“The gem of the Istrian coast”, “the pearl of the Adriatic” how come I never heard of this architectural and historical treasure before – before I started planning our trip to Istria that is. Rovinj is stunning – bohemian and charming and the perfect base for us to relax but also to explore other parts of Istria. Right from my first glance of the old town huddled on a narrow peninsula and dominated by the Church of St Euphemia, I knew we would love it here, we did.
The old town, car-free and packed with pastel coloured Venetian houses, reflected on the water on all sides is just gorgeous. We spent lazy hours there wandering around the narrow, cobbled streets and hidden squares. The crumbling buildings make for a photo opportunity at every turn.
We walked the steep hill up to the top of the old town and the church of St Euphemia. Son was a trooper – no complaints and only moderate encouragement was needed to get him there despite the long walk and the cobbles. They were slippery on the way up and positively lethal on the way down, but we made it. The views are glorious, even better if you take the 192 steps up to the church bell. The reward is a vista of terracotta tiled roof tops, clear sea and the surrounding islands. We felt a real sense of satisfaction too at reaching the top of the highest bell tower in Istria. The interior of the church though is a bit of a let down – busy, noisy and graffiti on the pews – a real shame.
Grisia was one of my favourite places – the winding stone street that goes from the church to the sea that is filled with artists studios and shops selling trinkets and souvenirs.
The quayside is lined with bars, restaurants, cafes and ice cream parlours. All tourist oriented without a doubt, but unlike some other places we have visited, it did not seem to matter here.
Rovinj in the evening is special, the old town and the quayside suddenly come alive. One night we went to Valentino’s Cocktail Bar. It opens around 6, you wait at the door to be served and they bring you a cushion with your cocktail. You sit on the rocks, sip your drink and enjoy the sunset over the sea. Bliss, although with a lively 3 year old the cocktails were consumed slightly faster than normal.
Zlatni Forest Park, south of the old town is full of pines, cypresses, shady paths and rocky coves. We hired bikes a couple of times and explored. The miles of track are fairly flat and easy going. The further from Rovinj you cycle, the more deserted it becomes. We found endless pebbly coves where we stopped and paddled.
We also found endless little cafes and bars in the forest selling delicious (and so cheap) sandwiches, snacks and drinks. The perfect way to make cycling fun. Our favourite was Grote – big stones for tables and seats, it was rustic and wonderful. Son also found his own amusement.
Rovinj, the gem of the Istrian coast and the pearl of the Adriatic, it’s not hard to see why. This was my favourite place in Istria, hopefully someday we can go back.