03 April 2011

Spring/proljeće/primavera/пролеће/pranverë 2011

Spring is here, the clocks are reset, and weekend breaks are enjoyed like antipasti before the main course that is summer vacation.  In order to help you in your planning for spring, we selflessly spent the past several days revisiting Istria before the season opens to see what was new, and we intend, in the same selfless spirit, to keeping adding throughout the spring (rough work indeed, gorging on seafood, wild game, and truffles, and forced to - all for your benefit mind you - attend wine-tastings in out of the way vineyards.  Check the Istria sections for more details, but to whet your appetite here are a few of the new spring suggestions for Istria.

The awful summer crowd (and we mean awful - not because of how many, but what kind, of people) in Poreč/Parenzo doesn't arrive until June or so, which means that this town is actually worth heading to in the spring.  The UNESCO-protected Basilica of St. Euphrasius (pictured) is worth a see, and when not overrun with package tourists the town serves as a good base to roam the interior.  We stayed in the small but well-located Hotel Mauro, which at 55 Euros/night with breakfast is well worth it, particularly given the exceedingly friendly staff.

Although many restaurants are closed until Easter, Peterokutna Kula ("Pentagonal Tower") right on Decamanus in the old city remains a solid choice for seafood, particularly given its location in, surprise, a renovated medieval tower (No CCs).  From April 1st, the nearby Torre Rotonda will be ready to assist in your search for relaxation with coffees, drinks, and a stunning view over the Adriatic.  Watch those step on the way down!

Heading just up the coast to Novigrad/Cittanova, our favorite waterside cafe Vitriol (Ribarnička 6) is pumping out the coffee, spremuta, wines, etc. to an already packed terrace.  No wonder given the charming hostess and her waiters, not to mention the views across the crystal blue bay to the pine forest (and, if somehow you can't quite leave work behind, the free wifi).  The admittedly unattractive decor of the restaurant next door, Amfora, should not put you off having dinner here, as despite your misgivings insofar as their choice of decorator, the fish (or octopus) roasted with potatoes and tomatoes is worth stopping by, as are the capesante.  And of course you can then head back to Vitriol.  

As pure gastro-hedonism goes, Zigante Restaurant in Livade (yes, there are other branches, but this is the heart of it all) brings you truffles in a way rarely seen - freshly grated at your table in amounts rarely seen, and on everything.  Although we personally find the atmosphere a bit stuffy ("trying to hard" and "faux historic" could be accurately used as descriptors), the food is a truffle lover's dream - including the truffle ice cream.  Bring your credit cards - first courses start at 90 and go to 250 kunas (12 to 27 Euros), and mains start at 200 kune and head upwards - but to be spoiled with truffles this abundant and fresh elsewhere you would pay at least twice if not three times as much.  This is also a good time to try some of the local white wines - possibly a Matosevic or Kozlovic,  or even better, drive from Motovun to the village of Kaldir to the Benvenuti vineyards, where the both charming and handsome Albert Benvenuti will walk you through some brilliant variations all based on the local Malvazija grapes (the 2008 at 150 kuna/bottle is as divine as the views towards Motovun - pictured).

Heading yet further inland, the couldn't-be-more-authentic Konoba Marino in Gracisce is still serving up amazing wild game gnocchi, award-winning kobasice (spicy sausages grilled on open fireplace), and hearty manestra (a heavier, pork-laden version of its Italian cousin minestrone).  It is still the only restaurant in town, and still worth the drive.  Walk it off checking out the view of Mt Ucka or the paths where St. Simeon strolled - you will need to burn some calories after eating here.

Getting here?  Istria has one airport in Pula, but is easy to reach from Ljubljana, Trieste, and Zagreb.  Check car rentals - it makes a huge difference in your ability to freely traverse this beautiful area.

1 comment:

  1. Istra is so beautiful. And now I miss it.