Sometimes called the ‘new Tuscany’, Istria (Istra to Croatians) is the heart-shaped 3600-sq-km peninsula just south of Trieste, Italy, with a landscape of green rolling hills, drowned valleys and fertile plains. While the scenic interior is beginning to attract artists and artisans to its hilltop villages, the rugged and indented coastline is enormously popular with the sun ‘n’ sea set. Even though most beaches are rocky, there’s plenty of accommodation in the vast hotel complexes that line much of the coast.
Pazin, in the interior, is the administrative capital of the region, while coastal Pula, with its thriving shipyard and Roman amphitheatre, is the economic centre. Tourism along the coast centres on the fetching fishing village of Rovinj and the ancient Roman town of Poreč. The northern part of the peninsula belongs to Slovenia, while the Ćićarija mountains (an extension of the Dinaric Range) in the northeastern corner separate Istria from the continental mainland. Just across the water is Italy, but the pervasive Italian influence makes it seem much closer. Istria’s historic ties to Italy are cemented by the floods of Italian tourists in summer, enchanted by the fresh seafood, excellent pasta and the fact that Italian is a second language in Istria. In a 1991 census, nearly 20% of the inhabitants declared their nationality as Istrian rather than Croatian and, although only 8% of the population is ethnic Italian, many Istrians have Italian passports.
Lonely Planet's top 10 regions for 2011
The lists are out and the crowns have been placed on the heads of our favourite upcoming cities, countries and regions. So, where will you be heading in 2011? Check out these regional recommendations taken from Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2011. 1.
Best of Istria, Croatia
Istria destination guides
Istria: the heart of Croatia
Continental Croatia meets the Adriatic in Istria, the heart-shaped peninsula just south of Trieste in Italy.
Croatia & Slovenia
This adventure bounds from the medieval monuments of Split in Croatia, through the ancient streets of Old Town Zadar, and then north to the island of Rab. Take a blissful beach break before crossing into Slovenia to discover the enchanting surrounds of Bled.
Dubrovnik to Bled
Visit Croatia and Slovenia as you take the scenic route from lively Dubrovnik to pristine Bled. Experience both history and nature at their best - from Roman ruins and walled cities to unspoilt beaches and rugged islands just off the Adriatic coast.