london1967: (knocker)
It was time to say goodbye to beautiful Rovinj
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and drive inland.
That day we visited 4 walled towns/villages perched on top of hills. All of them were ruled by Venice for about 4 centuries so they look a bit Italian architecturally.

The first stop was Grožnjan / Grisignana, a small town that was almost abandoned (2/3 of its population fled to Italy when it became part of Yugoslavia in the early 1950s) but was reborn in the 1970s as a village of artists.

It is rather picturesque and in a lovely position

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(the homemade plum cake was yummy!)

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Next stop was Oprtalj / Portole, smaller than Grožnjan and, sadly, not in very good condition. A number of houses seemed to be abandoned/almost in ruins.

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There's a lovely Venetian loggia opposite the town's gate
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Next stop was probably the most popular of the inland Istrian town, Motovun / Montona. The town is high up on a hill and it is quite a steep walk up to the city gate. It is famous for a film festival.

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Here we had a toasted sandwich as a late lunch and then had a look around and a short walk on the walls

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We then drove to Buzet/Pinguente a small town that is renowned for truffles. Here we stayed for 2 nights at Vela Vrata hotel, where we also dined.

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I had a look around town while Adrian was unpacking

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then we had an aperitivo on a little terrace opposite the hotel and overlooking the city walls, from where we admired the sun disappearing behind the hills

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This was followed by another short walk
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and then dinner.
london1967: (knocker)
The morning after Adrian's birthday celebrations, we got in our hired car and drove up north

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to Poreč/Parenzo.

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It is an old town of Roman origin, famous mainly because of its Euphrasian Basilica, a monument on the World Heritage Unesco list because it was the first church in Western Europe with the 3-apse layout.

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We visited the basilica, admired a Roman mosaic and some others dating from the 5th century, had a look at the baptistery and visited the bishop's palace.
I also climbed the tower for the views.

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(This was an interesting painting in the bishop's palace: a canvas which had been painted over not once, but twice!)

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Then we had a walk around town, looked at the remains of a Roman temple and had a toasted sandwich for lunch.

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(a Romanesque house from the 13th century)

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(this is the centre of town, where the decumanus maximus meets the cardo maximus)

Next stop was the small walled town of Novigrad/Cittanova

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The town is very picturesque. It also has a 16th century loggia, apparently the only one in Istria that is located by the sea.

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After our walk around town, it was time for a sit down and a small ice-cream!

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On the way back to Rovinj, we stopped at Sveti Lovreč Labinski/San Lorenzo di Albona a fortified hamlet.
The main gate (Vela Vrata) sports the omnipresent Venetian lion and a strange head, said to be Attila the Hun.

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I really liked the tiny place.

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Back in Rovinj, we decided to go to the bar by the harbour to watch the sunset again, as we had done 2 days before. I thought that I wasn't going to take any more photos, but then I couldn't resist!

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(this time I had an alcoholic cocktail: a cherry blossom)

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After the drink at the bar, we climbed up to Da Sergio, a renowned pizzeria: the pizza was excellent.
And then it was time to go back to the hotel.

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london1967: (knocker)
On the Monday we picked up our rental car at the airport and drove up eastern Istria to Rovinj.
We stopped at 3 places on the way.

The first town was Vodnjan (or Dignano in Italian).
The town looks in parts very Venetian and it's no surprise as most of Istria was ruled by Venice for a few centuries.

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We visited the church of St. Blaise, famous for the "holy" mummies which were moved here from Venice after the Napoleonic occupation. Apart from these, there are 370 relics belonging to 250 saints!
The mummies of Saint Nicolosa Bursa and Leon Bembo are allegedly the best preserved mummies in Europe: their skin is still elastic!
(And according to one of the guidebooks, the body of St. Nicolosa emanates a sphere of healing energy.)
The book warned the reader that the eccentric parish priest would turn away underdressed people, and we witnessed just that with a couple.
He had no problem with us and we had a private tour of the mummies and the museum. It was all a bit weird, I must say. I'm not sure that he was actually the parish priest (he was dressed all in black and had a big cross around his neck) but whoever he was, he was friendly and... very camp. We learned that his favourite singers are Elton John and Adele (I don't think that I'll ever be able to listen to "Hello. It's me" without thinking of him from now on!).

