The French Riviera, Italian Style… in Croatia

After the first taste of Croatia, I wasn’t quite sure what to share with you next.  So many beautiful destinations in Istria itself, such rich history and gastronomy; 1,000 photos to sort and numerous recipes to try… where to begin?  How about with my favorite town, Rovinj.  Think Italian Riviera, yet with a twist.  Street signs are in both Italian and Croatian, and people are speaking in either one of these 2 languages, if not in the Rovinj dialect, which would not be understood in any other region, as one local pointed out to me.  A colorful Mediterranean town, with a real Italian flavor, that still feels like an island of its own, even though the old town has been connected to the mainland since 1763.

Rovinj, Istria, Croatia

Rovinj, Istria, Croatia

Easily one of the most photogenic cities in Istria, the town sits on the rocky western coast equidistant between Novigrad and Pula.  From one side (first photo above), you see the medieval-like architecture off the old port, most of the time masked by sea gulls reminiscent of Essaouira in Morocco.  On the other (second photo above), the bustling harbor has fishing boats and private yachts alike, all spilling out on to the Adriatic Sea. Café tables fill the square between the old town’s narrow alleys and the water, people enjoying the sun and a drink, seemingly impervious to time.  Order a fresh lemonade or a cone of gelato, sit back and listen to the Italian language filling the air, the waiters perhaps a bit more friendly than they would be in a touristy Italian city and just say to yourself, “when in Rome…”

Rovinj, Istria, CroatiaRovinj, Istria, Croatia

If you can pull yourself away from that summertime ambience, a walk through the winding cobblestone streets is definitely a good idea – Venetian houses with pastel facades, charming piazzas, clean pedestrian streets, preserved historical traces, shops with local products, craftsmen’s ateliers and a bustling fruit and vegetable market across from an indoor fish market.  Even the laundry hanging outside to dry like I saw in Venice added to the ambience.

Rovinj, Istria, CroatiaRovinj, Istria, CroatiaRovinj, Istria, CroatiaRovinj, Istria, CroatiaRovinj, Istria, CroatiaRovinj, Istria, Croatia

You must make your way through the narrow alleys to the top of the peninsula, where the views are simply breathtaking.  The calm blue water, terracotta roofs and various funky shaped trees, like the one below left that I spotted through the café entrance, just below the hilltop 18th century baroque church.  There isn’t a better place to sip an espresso, feeling like there’s nothing between you and the sea.

Rovinj, Istria, CroatiaRovinj, Istria, CroatiaRovinj, Istria, CroatiaRovinj, Istria, CroatiaRovinj, Istria, CroatiaRovinj, Istria, Croatia

Once you have walked the streets, checked out the harbor and perhaps mingled with the locals, you might have learned one important thing about Rovinj – the symbol of the town, a true part of life there: the batana.  These small, flat bottomed boats are “the bread of Rovinj,” as the lady at the batana museum explained.  The whole town eats thanks to the batana builders and fishermen.  And thanks to the cooks at Veli Jo?e too, the konoba (local tavern) just next door to the museum!  Worth walking inside if not just to see the fishing paraphernalia and other kitsch which fills the place – oh, and the look on cook Goran’s face, below left, when asked for a smile!

Rovinj, Istria, Croatia

Rovinj, Istria, Croatia
Batana House / Museum
Obala / Riva Pina Budincin 2
Veli Jo?e
Svetog Kri?a 3

Mercato / Market on central square
Summer: May 1 to Sept 30, 7am – 9pm
Winter: Oct 1 to April 30, 7am – 5pm

26 Responses to “The French Riviera, Italian Style… in Croatia”

  1. Lani says:

    OKOKOK…..I have booked my ticket and I am ready to go!I can smell the sea, taste the fish and slowly sip an expresso! Did Goran finally smile? I am sure that you charmed him into it.

  2. jen laceda says:

    I haven’t heard of Rovijn until today!! Seriously!! Where have I been? And you’re right, it’s French Riviera Italian style! Couldn’t have found better words! I love your photography, by the way. They suck me right in to the port city, like I was there to see for myself!! You are indeed fortunate to have visited such a dazzling place! I hope I get to visit Istria and the rest of Croatia soon–and write about it! Croatia had just gone up the rungs of my “To-Go” list!

