3 Age-Old Cities of the Istrian Peninsula – Croatia

A Blue Door in Groznjan Alley

Another adventure under way, we wound our way through 3 wonderfully preserved age-old cities today on our motorcycle tour through the Istrian Peninsula: Groznjan, Motovun and Rovinj.

We established that we love Slovenia, but it was time to move on to the other parts of our trip. We’ll be back Slovenia! On to Croatia and the Istrian Peninsula. We had 2 towns we wanted to visit but clearly spent too much time in castles and caves to visit them both. After reviewing several guide books, I selected Groznjan and Motovun in Istria to check out. By way of our path from north to south (during which we saw a more than 10-mile back up of vacationers heading north), Groznjan was our first town to see.

Groznjan – Istrian Peninsula

Groznjan is a charming little artist’s town that seems to have just enough to see for about a day, and that’s stretching it. It’s very picturesque with narrow cobblestone streets lain between medieval buildings, the whole town atop a hillside with sweeping views. In one direction we could even see the hilltop town of Motovun and of to the coast. You could easily spend a day in Groznjan if you really kicked back, arriving about noon, had a leisurely lunch, sat for a while admiring the views of the Mirna Valley, then walked the town, had a leisurely dinner and watched the sunset.

The Istrian peninsula is known for white truffles, so there was no shortage of shops in Groznjan where you could buy anything white truffle-related. We sampled some white truffle mixed items on crackers and I will say they were delicious. However, without a way to refrigerate them, we had to pass and just hold that flavor in our mouths as long as we could.

Around every corner and down every street there are colorful doors to cozy artist’s studios, window boxes filled with flowers, old stone benches to while the time away, and vine covered walkways that lead to the edge of the tiny village of less than 200 souls, for great views of Istria. Under Venetian/Italian control over much of the last several centuries (including after WWII) it feels much like Umbria or Tuscany in this region, just the details are different.

Hard to believe the town was nearly abandoned by 1965 until a group of artists moved in and revived the town. A bustling village in the summer thank you very much, it even boasts a jazz festival for two weeks in July.

Motovun – Istrian Peninsula

It was a nice motorcylce ride to Motovun, up the hillside until we reached the parking area. Apparently there is free parking for motorbikes everywhere in Croatia (and Europe for that matter) except Motovun. They wanted to charge us no matter where we parked, along the road or not. We bristled at the thought of it in principle, and because the day was getting late, we decided to leave Motovun to our imagination. We headed for Rovinj to spend the night.


Rovinj – Istrian Peninsula

We arrived in Rovinj in the evening after sunset and tried to check in to a hotel we had found online. Unfortunately they were booked, but it just so happened that the owner’s father was there with her at the time we tried to check in and he had a room available for us at his house, for half the price. With some hand gestures and a mix of German and English, we got just what we needed, a clean room to sleep, a bathroom that was all ours, and a cheap price, the trifecta of international travel…

We found a nice waterfront restaurant a couple kilometers from the place we stayed. A really busy place but we got decent service, which is never a guarantee in Europe no matter how good or bad the place, or how busy. We each ordered pizza hoping it would at least be decent and quick. Turns out Croatia makes a damn good pizza, the Venetian influence was good to this area.

The morning in Rovinj was great. We strolled the town streets that were still pretty busy with tourists (mostly German and no Americans that I could pick out) even though the season was winding down in late August. Rebecca thought Rovinj was too touristy but I kind of liked it.

We walked the cobblestone streets up to the church at the center of the old town, at the top of the hill, on the little peninsula, where we got 270 degree expansive views. We wound our way back down via a different path and eventually reached a cliff-side cafe with a tremendous view of the Adriatic. Croatia was definitely growing on me and I was thinking there might be enough on the Istrian Peninsula to which to return. After a double espresso, we were on our way back down to the bike to head to Pula at the tip of the peninsula.