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Next stop was the hamlet of Svetvinčenat, with the Grimani castle

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and more Venetian-looking buildings (especially this church):

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Here we had a spot of lunch and set off for Rovinj.
On the way we stopped to have a look at the ruins of Dvigrad (Due Castelli, in Italian), a medieval town that was deserted about 300 years ago (it survived numerous sacks and the plague, but apparently the location was very prone to malaria).

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In Rovinj, we stayed at the Angelo d'Oro hotel, a historic palazzo in the old town. As it was for Adrian's birthday, I had booked a suite with sea view on the top floor

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After settling in, we had a walk around
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and then went for cocktails (Negroni for Adrian, Shirley Temple for me) at a bar near the harbour to watch the sunset

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We then had a rather uninspiring dinner at the restaurant next to the bar, and we walked back to the hotel, up the steep and slippy streets/alleyways getting lost a couple of times.
But we made it eventually, and we deserved a night cap for making it back in one piece!

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Pula

Oct. 15th, 2016 09:18 pm
london1967: (knocker)
Well shall I pretend that I've never stopped posting or shall I say something? I'll go for the former! :-)

I'm in Italy at my parents' but only 3 weeks ago we were both in Istria.
It was a surprise trip for Adrian's birthday and he only found out that the destination was Pula at the boarding gate at Gatwick.
It turned out to be a good choice because the weather was glorious for most of the week, and we both loved it.
Adrian had been before when we was a child, although he doesn't think he had visited Pula then.

The hotel I booked was near the Roman Arena and so we had a look around after having a pizza (it was a late afternoon flight from London).

Sunday was spent walking around town.
The Arena is the 6th largest surviving Roman amphitheatre and arguably the city star attraction:

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After the visit, we walked along the harbour

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to the cathedral

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and the main square, which stands on the site of the Roman forum.
Here we saw the temple of Augustus (blown to smithereens in WWII but painstakingly reconstructed), the town hall (which incorporates part of another Roman) temple... and a few vintage cars.

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(I learned to drive in one of these! A Fiat 850)

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We had a restorative drink at a cafe' in the square and then carried on 'exploring'.

We looked at a Roman mosaic,
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admired the Roman arch of the Sergii
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and then climbed up to the castle/fortress

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which owns much of its present appearance to the Venetians.

From here there are great views of the city.

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We visited the museum
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then I climbed the tower
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Next stop was the Franciscan monastery
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before taking in another couple of Roman gates
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On the way back to the hotel we stopped for an aperitivo
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After a rest, we were out to watch the Lighting Giants, Pula's newest attraction: the giant cranes in the shipyard are lit up in a variety of colours.

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followed by dinner at a restaurant at the back of the townhall
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It was lovely to be able to eat outside at the end of September!

On the way back, we stopped by this fountain
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near the Arena

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The following morning we left Pula and picked up a car at the airport and drove to Rovinj, stopped at a few place on the way.
london1967: (Default)
This was what the weather was like this morning on the coast



so we didn't mind leaving too much!

By the time we got to the airport the infamous bura (or bora for the Italians) was blowing and we feared that we would be stuck there!
A few flights were cancelled but luckily the British Airways plane arrived. And left with us on board, 10 minutes early.
It was quite a bumpy take-off I must say!

It was cloudy over Croatia but clear everywhere else - I got a lovely view of Dubrovnik's mortal enemy: Venice, and of the Alps.

When we got home, we had the lovely surprise of plenty of spring flowers in the pots in the drive!







and even a peony in the back garden


Such a colourful welcome home!
london1967: (Default)
We woke up to another sunny day - albeit with some fast-moving dark clouds



and we visited 3 of the must-sees in Dubrovnik.

The Rector's Palace:





The Franciscan Cloisters (and church)







and last but by no means least, the Old City Walls.

