Croatia: Istria, the next Tuscany?...let's hope not!

ROVINJ, Istria

What's the hype of Truffles?


White truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pico) is the biggest and the most respected sort of truffles, its price on the market varies from hour to hour. It is a truffle of yellow-brown, green or grey-green colour. Its aroma is more intensive and stronger than aroma of the other sorts of truffles and depends on the plant with which it is living in symbiosis.

It is taken out in the period from October till the end of December (the white truffle season) and then it can be bought fresh. The most famous sites of white truffles are in Istria near the village Livade, more exactly in Motovun woods and in the valley of the river Mirna. This truffle needs special climate, quality of soil and certain plants with which it lives in symbiosis. It grows under the ground and there is no visible stalk on the surface. It is excavated from the depth of 10-15 cm, and searched for by the specially trained dogs. The size of the white truffle varies from the size of a cherry to the size of an apple.

The biggest truffle ever found weighed 1,310 kg. Mr. Giancarlo Zigante found it on November 2nd, 1999 near Buje and it has entered into the Guinness book of records.

Exploring Istria this fall 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!)

Much of the peninsula is caught between mass tourism, holiday homes and horrid communist era buildings.  That might be enough to keep you shouldn't be.

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 their are still a sampling of wonderful towns, like Ravinj, which if we are comparing to Italy 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.

Motovun and ROVINJ are great basis for 2-3 nights, one on the coast and one in the interior. You'll find good biking and walking routes, a variety of "wellness" centers, and all sorts of events involving local food such as the wild asparagus (spring), grape, olive and truffle (fall) as well as culture festivals throughout the year.

Here's a sample: 

"Throughout the whole month of October, in the Mirna valley – in Opatija, the Istrian thermal springs, Gradinje and Motovun – the festivities of the “Days of truffles” are held. During these days it is a special experience tasting dishes made from freshly picked truffles, these noble, tasty aphrodisiac mushrooms, including many other programs. Along with the month long “Days of truffles” festivities, Motovun, in the first weekend in November, plays host to the “Festival of balloons, wine and truffles”, a manifestation whose gastronomic pleasures are enriched with an air of adventure."

Access is easy from Pula or Zagreb (Croatia), Lubiana (Slovenia)  and Triest or Venice (Italy). You'll want a car if you aren't with a tour group. Most folks speak some english and many of the menus are in English. 

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