While most people do come for the sun and the sea, the road less travelled, the Istrian hinterland in this case, shows that Istria has much more to offer to those who venture off the beaten track. Exceptional culinary tradition, numerous walking and cycling trails, picturesque cities with medieval fortress, hidden caves and vineyards, untouched nature and much more awaits you in Istrian inland.
Istrian inland is an extraordinary region with rich historical legacy where you have the opportunity to learn about Istrian villages, olive growing in Istria through history to the present day, get acquainted with the old customs and culinary arts of this part of Croatia, engage in grape harvesting and wine production, hunt for truffles and learn even a few words of “čakavština” (a dialect spoken in Istria). The history of Istria goes far back into the past, and numerous monuments and other buildings bears witness to it. Istria is an extremely interesting region full of historical stories, but also myths and legends, so it would be a pity not to visit at least one of the historic cities of the Istrian inland and enjoy their charms.
The go-to destinations are Motovun, site of a film festival held each year at the end of July and early August, and Grožnjan, an artists’ paradise, but there are lots more. In Livade near Motovun you can try the world famous truffles, Savičenta with its medieval Venetian castle Morosini-Grimani is worth the visit and in Hum you’ll get to see the world’s smallest town. If this is not enough for you and you feel fit enough, the hills of Istria’s two mountains Ćićarija (1000 m) and Učka (1401 m) are within a stone’s throw and Lim canal, the setting form many Hollywood films is just to the south.
Step away from the crowded beaches and discover the beauty of Istria’s green heart with its green lush valleys surrounded by forests and meadows. Motovun is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and picturesque little hilltop towns in Istria. Its name derives from the Celtic word Montona which means city on a hill.
This stunning little town is Istria’s best preserved medieval fort. Long history of human inhabitation began with Illyrian and Celtic tribes which settled this location in prehistory. Much of its medieval appearance has been preserved until today. The central square was named after Andrea Antico, a 15th century composer and the inventor of musical notation. Antico’s square is also the sight of Saint Stephen’s church from 1614. Next to the church, there is a belfry from the 13th century with a parapet. The belfry was built around the time of the original church on whose foundations the current one was built. In modern times the famous Croatian writer Vladimir Nazor placed his gentle giant character of Veli Jože (Big Jože), meant to be a symbol of resistance to Venetian rule, in Motovun. Once you reach the top of the steep Motovun hill, you will be rewarded with an incredible view overlooking the Motovun forest, known for its truffles, and the river Mirna. For the gourmets there is a selection of small family-held local inns and restaurants.
Tiny Roč is a lovely little village located on the slopes of Ćićarija mountain whose 153 inhabitants can proudly say that the first ever book in Croatian was printed in their village in 1483. From Roč you can reach the „smallest town in the world“ Hum via the Glagolitic alley. There are ten stone monuments placed along the Glagolitic alley. Other sights worth mentioning in Roč are: the church of Saint Rok (14th century), church of Saint Anton (12th century) and church of saint Bertol (15th century).
Popularly known as the world’s smallest city Hum is a tiny little Istrian village with only 17 inhabitants located 7 kilometres from Roč and connected to it by the famous Glagolitic Alley, a series of ten stone monuments dedicated to Glagolitic scholars and script. Other than being known as the world’s smallest city Hum has also been declared the City of Biska (local Istrian spirit made from mistletoe and originating in Hum). Even though tiny, Hum offers its visitors a souvenir gallery and a small inn typical for Istria where you can try local delicacies.
Grožnjan is widely known as the artist’s town. Come and see for yourself why has some many artists chosen to make this place their home. There are more than twenty art galleries and studios in Grožnjan as well as an international film school. This romantic little town is nestled on top of a 289 meter high hill from which you can see to the south the valley of the Mirna river and to the east Motovun and Učka mountain, Istria’s highest mountain. The town layout is typically medieval and the dominant building styles are baroque and renaissance. Even though lacking in major historical monuments, Grožnjan more than makes up in its artistic atmosphere.