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