Head inland from the Istrian coast and you’ll notice that crowds dissipate, hotel complexes disappear and what emerges is an unspoiled countryside of medieval hilltop towns, pine forests, fertile valleys and vineyard-dotted hills. The pace slows down considerably, defined less by the needs of tourists and more by the demands of harvesting grapes, hunting for truffles, picking wild asparagus and cultivating olive groves. Farmhouses open their doors to visitors looking for authentic holiday experiences, remote rustic taverns serve up slow-food delights and Croatia’s top winemakers provide tastings in their cellars. Hilltop villages that once seemed doomed to ruin are attracting colonies of artists and artisans as well as well-heeled foreigners. While many compare the region to Tuscany – and the Italian influence can’t be denied – it’s a world all of its own.