If you know Croatia at least a bit, the association from the title has certainly rang a bell: it is Istria that I am talking about. After exiting the famous tunnel of Učka, you may feel as arriving into a different dimension. Istria is Croatia’s largest peninsula, and it features hundreds of kilometers of spectacular coast all around. But not only. If you dare to leave the beach area for a while, you may actually get to really know Istria and what it presents. From hilltops with high-quality wineries to ancient towns which are still to be fully discovered, central Istria is definitely hiding so much undiscovered potential.
Heaven for Hedonists
Trust me, this is not an understatement. CentraI Istria really does present a small heaven for true hedonists, so allow me to begin with what I love most about Istria: wine, truffles and people.
Some of the purest grape sorts are cultivated among this area, as it holds both ideal terrain as well as plenty of healthy sunshine. And you cannot visit Istria without trying some Malvazija or Teran wine out (unless you are under age). These wines hold the best of authentic tastes and they are such an amazing match to local cuisine specialties. When moving from the coast towards the hills, seafood is often replaced with truffles and local pasta. And can you even imagine what spectacular views can you enjoy from hilltop wineries and restaurants? No, you probably cannot. Local property owners are certainly well familiar with all advantages, and they have already recognized the potential of their own region, so instead of focusing on wines and truffles only, they have recently started to craft authentic touristy stories all around their hilltops. For instance, one of the best winemakers of the region has recently decided to add a heritage hotel to the winery. This has led to the great Hotel Roxanich to emerge in its full beauty and to instantly become one of the coolest places to stay.
Apart from great boutique hotels, Istria offers amazing independent and privately owned accommodation choices as well. These are particularly attractive during modern pandemic times, as they guarantee privacy and isolation along with high-quality houses or villas.
And there is so much to do around. Local inhabitants, especially older Istrian generations, will fix you up with great tips of places to visit but they will also happily share some interesting stories about the region with you, as long as you offer them a glass of wine. Or rakija. The choice is yours.
Small tip: when in the lookout for authentic dishes, ask for konobas instead of restaurants.
Endless Outdoor Activities
If you think that you could get bored after a few days of visiting greatly authentic locations, please do re-think such thought. Central Istria has so many fun attractions to visit, and all that greenery and open spaces certainly add to all those possibilities of expanding like crazy.
Pazin, for instance, is not just the administrative seat of the region. Along with medieval castles and interesting museums, this town offers plenty of outdoor activities thanks to its greatest natural beauty: the Pazin Cave. The cave is actually located below the town, so there is plenty of greenery in between them. And to reach one edge from the other, you can either walk a bridge or jump. Exactly, jump. Rope jumping for the bravest ones or a zip line for great views of the area. Or, if you prefer spending time in cooler areas of Pazin, you may want to actually enter the cave and see its entire beauty from the inside. Plus, there is a small zip line even inside the cave. How amazing is that?
When visiting in groups, a fun day could be one spent at one of the few adrenaline parks there, as their owners have really invested the maximum of their capabilities in order to craft a purely adrenaline-friendly venue for all enthusiasts. Otherwise, renting some quads and exploring independently the hidden beauties of Istrian forests is another extremely cool method of spending time in this region.
For those who are looking more classical activities, there is no need to worry. There are plenty of hiking and biking paths all around.
I know, I have already mentioned how great Istrian truffles are, but just a few more lines. And then I am done- promise. You simply cannot visit Central Istria without learning more about its famous exquisite delicacy. And one of the absolute best ways of doing so is actually deciding to visit a truffle house. There are several exceptionally good and you basically cannot make a wrong decision here. However, my favorite is Pietro & Pietro.
This family-owned place is, first of all, located on a fantastic location. The owners are adorable and will hook you up with great tips, including how to care for your precious truffles in the best possible way. But what I love most about them is strolling through the forests with their dogs as part of their truffle hunting experience. This truly is a unique experience which will stay embedded for a while. Prepare yourself to learn some handy secrets of real truffle professionals, and feel free to ask as many questions as you like.
And finally, after a few hours of forest hikes, a fully scented degustation is provided. Local products always taste better when there is a splash of truffle in them. Obviously, if you are a fan. Otherwise, you may even detest them, thanks to their special scent. In that case, you may choose to enjoy some purely authentic olive oil instead.
Am I there yet?
All this writing about Istrian cuisine has really made me hungry. But a few kilos here or there do not make a difference when you find yourself in such a magical place as Central Istria is. Plus, these can always be fixed with a few fun sporty activities.
Am I there yet?