Exploring Istria the fall of 2008 was a perfect end to my two weeks in Croatia. Yes, I'd heard Istria might be the new Tuscany but needed to see it to believe it. (Photos!)
Move into the interior of the region and you'll find the walled hill villages, Romanesque churches, family-run oil, cheese and wine producers, eclectic galleries, affordable "konoba's" (small restaurants serving local dishes), clean/comfortable family run hotels or "sobe" (rooms) and apartments for rent.
Along the coast there remain a sampling of wonderful towns, like Rovinj, which reminds me of the towns along the Ligurian Coast including those of the Cinque Terre.
Typical of Croatia, local are friendly, engaging and interested in sharing their country with you. They are likely to invite you into their home, wine cellar or shop with a smile....something difficult to find these days in Tuscany or Provence.
Suggested Itinerary: (set as an extension from Dalmatia...beginning with transfer from Split. Stand-alone Istria trips can begin in Zagreb or Pula, Croatia or Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Day 1. We will meet our tour guide in the afternoon. Then we will depart towards the Plitvica Lakes; which happens to be hands down the most famous and most georgeous park in this part of Europe. After checking into our hotel and freshening up, we will go out for an authentic regional dinner in the "Licka Kuca(House of Lika). D
Day 2. After our breakfast we will visit the Plitvica lakes. We will begin our tour by foot, and then we will cross one of the lakes with an electric boat. Then we will resume our walk and take a quick ride on a train. After we rest up a little, we will check out of our hotel and go towards our new destination, Istria! Upon arrival in the romantic town of Motovun, we will check into a hotel and enjoy or wellcome dinner. B,D
Day 3. Today we will visit the world's smallest city, Hum. We will take a pleseant walk through a street adorned with the Glagolitic alphabet. Then we will feast on Istrian Manestra, and drink the native herb brandy, first introduced 3000 years ago.On the way back to the hotel, we will visit Kotle,a mostly abandoned old mill town on the shores of river Mirna. Before dinner we will relax in the hotel's wellnes spa. B, SL, D
Day 4. Following breakfast, we will visit Motovun, and then Livade, the capital of the Istrian truffle. After learning how to find that elusive gourmet pearl, we will walk through vineyards and olive groves towards Kostajnica. There ,we will visit a quaint local wine celler where we will sample authentic Istrian wine with our hosts. Our walk will continue towards Groznjan, a town overfilled with galleries and artists. In the evening hours we will be returning to Motovun. B, SL, D
Day 5. By day five, you will have earned the morning off! Spend it any way you'd like; shopping, exercise or some relax in spa. In the afternoon hours we will go to some rural households where our hosts will show us how to prepare the Istrian foods that we have had the opportunity to savour the last few days! After our cooking class, it's goodbye Istria and hello Rovinj, our next destination of choice! B,D
Day 6. After breakfast we will go down to the shore and wait for the fishing boats to come in with their catch of the day. We are going to go to the market and shop for homemade goods. You get the afternoon off, and in the evening jours we are going to visit the old core of Rovinj We will commorate our Istrian trip with a memorable fish dinner B,D
Day 7.On day seven we are going to visit Pula, the epicenter of Istria. We are going to "walk through time";' from ancient times through Roman arches and the Arena, one of the most preserved ampitheatres, through ancient reneissance and finally to modern day . In keeping with croatian customs, we will sit down to have our last coffee together under Augustus' temple. FInally we will leave for the airport! B
Have a great trip home!