7 things to do in Rovinj, Croatia
Rovinj is a stunning little city in Croatia filling every inch of a peninsula bordered on three sides by the Adriatic Sea.
The core of the old town is mostly Venetian and built with pale limestone that glows in the sun, containing exciting fragments from every stage of its turbulent history. On a visit, you can tour the maze of streets before a meal beneath a parasol at the picturesque working port. Beyond Rovinj, you can seek out ancient ruins, and visit unfrequented beaches and breath-taking natural spaces like the 10-kilometre-long Lim Fjord.
—STROLL INTO THE OLD TOWN OF ROVINJ
What you’ll see in the old town is a medieval tangle of tight streets and alleys that pass under archways and twist up stairways worn by centuries of footfalls. This historic centre is small, but it won’t be hard to get disoriented by this dense labyrinth of quaint cobblestone streets ! Eventually, you’ll come to restaurants, cafes or even the water’s edge, and you can always find time for a cup of coffee to watch this ancient town go about its day.
—LEARN FREEDIVING AND SCUBA-DIVING
Whether you’re an expert, have had courses in the past or are just starting, it’s a great idea to include freediving and scuba diving in your itinerary. Everything is just right for it around here: the sea is mostly smooth and safe and there are all sorts of interesting things to see beneath the waves.
Experienced divers could explore the wreck of the SS Baron Gautsch, an Austrian merchant ship that was sunk after hitting a mine in the First World War. Rovinj’s Morski Puz Diving Centre is one of a select few dive centres with permission to dive at this exciting wreck and offers both scubadiving and freediving courses.
—VISIT LIM FJORD
You can reach this strange and beautiful natural wonder by road or by tour boat from Rovinj’s port. It is described as both a fjord and a canal, but it’s a 10-kilometre-long river canyon guarded by steep wooded mountainsides that soar to 100 metres. What makes this scene and gives it the appearance of a fjord is the width of the river, up to 600 metres in places.
On land, you can hike or bike through the mix of deciduous and coniferous forests and stop by the restaurant at the mouth of the canyon. Here they serve seafood such as oysters and mussels farmed in these waters.
—TAKE A BREAK AT PUNTA CORRENTE
The boot-shaped peninsula a short way south of Rovinj is a relaxing natural park. Punta Corrente (Golden Cape) was the vision of the 19th-century Austrian industrialist Johann Georg von Hütterott who purchased this land and allowed its nature to flourish.
Now it’s nothing short of an idyll; a beautiful swathe of softwood forest, where cedars, Douglas firs, cypresses and Aleppo pines planted more than 100 years ago are thriving. Come here to saunter along the trails, relax on the grassy areas or unwind by the little rocky coves along the coast.
—ENJOY LOCAL GASTRONOMY
For a genuine taste of Istria try fuzi pasta, which is the local pasta variety. These are small rolled sheets (relatively similar to penne) served with a veal sauce made with wine and tomatoes. In many restaurants, they’ll also grate white truffle on top.
Truffles grow in abundance in central Istria’s damp oak forests, and in fact, the all-time largest in the world was discovered outside of Buje in 1999, weighing 1.31 kgs ! Istria’s Italian connection is also clear from the number of traditional oven pizzerias in towns like Rovinj.
Even if you only hold a passing interest in ancient history, you have to get down to Pula in the south of Istria. The big landmark here is the Arena, a vast Roman amphitheatre with high-arched walls that rival Rome’s coliseum. So much remains that you can even see the original infrastructure; the tunnels that gladiators navigated beneath the arena, and the facilities enjoyed by the richer spectators. On the Forum, the Temple of Augustus is also still standing and a working part of the city, as are the gates and triumphal arches of a place that can feel frozen in time.
—DISCOVER BRIJUNI NATIONAL PARK
Follow the coast down towards Pula until you reach the seaside town of Fazana. From here you can catch the ferry to Veli Brijun, the largest island in the remarkable Brijuni National Park.
It’s part of an archipelago of largely uninhabited islands with a fascinating natural and human history. Since prehistory people had settled here, but by the 1700s they had left due to outbreaks of plague. Make sure you track down the ruins of the two Roman villas, and St. Mary’s Church, built by the Knights Templar in the 1200s. At the Brijuni Cretaceous Park, you can also see 200 million-year-old dinosaur footprints set in the limestone.