In our previous post, we mentioned that we did not really like the city of Pula since it lacked the charm associated with Istrian towns. When we reached Rovinj, it seemed like the town was compensating for Pula’s lack of charm. In fact, it might have even compensated for a few more places.
It is not hard to see why Rovinj is fast becoming one of the most popular towns of Croatia. It is a perfect example of nature and man combining beautifully to create one of the most picturesque and photogenic towns. The nature provided a curved strip of hilly land jutting out into the shimmering blue sea, and man lined it up with pastel-coloured buildings, narrow cobbled streets and a church with its 60 m high tower crowning the hill.
The old town of Rovinj was originally situated on an islet which was separated from the mainland by a narrow channel of water. As the city grew, the channel was filled up in 1763 and the old town acquired its current peninsular shape.
Rovinj is not a town which has many must-visit or must-see things. Its main attraction is its location, the views and the medieval ambience that one can experience roaming the narrow alleys.
The drive from Pula to Rovinj took us a little over one hour including a fuel stoppage which meant that we were in Rovinj by 10:30 am. The real struggle started after that, as we had to circle the town twice to find an empty parking spot. Once we got a parking spot, we again had to spend some time searching for a money exchange store from where we could get some coins to pay for the parking. It made us wonder about the situation that must prevail during peak season. Eventually, we were able to start our sightseeing tour of Rovinj by 11 am.
MARSHAL TITO SQUARE
Unlike some places, which reveal themselves gradually as one gets closer or are best observed from a specific point, Rovinj doesn’t believe in hiding. Magnificent views of the town can be obtained from almost everywhere. Thus, it did not take us very long to get that postcard perfect look which Rovinj is famous for as we walked from the parking area to the town’s main square – Marshal Tito Square.
Even though the funnel-shaped Marshal Tito Square was not a part of medieval Rovinj, it contained many historically significant structures. Chief among these was the town clock tower with its distinctive red facade. A winged lion of Venice belonging to the 15th century was placed on the clock tower beneath the clock face. We saw this winged lion in many other places in Rovinj and even in other Istrian towns that we visited. The prevalence of the winged lion, along with strong Venetian influence in architecture, signified the Venetian heritage in the region.
At the far end of the square was the four-storey Califfi Palace which houses the Rovinj Heritage Museum. We neither had the time nor the inclination to visit a museum so we skipped it.
Hidden by the numerous cafes and the colourful buildings that surround the Marshal Tito Square was another important structure – the Balbi’s Arch. This arch was built in the late 17th century at the site of an old gate which was one of the entrances to the medieval walled town of Rovinj. At the time of our visit, the arch was under renovation.
Beyond the arch, we could see the cobblestoned street which marked the beginning of the old town of Rovinj, but we resisted its lure for the time being and headed to Veliki mol (large pier) to get some more exterior shots and a panoramic view of this stunning town.
WANDERING AROUND THE OLD TOWN
We spent the next half an hour or so weaving in and out of the narrow paved lanes of the old town amidst the closely packed houses. It seemed as if the modern urbanism had left this part of Rovinj untouched. In between, we also stumbled across some beautiful hidden spots.
Eventually, we made our way to Plaza Balota where another gorgeous spectacle lay in wait for us. We could only look in wonder at the clear azure water that spread out before us as far as the eye could see. Even though the sun was blazing down, a lot of tourists were enjoying themselves by the water. Only the cool sea breeze provided us with some relief from the harsh sun.
CHURCH OF SAINT EUPHEMIA
It is said that all streets in Rovinj lead to the Church of St. Euphemia and that is where we too finally ended up. The exterior of the church was austere though its Venetian style bell tower was quite imposing. The bell tower was capped by a rotating statue of St. Euphemia which acts as a wind vane. Since we were at the summit of the hill, the surrounding views from the large square in front of the church were pretty amazing.
The interior of the church was also not very heavily decorated but it had some beautiful sculptures, paintings and silverware. The most valuable treasure of the church was undoubtedly the body and relics of St. Euphemia kept in a sarcophagus behind the altar of St. Euphemia.
According to the legend of St. Euphemia, a marble sarcophagus containing the body of the saint floated on the shore of Rovinj during the night of 13 July, 800. Only a small boy was able to move the sarcophagus and he pulled it to the top of the hill. This scene is depicted in one of the paintings of the church.
There was also a statue of Mother Teresa and a section dedicated to her which, as Indians, we found both surprising and interesting.
We also had the option of climbing the bell tower and usually, we never let go of the opportunity to see a city from a height. But we were quite tired from the heat and there was a lot of physical activity (including climbing another tower) still remaining in the day. So, we decided not to climb this particular bell tower.
AN ARTIST’S STREET
The street leading down from the church towards the main square, known as Grisia Street, is probably the prettiest and most lively street of Rovinj. The street had many small shops that displayed cute little handmade products, colourful jewellery items, paintings and souvenirs. This street is also the site of an art exhibition that is held every August.
LAST FEW SPOTS
From the Grisia Street we walked to the famous Rovinj market where a variety of products like fruits, vegetables, oils etc. were being sold. Then we took a few more panoramic shots from the other side of the town, saw a monument dedicated to soldiers and other victims of fascism, had one of the most delicious lunches of our trip at Bar Rio and then bid Rovinj a fond farewell.
We left Rovinj by 14:30 and drove towards Porec, but on the way, we decided to make a halt at Lim Bay. Lim Bay is essentially a long and narrow stretch of water connected to sea and surrounded by lush greenery on both sides. It also gives the appearance of a canyon since the water flows in a shallow valley. When we reached the viewpoint, we found it quite crowded and unimpressive so we left the place in 5 minutes and resumed our drive to Porec.