A guide to Rovinj: the turquoise jewel of Istria
Located a short two hours’ drive or ferry from Trieste in Italy’s Friuli Venezia Giulia, Rovinj is the pearl in Istria’s sparkling turquoise coastline. Istria is the most north-west region of Croatia and was once a part of Italy (for about 30 years between the first and second world wars), and was part of the Venetian republic centuries before that. This influence can be felt and seen to this day, from the Italian language still spoken by the Istriots to the cuisine and Murano glasses that adorn tables across the city. The region is richly diverse – not just the Romans but the Goths, the Byzantines and even the Franks and the Hapsburgs have ruled Istria. Some of the best preserved Roman ruins can be found throughout, and in particular in Pula, which boasts its own Roman amphitheatre.
Rovinj is a pretty fishing port that sits on the western coast of Istria and looks out to an archipelago of about 15 islands. White shiny cobblestone streets wind through the old town and lead to the port or up hill to the St Euphemia Cathedral – the centerpiece of the town, which can be seen as you approach Rovinj by sea.
Known for its massive olive oil production and truffles, the cuisine here swings between delicate and rustic with a big focus on seafood (of course!).
With a view
Along the cliff face, your table at La Puntulina* might just be right at the water’s edge. The staff here are some of the friendliest in Rovinj and the food – seafood is king – is outstanding. Be sure to book for dinner as this place fills up quickly. Also a popular spot for sunset drinks. (€35 for 2-3 courses with wine)
You might just overlook Rio Bar as you stroll down the marina but don’t let the name, strange lighting or bar-look fool you – the seafood here is divine with your catch brought to your table before it’s prepared. The baccala mantecato (local and Venetian inspired cod fish spread) with toasted polenta was a standout. (€30 for 2-3 courses with wine)Modern seafood
Part of the same family of La Puntalina and Rio, dine indoors or outdoors at this local hotspot. Try the raw fish spread of squid, scampi, prawn, sea bass and tuna. Add local wines and one special mille foglie (pastry shards with Chantilly cream) and you’re in for a treat at Giannino. (€40 for 3 courses with wine) Fine dining
Located within the the luxurious Monte Mulini Hotel, the Wine Vault is where Istrian cuisine and haute cuisine meet. The a la carte menu showcases the best of local produce in a modern and innovative way (all served on the prettiest of crockery). The raw scampi were the showstopper for me. (€85 for 3 courses with wine) Croatian pastries
This is your one stop bakery shop for burek! People in this part of the world have been eating these flaky filo pastries (filled with either meat or cheese or even sweet stuff) for centuries, and Mlinar bakery was my fave in Rovinj. The cheese one is to die for as is the apple version!Drink
Valentino Cocktail & Champagne Bar
Cool vibes, white cabana style seating, cushions on rocks and a cliff face view of the sunset – need I say more? Get to Valentino’s by about 7, sit back with your champagne cocktail and watch the sun go down in style. Beach club
Monte Mulini Beach Club
Full service beach clubs don’t get better than this! And to access this one, you need to be a hotel guest at the 5 star Monte Mulini Hotel. Wooden beach beds with comfy white sofas, umbrellas for when you need some respite and the best part – a service button at your bed. Press and the friendly staff magically appear to take your food or cocktail order. The bar stays open until late and from golden hour, the DJ mixes some tunes. If you’re not a hotel guest, the beach beds along the pebble stone beach next door are available for hire. Sail
Navigo Private Charters
On a hot summer’s day, what could be better than your own boat and skipper? There are many options for a boat day in Rovinj but most cater for the masses. To escape the crowds, head out on your own and explore the surrounding islands, the nearby Fjord, see the dolphins swimming and even catch the sunset from the water – all the while jumping off for a swim to cool off. Pure bliss. (6 hours €280 for up to 8 people not including fuel, approx €50 – Call Stefan on 00385 (0) 99 205 4208 or email email@example.com). Wellness
Monte Mulini Hotel Spa
For some time out, a body treatment or a facial, head to the luxury spa at the Monte Mulini resort complex. The wet zone features an indoor swimming pool, steam room, sauna and relaxation garden.
Head to Pula, only a 40 minute drive from Rovinj, to see the Colosseum. It’s one of the best preserved amphitheatres in the world. Our lunch at Hotel Amfiteatar was very good, but not mind blowing. I do recommend it for a day trip to explore theColosseum because of its proximity (literally a few metres away). The old town is full of shops and cafes and the main square features some ancient Roman monuments. Rovinj is much more characteristic, but a day trip is certainly worth it. Signing off from Trastevere
Acknowledgements: I was a hosted guest of the Monte Mulina Beach Club. All thoughts expressed are my own. Nobody tells me what to write. *Puntulina photo courtesy of Mediterraneo Rovinj0