Rovijn, Istrian Peninsula, Croatia
September 9-14th, 2014,
In mid-September I spent five days on the Istrian peninsula in Croatia. This is not the Croatia that everyone hums about, well at least the American hum. That’s further south, on the Dalmatian Coast (Hvar, Split, Dubrovnik.) Instead, this is the Istrian Croatia, which shares a border with Italy and Slovenia and is far less party / beach-centric than its southern sister. Here the focus is on the slow-lifestyle of tourism with a heavy emphasis on the (quite impressive) epicurean attributes of the surrounding area. It’s the truffle capital of Europe. Who knew?
Thought it feels off the beaten-path for us Americans, I daresay those crafty Germans and other northern Europeans are well attuned to the area, along with neighboring Italians who come mainly during Ferragosto – the August holidays. The area is nothing but picturesque and the tiny fishing village of Rovijn is the crown jewel. So charming is it, that the area’s top luxury hotel owners, Croatia’s largest Tobacco company, Maistra, believe it to be prime to complete with France’s Cote d’Azur. An ambitious goal, needless to say. However, the two areas do share many similar natural wonders, while the recently revamped, five-star Monte Mulini, where I was stayed is a strong step in the right direction.
Other remarkable elements of the area are the jade-colored Adriatic waters, delicious to swim in and even better to sail around on. Rovijn is, truly, a rather striking and comfortable little hamlet, whose Venetian roots make it feel wonderfully Italian. It’s waterfront bars and restaurants are ideal for a sun-setting aperitif or romantic dinner while the marble promontory that connects the hotels to the town center is well groomed and makes for easy access either on foot or on bicycle, as many visitors were. (NB. The area is hugely popular with cyclists) I also adored the neighboring parkland, which featured two walking and biking trails, as well as a sheer-face rock-climbing area and various swimming holes.
Here are my top 3 suggestions:
3 Things to Do in Rovijn / Croatian Istria
1. Truffle Hunt – the area is perhaps the best in Europe (so they say, and judging from the bounty, so it would seem. This lovely man and his ladies below will treat you to a hunt followed by a truffle-filled meal at the restaurant.
Our truffle hunter and his trusty pooches. They use dogs instead of swine because they’re less likely to eat the truffles. And you wonder where the phrase. “selfish pig” comes from.
2. Olive Oil Taste at Chiavalon – the passionate owner will take you through an informative history on his family-owned, design award-winning olive oil vineyard, followed by an instructive tasting where helpful tips for distinguishing the good from the mediocre were abundant, such as “it should make you cough after swallowing.”
3. Tour the food market stalls – and by tour, I mean sample. Everything. From fresh fruit like stunning peaches to truffle pesto. And then, Climb the St. Eustasis Tower in Rovijn for both the exercise and the tower’s 360-degree views. Don’t mind the rickety stairway – it’s part of the charm.
Fresh Orata at the market in Rovijn