Istria has an envious history. Numerous nations have left their traces here: Histrians, Celts, Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, Austrians and Italians.
The first evidence of early man's presence on Istrian territory dates back to the Old Paleolithic period. One of the most preserved localities of ancient castles is Nezakcij - the capital of Histrian kingdom (probably the first Istrian inhabitants), was situated near Pula.
The greatest number of preserved Roman monuments can be found in Pula – the Augustinian Temple, Hercules' Gate, the Twin Gates, the Triumphal Arch of Sergijevci, the small Roman theatre and the magnificent amphitheatre that in those times was used primarily for gladiator fights. It has an elliptic form and could hold about 20000 spectators.
Istrian Thermal Spas (Istarske Toplice) in the valley of the River Mirna have, since Roman times been known as a thermal sanatorium, with springs of hot healing sulphuric water which is rich in minerals. The most northern small Istrian town of Umag was discovered by the Roman nobles and they decided to take it as their summer residence. The Brijuni archipelago has numerous archaeological localities with Roman ruins whilst the town of Poreč is interesting for its urbanform. In Poreč there is also one of the most beautiful churches in Europe dating from the Early Byzantine period known as the Euphrasian Basilica. The complete Euphrasian complex (the church, baptistery, atrium and the former bishop’s palace) were included on UNESCO's world heritage list.
Rovinj will certainly not disappoint you with its narrow medieval streets and calm Mediterranean atmosphere. In the main church of St. Euphemia are the remains of the female saint and the church represents one of the most beautiful baroque achievements in Istria. Besides the Euphrasian Basilica, on the UNESCO waiting list are Pula's ancient monuments and medieval murals in the small churches, which are the works of art of plebeian artists.
Small towns in the Istria hinterland were mainly situated on the hilltops which provided them with natural protection. Thanks to recurring attacks by the neighbouring feudalists of Venice, these towns were additionally protected by city walls and numerous castles and towers and very often by removable bridge. The most attractive Istrian small medieval town is Motovun, whose panoramic viewpoint is one of the most well known symbols of the Istrian hinterland. Not to be missed are Labin, Pićan, Buzet – the town of truffles, Grožnjan – the town of artists, Hum and Roč – important historical Glagolitic centres. Between the last two villages mentioned is a Glagolitic Alley which consists of 10 monuments which were placed in the period between 1977 and 1981, as a memory to this alphabet.
Download the Cultural and historical Guide (Kulturno_povijesni_vodic.pdf )