Rovinj has won the precious award for the Croatian Destination of the Year for the second time in a row. This picturesque small town with just 14 thousand inhabitants certainly offers a truly romantic setting among its cobblestone labyrinth of streets, and it really does have a rich history. But is it really worth the hype? Well, I decided to head to this hidden gem and find it out on my own.
Old Town with Modern Boutique Accommodation
My visit starts from the local ferry port, as I decided to take a fast boat line from Venice to get there. Therefore, my first point of arrival is literally into the very historical center. And the view is simply amazing! A small town with ancient stone buildings featuring spectacularly colored walls, with a potent church on top of the hill and plenty of crystal-clear sea all around. Wow, that’s what I call a great first impression. And since I immediately feel in love with those orange and red houses, I really wanted to disregard the new part of the town for a while and to actually stay in the heart of the historical center. I search online for a couple of local hotel choices, and there are plenty of greatly situated boutique solutions around. To be honest, the choice was not an easy one, but I decided to give it a try with the cool, hipster-looking The Melegran. And immediately after checking-in, I was super-glad to have chosen such a modern variation. From extra friendly staff to luxurious room design, this hotel actually managed to keep the authenticity of the old town as well as to let their guests feel as if they were a part of the local community. And they let you rent some old-school city bikes as well as local beach bags and towels. Which is great, as this is exactly what I plan to use during the rest of the weekend.
Natural Beauty surrounding the Center
Heading a bit outside towards the new part of the town, I pass by the sea promenade of the recently renovated Grand Park Hotel. And oh yes, I will definitely stop for a lunch with a 5-star view on my way back. But for now, Punta Corrente park is loudly calling my name, and I just have to explore its great beaches for a while. I am on vacation after all. Here, you can find greatly suitable options for everyone- from approachable coves for families with kids to isolated wild beach areas for couples in research for a private retreat. My choice of the day? Monte Mulini beach, where I can finally enjoy some loud music along with an iced-chilled cocktail. Pour on another one, mister Barmen.
After becoming almost friends with some locals who were absorbing just as much sun as I was, I find out that Rovinj is surrounded with plenty of minute islands which you can actually visit. Therefore, I decide to skip my lunch at the promenade, and I call myself a taxi boat instead. First stop: St. Andrew island. This is literally a 15-minute boat ride away but, once you get out of the boat and stand on land again, you feel as having reached another dimension, really. The sounds of birds which are actually allowed to wander freely (including pheasants!) and the natural setting of the entire island with zero cars around really does feel as another planet. And a relaxing afternoon is guaranteed. For those who never want to leave the island, there is a nice hotel available- nothing too special, to be honest, but still providing decent accommodation to those who want it.
Is there any Nightlife?
After an amazing dinner at Ulika restaurant, which is luckily tucked into the cobbled streets of the old town and not over-crowded with tourists, I am heading in the research for a cool dancing venue, to release some of my travel stress (just kidding, there was no stress after a whole day by the sea). However, there really seems to be none. Instead, there is a newly opened club with a superb sound system but with a not-so-nice crowd. Now, is it acceptable for such a touristy destination to offer no decent dancing capacity after midnight? Well, I guess if you want to only attract families and older couples, that presents no disadvantage, but otherwise it may be a concern for local tourist boards. Anyway, I decide to call it a night and prepare myself for an early wake up.
Magical Istria on the Palm of your Hand
A great thing when staying in Rovinj is actually having the possibility of reaching every single spot of the region in less than an hour drive. And Istria really is a magical place, so my choices of the day were super-difficult ones to make.
Did you know that Istria is the home of good wines and amazing truffles? A truly marvelous area for all true hedonists. I have visited the winery of Kabola, owned by a local family which devoted their life to making some of the best wines out there. And they keep their precious drinks inside old amphoras- how cool is that!? The setting is absolutely amazing, as most of the Istrian wineries are located on hilltops, which allow for spectacular views over the region.
Truffle hunting experiences are a must for all those who enjoy its captivating smells. Plus, you get to try some of the weirdest combinations ever. Truffles and dark chocolate? Yes please, I want to bring some home.
All in all, Istria is a beautiful peninsula with plenty of hidden spots yet to be explored, and all of them are easily reachable when staying in central towns such as Rovinj. For instance, The Seven Waterfalls Trail is one of those walking delights which attracts people during the entire year, not just in summer season. And it really is something truly special.
My visit to Rovinj has come to an end and I am definitely feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and a couple of kilos heavier. But never mind, the local cuisine was absolutely worth it.
What really will stay embedded in my mind are the super-small hip boutique hotels around old town, but also the natural beauty of Rovinj. Rovinj really is a hidden gem, and its people are what adds to the entire experience.
So, is it really worth all the hype? Well, it is, and I would certainly return. But probably not in high season, as this charming town does really seem to have a problem with over-tourism. May, June and early Autumn months are a much better alternative to me. Especially if someone decides to invest into a decent nightlife for once.