In summer, everybody loves an old city by the sea. There are few things more pleasant than spending a morning wandering along narrow alleyways and cobbled streets, spending the afternoon lazing at the beach, and the evening sipping a drink while watching boats bobbing in a harbour. The problem is, we love these cities so much that we are touristing them to death. In Venice, the local authorities have a rather terrifying graph showing how full of tourists the city is today. In Dubrovnik cctv is being installed to monitor levels of crowding. Wandering cobbled streets becomes a stressful weaving of bodies, every meal a struggled to find a restaurant where the food isn’t overpriced and under seasoned.
When we booked to go to Rovinj, the most famous town on the Istrian peninsular, we half expected these things. Rovinj used to be owned by the Venetians and you can tell. It's hilltop town on the sea, in a setting so ridiculously beautiful that, how could it not be crowded, especially on a bank holiday weekend in August? The traffic on the road from Zagreb was certainly busy enough, summer thunderstorms adding to the chaos.
Instead we found Rovinj to be a place where, at least for now, tourism is boosting the economy without killing the place. The city centre is full of tourist apartments, but the sprawling suburbs just behind are full of family homes with well priced restaurants among them, delicious food and great access to the beaches. While the main street and the market were busy, with vendors trying to sell grapes and nectarines for twice the usual price, whenever we turned down an alleyway we would find ourselves on quiet streets filled with art galleries and quirky shops.
The same applied to the beaches. Those closest to the town were packed with people sunning themselves, but when we strolled a little further south of the city, we found quiet spots, chilled beach bars and Croatia’s crystal clear water. The path along the coast, which meanders through pine forest, is really delightful.
In fact the only time we really felt the pressure of tourism was when we booked a sunset dolphin cruise on evening. There is a pod of dolphins who live in the bay, and every night, tour operators along the coast set out on dolphin watching cruises. I love dolphins, and every time I catch a glimpse of one I feel a burst of excitement, but it did feel slightly as if we were on a Moby Dick-equse whaling expedition, as an armada of boats followed the pod around the bay to get a closer look.
On the other hand, viewing the sunset from the bay was magnificent, and the number of boats made no difference.
All in all, Rovinj is a great place for a weekend trip. I say get yourself there now, before the hoards visiting Venice realise what they're missing out on just across the Adriatic.
- There are regular bus services from Zagreb.
- Nearby Pula and Rijeka both have airports
How long to go for
Two nights is the perfect amount of time to visit the place
Where to eat and drink
- Pizzeria Orlando - we didn’t eat here as it was closed, but we were told by our hosts it is the place to go for pizza.
- Tutto Bene - Delicious and creative Croatian/Italian food, and the owners are ever so charming.
- Cognito -top notch coffee
- Il Faro - a tasty neighborhood Italian restaurant with great home made deserts - the pannacotta is a must.