This morning, after meeting your guide and driver, you will start your day of exploring the Istrian Peninsula.
First, you will transfer south along the cost to the town of Porec. An extremely important town during Roman times, it was later sacked by the Goths, conquered by the Byzantines, and gifted to the Patriarchate of Aquilia by the Franks. During medieval times, it opted for Venetian rule but again faced attack from the Genoese and the Austrians not to mention being inundated by plague and pirates! The tumult of influences has resulted in one of the most beautiful destinations on the Istrian peninsula, splitting at the seams with its fascinating history.
Your guide will take you on a visit to the famous Basilica of Euphrasius. This magnificent church dates back to the 6th Century AD and some of the original mosaics still exist inside its walls. Decorated in Byzantine fashion, all the mosaics are on an exquisite gold background and beautiful Greek marble columns support the walls. The Basilica was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in December 1997.
Later this afternoon, you will continue south to Rovinj, where your guide will take you to visit the Church of St. Euphemia. The Venetian Baroque structure dominated the Old Town center of Rovinj and is dedicated to St. Euphemia, the patron saint of the city.
Exeter International Extraordinary Experience (can also be combined with the visit to the Brijuni National Park)
Further down along the Adriatic coast, you will reach the historic town of Vodnjan, which has been known for its excellent local wine since Antiquity. Here, you will be treated to a private tasting in the famous Giacometti-Moscarda Winery. The Giacometti-Moscarda family has been producing award winning wine and olive oil for generations. You will taste home-made grappa with different traditional flavors such as mistletoe or honey, as well as some red and white wine and olive oil, all of these accompanied by home-made proscuitto ham, cheese and olives.
This afternoon, you will reach Pula – a 3000-years-old town located at the southernmost tip of the peninsula. Pula became famous under the Romans during the 2nd Century BC, and became an Episcopal seat during the 5th Century. It was sacked by the Ostrogoths but regained power under the Byzantines as a naval port during the 6th and 7th Centuries. It fell into decline until the Austro-Hungarians gained power and established their naval fleet here. The ancient barracks of the Austro-Hungarian Empire still house Croatia’s naval forces.
You will start your tour at the historic center of the city at its most famous landmark - the Pula amphitheater. One of the largest surviving Roman amphitheaters in the world, it was once the scene of bloody gladiator fights. Today it is Pula’s main cultural outdoor venue and is known for its music and film festivals.
From here you may continue walking along the fragments of the ancient city walls, there were built by the Romans in the 1st and 2nd Centuries and still survive today thanks to the fine craftsmanship of the Roman masons. Along the way, you will come to The Hercules Gate, one of the only surviving entrances to the Old Town of Pula, with its magnificent example of Roman architecture dating back to the 1st Century. As you pass under the enormous entrance, pause for a minute directly beneath the graceful arch to look up and see the symbol of the eagle killing the serpent etched into the stone.
You may want to see the Church of St. Francis and the Franciscan monastery which is adjacent to it. The Franciscan monastery in Pula, as in other parts of Croatia, is still in function. It is built in typical fashion, with an open cloister in the center leading off to the small complex of buildings on the sides. The church of St. Francis was also built in the 13th century along with the monastery and is a fine example of Gothic architecture. It’s most impressive feature is the Rose window that adorns the majestic entrance to the church.
At the end of this day, you may decide to stop to taste some local wines at the Matosevic Winery in the small village of Kruncici near Rovinj. Mr. Matosevic, who has a Doctorate in Botanic Sciences from the University of Bologna in Italy, is one of the region’s leading producers of Chardonnay and Malvoisie wines, and the holder of numerous international awards.
Later this evening, you will return to Novigrad and your hotel for an evening at leisure.
Exeter Services: Vehicle, Driver & Guide
Hotel: Monte Mulini