Travel Guide Europe Croatia Istria



Although Istria officially is a peninsula shared by Croatia, Slovenia and Italy, it mostly refers to the Croatian region, a popular summer holiday destination.

This region has been part of many empires — the Venetian Empire, Byzantine, Roman, and Austro-Hungarian — and of the Yugoslavian (Communist) republic. The cultural legacy of Istria is thus very rich and diverse.

After defeating the Illyrian Histri tribe, the Romans settled in the peninsula and left a large heritage, turning Pula into an important administrative centre and building villas, amphiteatres and temples. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the inner land remained a feudal territory occupied by Slavs, Frankish, Byzantines and finally Austrian Habsburgs, while the coast fell under control of the Republic of Venice in the 13th century. Intermittent combats were held between both powers until the fall of Venice in 1797. Since then, the Croatian population of Istria struggled for autonomy and were severely repressed both by Austrians and Fascist Italy (after World War I), eventually ending with a revenge from Yugoslav partisans after the World War II, forcing most autochthonous ethnic Italians to leave. A small ethnic Italian community still lives in the coastal towns. Relatively spared from the Yugoslav Wars, Istria is now a prosperous region. Later years have seen a growing regional sentiment and a reconciliation with its previously conflicted Italian identity.

The peninsula offers stark contrasts: the interior is very unspoiled and mountainous with ancient walled cities atop hills with surrounding fertile fields, whilst the coast has numerous beaches – do not expect any sand in them, though – and stunning scenery of rocky walls plummeting into the sea. The Istrian coast is among the most developed tourist destinations in Croatia. Hordes of Italian, German and French tourists enjoy package tourism during the crowded high season.

Although Pula is the main town, according to population and culture, relatively rural Pazin is the administrative centre of the peninsula.




The geographical features of Istria include the Učka mountain ridge, which is the highest portion of the Ćićarija mountain range; the rivers Dragonja, Mirna, Pazinčica, and Raša; and the Lim bay and valley. Istria lies in three countries: Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. By far the largest portion (89%) lies in Croatia. "Croatian Istria" is divided into two counties, the larger being Istria County in western Croatia. Important towns in Istria County include Pula/Pola, Poreč/Parenzo, Rovinj//Rovigno, Pazin//Pisino, Labin/Albona, Umag/Umago, Motovun//Montona, Buzet/Pinguente, and Buje/Buie. Smaller towns in Istria County include Višnjan, Roč, and Hum.

The northwestern part of Istria lies in Slovenia: it is known as Slovenian Istria, and includes the coastal municipalities of Piran/Pirano, Izola/Isola and Koper/Capodistria, and the Karstic municipality of Hrpelje-Kozina. Northwards of Slovenian Istria, there is a tiny portion of the peninsula that lies in Italy. This smallest portion of Istria consists of the comunes of Muggia and San Dorligo della Valle, with the place of Santa Croce (Trieste) farthest north.

The ancient region of Histria extended over a much wider area, including the whole Kras plateau until the southern edges of the Vipava Valley, the southwestern portions of modern Inner Carniola with Postojna and Ilirska Bistrica, and the Italian Province of Trieste, but not the Liburnian coast which was already part of Illyricum.




Sights and Activities

  • Roman structures in Pula, including the Arena and Forum.
  • The old Venetian town of Rovinj.
  • St Euphrasius Basilica in Poreč.
  • The many beaches along the coast.
  • Brijuni (Brioni) Islands - private playground of Tito including an international zoo, dinosaur footprints and Roman and Byzantine ruins.
  • Hill-top villages of Groznjan and Motovun, populated by artist communities.
  • Magnificent frescoes of Our Lady of the Rocks chapel in Beram.




