The coastal settlement of Rovinj is a tourist favourite, yet hasn’t lost its charm despite its popularity. The cobbled streets are lined with arts and crafts stores, and, with no motorised traffic permitted inside the old city walls, it looks and feels a lot like Venice. The peninsula town was once an island, until the population outgrew the space and engineers were called in to connect Rovinj to the mainland. The town is still a functioning fishing village and the busy harbour is one of the star attractions.
Trek up the steep streets to the Cathedral of St Euphemia for a great panorama of the area. The pretty church is home to the remains of St Euphemia, a Christian who was fed to the lions because of his beliefs. She became the town’s patron saint after her coffin floated onto Rovinj’s shores sometime in the third century, having gone missing in Constantinople.
A little further up the coast towards Italy, Porec is a similarly attractive coastal town, with an important sixth century Basilica, as well as a ferry service to Venice. Inland, the beautiful hilltop town of Motovun is the perfect place to check out the views of the Istrian landscape and the local truffle forests.
Istria is small and you’re never more than about half an hour from the coast, so it’s ideal for a long weekend. In a few days, you can easily get a good feel for the area and possibly even fall in love with this heart-shaped region.
• Joanne Christie travelled to Istria with Ryanair. Return flights from London Stansted to start at £20
Once the food of peasants, this strange fungus-type food which is found underground, became an acquired taste for the rich and famous back in the 1970s and is now sold for about €2500 a kilogram in Croatia. Istria may not be able to lay claim to the world’s most expensive truffle, but one local managed to secure a place in the Guinness Book of Records for finding the world’s largest white truffle back in 1999. Rather than auction off his 1.31kg find, Giancarlo Zigante capitalised on his newfound fame and started up a truffle-themed restaurant, now the thriving Restaurant Zigante. Here you can sample various dishes made with this local speciality, and a decent feed shouldn’t put you back more than £20, a bargain in comparison to the cost of a similar truffle-based dinner in London. If you’ve not got time for a feed, you can still visit their shop and purchase take-away truffles or truffle-flavoured goodies such as pasta sauce or biscuits. A word of warning, though – truffles are a known aphrodisiac, so don’t go for the five-course menu unless you’re with someone you fancy.
Visit TNT’s Croatia Travel Guide.