  3. Steve says:

    As usual, you’ve introduced me to places i was totally unfamiliar with. Istria sounds lke a great vacation spot to chill out and take in the sights. Your pix, again, as usual, are fantastic, and make your comments truly come alive. That shot of the harbor with all the boats is extraordinary, with amazing depth of field. Is it my imagination, or are your pix getting even sharper and crisper? Bravo and thanks.

  4. Shaun says:

    Beautiful…. pictures, or is it the place…. or both?

  5. Romy says:

    Wow! It looks just wonderful. And you know, for all your questions about how I make plans with the unpredictable weather, it seems like you have sun, sun, and nothing but sun every time you travel anywhere! I haven’t seen a rainy picture on this blog yet!

    *adds Croatia to already very long to-go list*

  6. Julia @ Mélanger says:

    Wow, these pictures are great, too. The place looks just magical. The water divine. There is a chill in the air here and I want to rush and sip some of that espresso near the ocean in your pictures. Looks amazing.

  7. Wayfaring Wanderer says:

    Thank you for taking us along, it looks like a lovely place! I, too, hadn’t heard of this place before today.

  8. jkiel says:

    Great shot of Goran, much better (imho) than a ‘smiley’ one! The light is perfect, and you really get a feel for the place (as you do with your other shots). Hmmm… they speak some Italian? Hmm… *adds to list*

  9. Uncle Beefy says:

    I cannot believe how beautiful it all is!!! Very envious of your travels, Miss Kerrin! So ironic that I work in a travel store and yet can’t afford to go anywhere. I know, poor me. 😉 But these pics definitely ease the pain!

    ps – for now matzoh with a little (okay a lot!) of butter. So looks like I’m moving in a buttercrunch direction? 🙂

  10. Adventure Travel says:

    Rovinj is a beautiful place, but I suggest you don’t tie yourself to just that one place… Croatia has so much to offer that is amazing!

    I’d suggest you start in Pula near to Trieste (worlds largest Roman Ampitheatre), head to Split (the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace is there), then take the ferry down the coast past all the islands to the UNESCO World-Heritage city Dubrovnik (absolutely stunning medieval city, completely unspoilt, still with the original city walls!)

    On the way to Dubrovnik, stop off at Hvar Island for a few days sun, and sand. The sun shines so much there that the hotels give a discount if it rains… and it’s a lovely place!

    After Dubrovnik, either head to Zagreb and fly out after seeing this great Austro-Hungarian city, or maybe go to Plitvice Lakes National Park…

    I did this a few years ago with my backpack, except from Dubrovnik I took the bus to Mostar and Sarajevo (in Bosnia) then the train to Zagreb…

    I highly recommend a trip like that!

  11. US Trip says:

    Me and my girlfriend spent 12 days in Rovinj last summer. We stayed in one apartment located in the old city. It was great accommodation with great location, worth for the money (60 EUR per night-two rooms apartment). Many small cities are near by, so you can visit them too. Pula is bigger city, only 30 minuts form Rovinj (by car). Island BRIONI is a must see place. It’s ex Tito’s place. You can go y boat there, the price is about 50 EUR per person.

  12. Kerrin says:

    Thanks everyone for the great comments and kudos on the photography; I really appreciate it !

    Lani, you’re right – Goran did end up smiling, even if we could not understand a word each other was saying. That’s probably why we were both laughing !! 🙂 But jkiel, you’re so right – that face of his is priceless!

    Jen, don’t worry, I had never heard of Rovinj either! That is, until I was reading my Croatia guidebook on the plane ride over there! So what’s on the very top of your “to go list” ?! I’d love to know!

    Romy, you’ve got a list too – what’s on it ?! Oh, and as for my luck with great weather, I will say yes, I have been awfully lucky. I do tend to favor those photos when the sun was shining, of course! However, I never travel without my anorak, and it doesn’t always stay in my bag. One thing I was really looking forward to on this trip to Croatia, was a truffle hunt (mushrooms, not chocolate!). Guess what – rained out ! I have pictures of lunch by the fire that day instead!

    Uncle Beefy, how lucky you are to work in a travel store! You have the chance to travel to a new far off land every single day. Even multiple trips in one day ! Take it all in…

    Oh, and as for the matzoh buttercrunch – don’t fear it. Embrace it !! ha ha!