Istria has a mild Mediterranean climate, with warm and dry summers and mild and pleasant winters. The sunshine amounts to 2.388 sunny hours on the average yearly, whereas the insolation is around 10 hours daily during the summer time. Istria has some characteristic winds: a bura, a northeastern cold wind, a scirocco, a hot wind blowing from the south bringing the rain, and mistral, a landward breeze blowing from the mainland to the sea bringing fresh air. The average air temperature in the coldest period of the year amounts to 6 °C, whereas in the warmest 30 °C.



Getting There

By Plane

Ryanair provides a connection London (Stansted) to Pula three days a week, and Dublin Pula also. Scandjet connects Pula to Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm once a week (on Saturdays) during the summer. Eurowings also serves Pula.

By Train

Trains run daily between Ljubljana in Slovenia and Pula, and from Rijeka to Ljubljana. Unfortunately due to historical accident, the two train lines do not meet up despite some works having been commenced on a rail tunnel to link the two short distances.

By Bus

Buses run from Trieste in Italy, Zagreb and other major cities to Pazin in the centre of Istria, and most to Pula in the south.

By Boat

Crossings from Venice arrive in Porec, Pula, Rovinj and a few other places, check the Venezialines websites for details. Note that some crossings are only made during high season, meaning July and August.




Istrian gastronomy is known by its huge diversity. Pasta, gnocchi, risotto and polenta, as well as its high-quality vegetables (which can be found, at a cheap price, in any of the numerous open-air markets present in almost every Istrian town), accompany main dishes, as an Italian heritage. Especially, Istrian peppers have international recognition.

At the coast, fresh fish and seafood are a tradition. Scampi is the favourite, together with squid and sole. In the inland, air-cured ham (Prsut) and sausages are the highlights.

But the gastronomic pearl is no doubt the truffles. After the beginning of the season, in late September, truffles can be found accompanying any dish and sauce. Especially recommended is pasta with truffles. Also, olive oil with truffles is a typical product of the region.

Simple but tasty “meštra” (minestrone), made from seasonal vegetables, is still prepared nowadays. A characteristically Istrian minestrone is made from “bobici” (corn), fennel, barley, etc. All of these dishes are spiced with pesto. It is the ingredients, and not just the flour, that makes Istrian dishes so thick.

Home-made pastas such as noodles, lasagne, macaroni, “bleki” or “posutice”, and the very Istrian “fusi”, are used in soups and side dishes. Fusi are offered as a starter or side dish and are prepared in various ways with sauces. Polenta and gnocchi have been prepared in Istrian homes for ages, but these dishes have their origins elsewhere.

Due to the plentiful sunlight and the vicinity of the sea, vegetables, which are widely grown in Istria, have a very special taste and naturally, interesting local names. Various vegetables, from “verzot” (Brussels sprouts) to “cikorija” (radicchio), “koromač-finoči” (fennel root), “cuketi” (zucchini), mangold, “melancani” (eggplant), peas, and “kapus” (cabbage), are used to prepare side dishes, with the obligatory olive oil and plenty of garlic.

Meat dishes (fish, mutton, poultry, beef) are well known for their method of preparation, “gvacat” (squazzetto) is a meat dish with sauce containing native Istrian spices. Many dishes are prepared in a “padela” (a frying pan with a handle) or under a “črepnja” (cover for cooking over embers). These dishes are more commonly found in the vicinity of Koper than in the town itself, but with a little effort you will be able to find excellent fish soup, marinade, or similar dishes even within the town itself. Despite some attempts to preserve and revive authentic Istrian cuisine, there is a tendency in Koper towards more modern culinary ideas, which offer the most varied dishes, from fish, meat, pasta, and pizzas – something for every pocket.




Istria is a land of vineyards. Wines are sweet and fruity, with a wide variety of grapes present, such as white malvasia, red teran and muscat. The most famous vineyard area is Kalavojna, on the Eastern coast.

Regional liquor grappa is widely produced in here, with several varieties available.



Accommodation in Istria

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This is version 14. Last edited at 9:25 on Nov 5, 18 by Utrecht. 16 articles link to this page.

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