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Istria Holidays: an Overview

Look beyond the classic destinations of the Dalmatian Coast and Dubrovnik and head north towards the border with Italy, for a luxury holiday in Istria. With great seafood, fantastic wine (and an established wine fair), olive oil grown in the hilltop groves, and fantastic truffles, visitors to the region could be forgiven for thinking they were in France or Italy.

Of course this being Europe, continent of ever fluid borders, Istria was once part of Italy (1919-1947) and still has a sizeable minority of Italian speakers, particularly in the coastal and northern regions.

Enough exposition - what to see? Rovinj is one of Istria's star attractions and a major draw card for visitors to the region. This coastal town has followed in Italy's footsteps with delicious food and wine, and it is also one of the Mediterranean's last true fishing ports.

Away from the coast, there are also some quintessentially Italian pastimes to enjoy in the beautiful and bucolic interior such as truffle-hunting and wine-making, all while staying in and visiting hilltop villages that look distinctly Tuscan. Buzet is the truffle capital of Istria, and its nearby forests boast three types of black truffle as well as the much sought after white truffle. The beautiful oak forests of Motovun, however, hold the title of the largest ever white truffle discovered, weighing in at a gargantuan 1.31 kgs. The hilltop town itself was fortified by the Venetians in the 14th century, and Romanesque and Gothic buildings line the cobbled streets within the walls.

Other towns of note off the tourist trail include Svetvinčenat to the south, an enchanting town where the order of the day is wandering; Gračišće, a sleepy medieval town that is often overlooked, surrounded by rolling hills and ancient buildings; and Porec, which is home to one of the most important Western Byzantine churches outside of Italy.

Even better, the coastline is every bit as beautiful as that further south in Croatia, so it's very much the best of both worlds here. Which only leaves us pondering one thing. Why on earth don't more people go on holiday to Istria?

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If You Do Three Things
1
Rovinj And Pula

Wander the narrow streets and the small squares of romantic Rovinj. Climb the spiral staircase of St. Euphemia's church tower and admire picture-perfect views over the old town and brilliantly blue archipelago. Bike along the coast to discover the many islets, admiring the colourful buildings along the way. For a cultural escape, explore the ancient city of Pula and marvel at the Roman amphitheatre, the mighty medieval walls and the Austrian villas.

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If You Do Three Things
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Wine Tasting

Embark on a wine tour around Istria's many vineyards to taste the local varieties: Malvasia, a crisp white and the ruby-red Teran. Learn about the history of the vineyards and observe the traditional methods - still employed today - used to craft these wonderful wines. For a truly memorable experience, join a truffle hunting party and explore the dense Motovun forest in search of these rare delicacies.

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If You Do Three Things
3
Groznjan and Motovun

Stroll the cobbled streets of Groznjan - dubbed the "Town of Artists" - and admire the romantic beauty of this revived Venetian fortress. While jazz tunes and classical music waft through the air, discover the many art galleries and music studios. Meanwhile, the medieval hill-topped town of Motovun offers panoramic views over the vast Istrian valley. Overflowing with traditional artisans, this fairy tale-like village is the best place to shop for local wine and truffles.

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A Note on Price

You can travel to Istria as a family for under £3,000 for a week, but staying at Monte Mulini can cost about that for a couple.