    Adventure Travel, thank you very much for the great recommendations. I would love to get to Dubrovnik and Zagreb one day, and sunny Hvar Island is definitely on my list now too. How funny that a hotel would give a discount if it rains – really ?! 😉

    US Trip, how wonderful that you spent 12 days in Rovinj last year! Sounds like a real find, your apartment in the old city. Thanks for sharing your ideas as well. And stay tuned on the blog here… Pula and Brioni islands to come !

  13. Solo Road Trip says:

    something about laundry hanging out to dry — what is it?! It’s like an invitation of sorts to be friendly and open and jovial. It always puts me in a good mood (to see it of course, not to partake in it’s process). The water is so clear — beautiful capture of that element of Rovinj (how do you pronounce this? — seriously.) The photographs are soothingly beautiful — just like you describe the town to be!

  14. Baron says:

    You’ve showed paradise with this post…Thank You !!!

  15. Jessica says:

    Wow. This is an excellent post. Strangely, my Budget Traveler mag also had a big write up on Istria this month:

    Tell me more about those bees wax candles. Amazing!

  16. Kerrin says:

    Solo Road Trip, I am so with you – there’s just something about laundry in beautiful far off lands, ha ha! And I’m with you again, of course not if WE’RE actually the ones that have to do the cleaning! As for the pronunciation of Rovinj, excellent question – here’s your answer: “ro-veen-yah”. I should have put the pronunciation of the Swiss town we went to for those knives, Schwyz! That would be “shveets” !

    Baron, you’re very welcome ! Hope you can get to Paradise then ! 😉

    Jessica, thanks for the link! Istria is definitely an up and coming destination. I had seen that article in the magazine when it first came out, a great feature. And lots of new places for me to go to the next time I’m in Istria. As for the bees wax candles, pretty cool right? It was this tiny shop in the old town, kind of like Croatia’s answer to the Body Shop! The lady only spoke Croatian or Italian, so I couldn’t ask too many questions… sorry !

  17. Stéphanie says:

    Je veux partir de Chalon et aller me promeneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeer à l’étranger.
    Il y a une photo qui me rappelle St Tropez, c’est vraiment semblable!

  18. Cruise News says:

    Wow! Absolutely fantastic pictures. I need to go there!

  19. travel affiliate says:

    im going to croatia for a holiday,1) which are the best beaches to go to 2)can we swim with dolphins there 3)are most the beaches pebbles,rocks or sand.

  20. Kerrin says:

    Travel Affiliate, where are you going in Croatia ? I had a very short trip to Istria, so I did not have the chance to fully discover the coastline and Istria’s beaches. If you are going to this region, then below is a site that may help answer your questions. Have fun planning your trip !!

  21. jen laceda says:

    My PRIORITY to-go list: (something I need to save up for / rob a bank / or beg some tourist board for)
    -South Africa

    Closer to Europe/Canada
    -Sicily, Italy
    -Corsica, France
    -Sardinia, Italy

    Of course, my list can go on forever, but these are the tops right now!
    What’s on your list?

  22. Kerrin says:

    Jen, before I even begin to think about my (never-ending) to-go list… I have but ONE question for you . . . Where’s ZURICH on that list of yours ??? 😉

  23. jen laceda says:

    Kerrin…Zurich is the place where you and me both will meet up to embark on our adventures together!! That’s already a given!! Hehehe. (nice rebound, Jen 🙂 )

  24. Kerrin says:

    Jen – yes, nice rebound indeed ! 😉 Excellent in fact. Zurich and I are ready when you are…

    Ok, on MY NEW TRAVEL LIST: No trips planned (yet !! ) but daily visits in my mind…
    San Sebastian

    Then there are all the places I fell in love with, and would love to get back to:
    Pays Basque
    Greek islands
    and the list goes on and on…

  25. blanka gobo says:

    I just sent a comment – did you receive it??

  26. blanka gobo says:

    I just sent a comment earlier and do not know if it went through.
    Karren, i hope you remember me, I am your Moms friend Blanka (Mondi), and I was trilled to have finnaly hooked up on your site. My husband is also from Istria, he was born on the other side of penninsula, in Labin. YOu did a great job on Rovinj, but you will be also amazed to what you will find if you go down to Dalmatia especially the islands – Hvar, Korcual, Brac and many others. Keep the good work. Love Blanka

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