It is possible to walk on top of the walls that surround the city and do the entire circuit. The walls are 22 m/72 ft high in places and up to 6 m/20 ft thick and on different levels so there are lots of steps.
But it was worth the effort as the views are fantastic and you can keep an eye on all the goings-on in the city!


















(Easter fair at the harbour)











Later on, we wandered around a little more and visited another couple of churches



before having a cold drink at a bar which is out of the walls and straight on the cliff



We then decided that it was time to call it a day and walked back




to the hotel for a drink on the terrace





A little rest, then back in the old town for dinner and now ready for bed. Exhausted but happy after a gorgeous day.
london1967: (Default)
We left beautiful Korčula behind 


and caught the ferry to Orebić on the Pelješac peninsula


and from there drove down to Dubrovnik in about 2 hours



Once settled in at the hotel, we walked up (oh all those steps!) to the cable car station. The cable car


takes you up to Mount Srd where you can enjoy a vertiginous view of the city, the coast and the islands




The cable car re-opened less than 2 years ago after it was destroyed in the 1991/92 war. 
There are many reminders of the war in the city from the little we explored yesterday afternoon and evening. Some buildings still have shrapnel marks

In Palazzo Sponza there's the




St. Blaise is the city's protector and is seen here holding a model of the city prior to the devastating 1667 earthquake which killed an estimated 5,000 people


But Dubrovnik is certainly a city for the living with the many cafes and restaurants at every corner. It was a bit of a shock being somewhere so busy with tourists and large groups of them, after being the only visitors around in many places we have been to in this holiday.
The other drawback is also that everything seems to have doubled in price, starting from prošek for which we have developed quite a taste as a pre-dinner aperitif.

Still the city is absolutely beautiful both during the day 





and at night

 
We're looking forward to spending our last full day here before flying back to London tomorrow.
london1967: (Default)
How did THIS happen? )
london1967: (Default)
Today we visited Trogir, a beautiful city in a beautiful position: it is built on a small island linked by two bridges to the mainland and another larger island.

There's a castle,


a cathedral with a Venetian-style tower


and a wonderful medieval portal, carved with saints, months of the year and scenes from the Bible



(This is in the chapel of St. John of Trogir)

We then explored the area known as Kaštela, a stretch of the coast between Trogir and Split where a number of small villages grew near the castles or fortified palaces of nobility (or in one case, nuns!) from the two cities.













Later in the afternoon, we climbed up to the village of Klis and its forbidding fortress. From the Romans to the Italians/Germans via the Croats, the Turks, the Venetians and the French this has been a coveted spot and seen many bloody battles and sieges. 
No wonder, as from up here you can see for miles and miles












Tomorrow morning we're planning to catch a ferry which should take us (in 3 hrs 30 mins) to the island of Korčula.
london1967: (Default)
We spent the whole day walking around the historic centre of Split which is completely car free.

The oldest part is what used to be the palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian.



After he abdicated, he moved back to Dalmatia and built a palace for its retirement. 
Following the demise of the Roman empire, people moved in and built houses inside the perimeter of the palace, using the existing Roman walls and edifices. The cathedral itself is nothing else than the mausoleum of the emperor (which is quite ironic as he persecuted the Christians) and the temple of Jupiter became the baptistery.

The palace was originally on the water line but the French who briefly occupied it after Venice fell, built a promenade on the front

which is now the top destination for the passeggiata and a succession of bars and cafes.

The facade of the Roman palace is still there!



This morning we climbed the cathedral's tower. The stairs are very steep at first with some unusually high stone steps but then it became easier



The belfry has very large arched windows which made you feel rather exposed while climbing up



From the top you can see the whole of the city and the port




The octagonal cathedral (or should I say the emperor's mausoleum) is stunning but only have a few pictures because... well taking photos wasn't allowed!




Next stop was the peristyle of the palace, now under partial restoration. This was the place where they would wait to be admitted to the inner part of the palace.
And what better way of waiting than having a drink sitting on the steps?



