06 March 2011

Istria - Rovinj

Probably the most Italian town in Croatia, Rovinj (Italian Rovigno) is positioned on a striking peninsula over which the Church of St. Euphemia (Sv. Eufemije) stands watch. The bell tower is reputedly modeled on the (much taller) tower at St. Mark's in Venice, which is rather likely given that Rovinj was Venetian territory. If you are from the region, it is highly likely that Rovinj is also the home of the cigarettes in your bag – Pozdrav iz Rovinja! Even if you don't smoke the benefit of this to you is that whilst neighboring Porec spent the 80's developing extensive (and horrific) package tour hotels, Rovinj meandered along happily without the hordes. Now they come, but Rovinj remains charming, and possibly one of the most romantic towns on the Adriatic. Its location also makes it easy to visit Pula and the rest of Istria, including such spots as nearby Svetvincenat, the ruins at Dvigrad, and the Lim Fjord (Limski zaljev). Don't miss having a drink at sunset at Valentino, where the seats are actually in the rocks that make up the old town's peninsula. If you are on a romantic holiday, it is really sublime.

For the ‘boys’ - you should know that Rovinj is also the location of Croatia’s most popular gay beach – located out of town on Punta Križa.Unfortunately, there are still no cafes or other places catering to the boys. But hey, that makes the trip healthier.

Rovinj Tourist Association
Pina Budicina 12, Rovinj
+385 (52) 811 566, 813 469

Hotel Angelo d'Oro
via Svalba 38-42
+385 (52) 840 502
This boutique hotel in a converted palazzo in the old town was Croatia’s first true five star hotel. Extremely well done, although not at all in a coastal style - more Italian palazzo than beach, with the main drawback being the lack of a sea view from the guestrooms (although the roof terrace does offer such). The restaurant and wine cellar also get kudos. Pricey, but if you are looking for a truly romantic weekend, isn't your partner worth it?

Hotel Adriatic
Trg. P. Budicin b.b.
+385 (52) 802 500
+385 (52) 813 484 fax
As long as you’re not there during “Rovinj nights” this place is cute and right in the middle of town, with an old-style charm (except in the rooms – which are rather plain but comfortable). Air conditioning a big plus. Rates topping out at around €140 for a double with sea view in summer 2007. French beds only with non-sea view rooms for some bizarre reason. The breakfast on the terrace overlooking the water is a big plus.

Porta Antica
+385 (52) 812 548
Apartment rentals in the old town, many with sea views, with air conditioning and all the accoutrements for a comfortable stay. Rates vary by location and size, from studios to duplex apartments overlooking the sea.

A. Rismondo 23
+385 (52) 816 663
It may look like a non-descript clone of every other seafood restaurant on the marina of Rovinj, but this is the standard bearer. Despite the horrible menu (with pictures!) the food is good – even if the menu is the same as at all the other tourist spots. Get the hobotnica salata. If you are sick of seafood go for the Istarska fuži or the pasta with truffles.

La Puntulina
Sv. Križa 38
+385 (52) 813 186
Up the street from Valentino you will find this combination wine bar and restaurant with a great terrace hanging off the side of the buildings and, like Valentino, seats on the rocks. The Italian influence on the kitchen is quite welcome. The fresh fish “Puntulina” comes recommended – fish baked with sliced potatoes, olive oil, garlic, and black olives - a nice change from “Dalmatian style”.

Svetoga Križa/Santa Croce 28
+385 (52) 830 683
In the old town literally nestled on the rocks jutting out to the water; just sit back on the cushions and try not to fall in. This place is perfect for a pre-dinner drink watching the sun sink below the sea or for an underlit post-dinner cocktail. Valentino gets Jeffrey’s vote for the most romantic drink spot on the Adriatic coast - either side.

Pizzeria da Sergio
Grisia 11
+385 (52) 816 949
Although pizzerias are not something we would normally deem worth mentioning, this one is actually notable. Light thin crusts, wonderful toppings including fresh arugula, and friendly staff.

Ljekarne Blitva / Pharmacy Swiss Chard
Carera 22a
+385 (52) 830 832
Ok, how could we possibly resist including anything named like this? And anyhow, you never know when you may need contact solution, Vichy face wash, or maybe even a prescription.

Bale / Valle

This miniscule walled city north of Vodnjan and about 20 minutes from Rovinj is worth a trip just to catch the sporadic summer jazz organized by Kamene Priče. The town castle has been partially reconstructed and makes a great backdrop to a daytrip from Pula, Rovinj, or elsewhere.

Kamene Priče
Castel 57, Bale
+385 (52) 824 235
Good food, drinks, friendly staff, and live jazz on sporadic nights in the summer. In the old town in several connected townhouses with a great multi-tiered set of terraces in the backyard. In 2007, they held the first “Last Minute Jazz Festival” on the main square in the old town – just in front of the castle; this year the festival runs from 1-5 August. They also have five small 2 and 3 bed apartments for rent for around €50/night.

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