For travelers with a true wanderlust, Istria and the Istrian Peninsula can be a revelation. It can be explored from both Croatia as well as Slovenia, and both sides of Istria are unique. It also has a beautiful Adriatic coastline in Trieste, which is a very industrial Italian city, and one where locals from the region go for shopping.
From Croatian Istria there are wonderful vistas that look and feel like Tuscany. The area is known for truffles, both dark and white, which are known as “tartufe” in Italian. It is also known for an amazing array of olives, olive oils and vinegar, which can be purchased for a nominal cost. A meal of fresh homemade pasta with white truffles is a treat in Istria. Some tours also provide the unique experience of having tourists meet truffle hunting dogs and their masters and watch how they sniff out these gourmet mushrooms from the ground. It is big business in Istria and a unique and delicious one at that. Overseas Adventure Travel takes this trip as an optional excursion in their trip “Crossroads of the Adriatic.” This optional tour stops at one of the many medieval towns, Motovun, which is a walled city. Another stop is the town of Buzet, known for its brandies, which are delightful throughout the entire region. Istria is a land where food reigns supreme! Between truffles, olive condiments, vinegar that tastes like chocolate, brandies and jams, it is a trip of sensory overload, but a wonderful one to be sure.
Further down the coast in Slovenia, Slovenian Istria is a fascinating place to visit, also with a strong feel and look of Italy, and also with views of Trieste. Piran is one of the must-see port stops in Slovenian Istria, as well as the salt flats up the coast. It is easy throughout this region to grab a pizza, stroll through a local market, grab a creamed pastry, and just enjoy the unique feeling of being in Italy when it was not even in the plans. Sloviana Explorers provides a day trip form Ljubljana to the Istrian Peninsula which includes all of these stops. The salt flats in particular are fascinating, and adds a unique dimension to Slovenian Istria separate and apart from a day in Croatian Istria. They are in fact on the border of the two countries in an area known as Sečovlje Salina Nature Park. Salt production and harvesting still takes place in Lera.
Regardless of which part of the Istrian Peninsula a traveler decides to visit, or even if the decision is to do both, it will be money and time well spent. Many Americans in particular, know very little about this little bit of Italy in the middle of the former Yugoslavia. All the more reason to visit, eat truffles and pasta, buy some olive oil and salt, drink some brandies, and meet a truffle hunting dog. Also, Grand Circle Cruise Line, part of the Grand Circle Travel family, offers as cruise trip to to Istria as well that includes both the Croatian and Slovenian parts of Istria, and hits many of the same high notes as mentioned in this article as well as others. A day or two in Istria, or even an entire cruise to one of Europe’s new and undiscovered destinations, is guaranteed to expand the traveler’s world just that much more.