After the peristyle, there's the cupola, a domed hall just before the emperor's private quarters.



We spent the rest of the day wandering around, taking in more Roman sights






(this is the underground hall of the palace, now housing shops for tourists)

and medieval and baroque ones




It's real joy to walk around the old town, day and night. It's too small to get lost and at every corner there's something to discover.





We ended with a stroll along the seafront




Then a little rest, followed by an aperitivo and dinner. 
And now, after a little romantic walk it's almost time for bed.
london1967: (Default)
Today we drove up to Split, on the coastal road. The scenery is magnificent with beaches, towns and villages framed by steep mountains.
And the Adriatic is so blue, you really wish you could jump straight in. The many large islands often make you wonder whether you are by the sea or on a lake shore.

Our first stop was the village of Ston, which centuries ago was the second city in the Republic of Dubrovnik. In order to protect the town and its precious salt pans - which provided the republic with two thirds of its income - a mini 'Great Wall of China' was built up the mountain and down to the next village of Mali Ston. I said mini but it's 5 km long, and it used to be even longer.



As you can see it's very steep and we only walked from the entrance (bottom centre) to the central keep and down to the other entrance/exit (bottom left).







The joy of visiting out of season is that we were the only tourists and we could imagine being kings (or queens, if you must!) of the castle.

Sadly a number of houses in the village appear to have been abandoned after their roofs caved in, I don't know if as a result of the 1996 earthquake or of the 1991/92 war that, according to the guidebook, caused severe damage to 65% of the houses in the nearby village of Mali Ston.

But the village is rather pretty and you can even find something to make you smile.



The ramparts are a great vintage points for views of the nearby salt pans


and the countryside


We then drove to the salt pans on a narrow road that separates them from the sea





Afterwards we went back on the main road, stopping to take a few pictures here and there
 









The promontory in the middle is the tip of the island of Hvar, and in the background are the Pelješac pensinsula and the island of Korčula.


Ah, if only I could put that blue in a bottle and take it home with me!

We also had to stop twice for border controls as the coastal road goes through a few kilometres of Bosnia-Herzegovina which prevent this country from being land-locked.
It felt rather strange as in western Europe there are no border controls any longer (apart from the UK and Ireland, of course)

We were in Split before 4 pm.
Split - the centre - is wonderful. Built inside the Roman Emperor Diocletian's palace, it is a car free oasis and every corner has something to surprise you.




We plan to spend the whole day here tomorrow.
london1967: (Default)
Yesterday we enjoyed a late lunch in our garden, in the gazebo, under the watchful eye of a blackbird nesting in the pyracantha and I presume incubating her eggs (as she didn't fly away when I went very close to the nest to plant a dicentra. I didn't know that she was there and we kind of frightened each other! lol)

And this afternoon we were listening to a blackbird singing but in a different country, and by the sea.

We flew to Dubrovnik this morning and thanks to the flight being on time, managed to visit the wonderful Trsteno Arboretum..

The location is fantastic, overlooking the Adriatic sea and some of the many islands





The garden is 500 years old and laid out in the renaissance style, and has specimens from around the world, brought back by Dubrovnik merchants over the centuries.

An aqueduct was built in 1492 to bring water to the garden and supply this lovely fountain, presided by Neptune himself.








Apart from goldfish and tadpoles, there were a sweet terrapin and a very noisy frog!




The garden and the villa were badly damaged only 20 years ago, during the war. It's shocking to read about it in the guidebook and realise how many places were badly managed, not to mention of course the casualties - in the village (near two 500-year-old massive plane trees) there is a monument to the local victims with quite a long list of names. All so very sad. 

Anyway, we spent quite a bit of time wandering around the gardens and kept going back to this terrace for the view:




Then we checked in at our hotel, had a little rest on the terrace, followed by a passeggiata and a bite to eat,





and now we'ready for bed! (It's only 9 pm here but between the journey and getting up early for it, and the clocks going forward across Europe last night, we are quite exhausted, And tomorrow - all going well - we'll drive along the coast up to Split).

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