A wonderful tangle of tiny streets, busy in the daytime and delightfully quiet at night, it’s hard to imagine a more romantic medieval town than Rovinj. The picturesque town rising dramatically from the sea started out as an island, defended by inner and outer seawalls. It was so well defended – but easy to get to from the mainland – that it was a popular place to live. Over 10,000 residents crowded together in the tiny island town in the middle ages, giving shape to the current town with it’s delightfully atmospheric maze of streets.
- Biking the Golden Cape
- Wandering the quiet streets in the early mornings and evenings
- Exploring Roman Amphitheater and Roman Ruins in Pula
- Istrian Hill Towns
Wandering Around Rovinj
Rovinj is immensely popular and busy, but with 7 nights in this lovely Istrian town I had the pure pleasure of early morning walks before everyone was out and about their business for the day.
The main street through the middle of the island is lovely Grisia Street. Packed with shops, galleries, and tourists most of the day, it’s delightful to walk this long stepped street early in the morning.
Most of the streets up and down in old Rovinj are paved with beautiful cobblestones polished smooth by countless feet.
Quiet mornings before everyone was out was a wonderful way to get to know my way around Rovinj, but my favorite time for walks were the lovely evenings. Every night led to new discoveries of alleys, stairs and little corners of this delightful town.
Biking is big in Rovinj, people were biking carefree through Tito square and down around the harbor having a great time. Our second day in Rovinj we joined the ranks of bikers and zipped over to the famous Golden Cape Forest Park. That is, we would have zipped if there weren’t so many beautiful views that required a photo stop! The third day we biked again, this time exploring north to another beach. Not nearly as interesting or fun as the ride the day before, we went back…and did the fabulous Golden Cape all over again.
Biking the Golden Cape
The most fun you can have on two wheels in Rovinj is biking the beautiful Golden Cape close to Rovinj. It’s almost flat the entire way through forested paths with wonderful views of the crystal clear blue water of the Adriatic and countless gorgeous places to stop to picnic, swim or linger over a beer at a café.
Driving Excursions from Rovinj
With a week in Rovinj we had time for 3 driving excursions – the top on my list was the Roman Ruins in Pula, less than an hour’s drive away.
Roman Ruins in Pula
It’s immense, it’s ancient, and it’s Roman. If you’re fascinated by all things Roman of course you have to see this, the 6th largest Roman amphitheatre in the world still surviving from that long ago Imperial Roman age in the 1st Century. There are other Roman sites in Pula, all in a convenient easy walk from the Roman Arena.
Tip: Get the audioguide at the Roman Arena to get the most out of your visit.
Tip: Parking is free on Sundays.
Istrian Hill Towns
A driving tour through the Istrian Hill towns makes a terrific excursion from Rovinj. We started with the artist town of Grožnjan where there are signs in English to inform you about the history of the buildings in the pretty, tidy town.
Tip: If your last stop is Motovun, save an appetite for a truffle dish the town is famous for.
We continued to fascinating, practically deserted hill top Završje, worth a brief stop if you like picturesque, crumbling abandoned places. It was abandoned after WWII in the “Italian Exodus” when many families left their homes to go to Italy rather than be part of the newly formed Yugoslavia. There are some locals here and some new money for restorations from the EU, with signs in English describing the 11 main sites.
Our next stop was mostly empty Oprtalj. Although not abandoned like the ghost town of Završje, on the day we visited it was just…empty. And a little sad. We quickly left and continued on to our last stop – Motovun.
While Motovun is the most touristy of the Istrian Hill towns, it’s a picturesque place to visit on top of it’s steep hill. The activities here are walking the wall surrounding the tiny top of the town and enjoying a truffle infused meal at one of the many restaurants.
Opatija – Not Your Typical Croatian Town
A little over an hour drive from Rovinj is the un-typical Croatian beach resort town of Opatija. The architecture is what you’d find in the 19th century golden age of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. We drove over for a change of pace and to take a walk along the beautiful miles long seaside walk called the Lungo Mare. We stopped for a cappuccino at Lido bar…relaxing on their comfortable couches by the sea…and never made it farther than the Hemingway American Bar for a big (and welcome!) change in a meal – a delicious hamburger.
Last Day in Rovinj
It’s a good thing our biking and driving excursions were over, the rain blew in with a powerful wind on our last day in Rovinj. We made it to the top of the Bell Tower of the Church of St. Euphemia with just a few minutes to spare.
Taking a break from the torrential downpour under the awning of the Viecia Batana Café off of Tito Square, we admired the vinyl rain ponchos a couple sitting next to us were wearing, as well as other people who were actually out in the rain. Shorts, flip-flops and rain ponchos were definitely in style today.
Now we had to have ponchos! And it’s a good thing we bought some, they came in handy many times on this trip.
It doesn’t take long to see the sights in Rovinj, but to go biking and experience the charm of this delightful town in the quiet mornings and evenings you need at least 2 nights. With a great apartment to come back to that included parking, Rovinj made a terrific sightseeing base for our 7 night stay.
- Croatia Map
- Guide Book for Croatia & Slovenia, including Mostar and Kotor – The Rick Steve’s guide book was terrific for self guided walks and highlights of Things To Do in all our stops on this trip – except Zadar. Although there was zero mention of Zadar it wasn’t a problem, we did our own walking tour with the Tourist Map.
- Angelo d’Oro Hotel and Apartments – Trevisol #3 Apartment (One Bedroom Apartment With Sea View – Booking.com)
Trevisol Apartment #3, Angelo d’Oro Hotel & Apartments
The apartment is in a terrific location right in the heart of the old island town in a renovated building and up an easy 3 flights of stairs. The quiet bedroom had a very comfortable huge bed, big bathroom, nice galley kitchen with everything we needed for a week, and a great size table for our 2 laptops. It was perfect for our 7 nights in Rovinj, and I loved the view looking out over the rooftops to the Santa Katarina Island and to the water below. Read my TripAdvisor Review on this apartment
Rovinj with a Car
My first choice for a place to stay is always right in the heart of the town or city that I want to visit. But like any other medieval pedestrian town, having a car is a problem in Rovinj. The most hassle free and economical way to deal with a car is by staying at place that offers parking or a discount on parking. Although the parking lot for our Trevisol apartment was a good 20 minute walk from the apartment, it was worth the walk to not have to worry about the parking restrictions in the Zone lots where you pay by the hour.
Arriving in Rovinj
We took the CRNJ Tours Bus #2336 from Koper to Rovinj (a taxi from Piran to Koper) which left Koper promptly at 9:34 in the morning and got in to the Rovinj bus station close on the schedule of 11:50 am. From the bus station, the Rovinj harbor is an easy and short downhill walk.
Next stop: Plitvice National Park for 2 nights, an easy 4 hour drive from Rovinj through plenty of tunnels and on again off again rain.
Have you been? Did you fall in love with Romantic Rovinj like I did?