Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Green Istria increasingly attractive to visitors

The Istrian interior is increasingly attractive to tourists, especially those whose ideal vacation is a stay in nature and the tranquillity provided by authentic Istrian houses, combining effectively the traditional way of life with the needs of the
contemporary visitor. However, green Istria is also perfect for excursions to its medieval city-castles located on hills, which truly have a mystic atmosphere about them. A walk around these “acropolic” towns, Motovun, Labin, Vodnjan, Grožnjan,
Hum and Oprtalj, and a tour of their castles, old churches and squares, will provide visitors with an insight into their history. These locations, however, also serve as a stage for many a cultural event, attracting visitors with both their content and ambience. The best preserved urban core is harboured in Motovun, an old city on the edge of the river Mirna valley. It is surrounded by tall city walls and three layers of defence walls, from which all four sides of the world can be seen,with good reason. The entire city is like a museum, with almost every house a cultural monument, from the Renaissance city hall and the parochial church to private villas from various historical and artistic eras. This beautiful city, attracting visitors every year, is host to the annual international Motovun Film Festival.

Tourists also find the medieval cities Oprtalj and Grožnjan attractive. Once derelict, Grožnjan is today revived by the sounds of the instruments of musicians from around the world. With its many monuments and palaces, the medieval town of Vodnjan in southern Istria also attracts vistors with its unusually large Baroque parochial church, the church of St Blaise, the town’s patron saint, with its 65-metre tall bell tower. The church has a capacity of an astounding 5,000 people and boasts a valuable collection of sacral art. Vodnjan is a centre of the Istrian ‘casites’ (kažun) and there are more than 2,500 of them in its surroundings. The church of St Blaise exhibits miraculous mummies of saints.

In Labin, on top of a hill, the old city core is located, the traditional host of the autumn Mediterranean Stone Sculptors’ Symposium. Beneath the hill, in Dubrova,there is a park of stone sculptures, sculpted by invited sculptors every year. Labin boasts a museum featuring an archaeological and ethnological collection,a model of a mine, unique in this part of Europe, the memorial collection of Matija Vlačić Ilirik, the eminent protestant and philosopher, associate of Martin Luther, as well as a number of palaces. The city is a protected architectural and historical
core, home to many artistic studios of Labin painters and sculptors.
The Mediterranean Sculptors’ Symposium has been held for the past 30 years,every August. Invited sculptors make their sculptures in stone, which remain in the sculpture park. Over the last couple of years, the “White Road” has been worked on, a unique sculpting project in which a series of eminent sculptors have participated.

Among the series of Istrian “acropolic” cities, a special place
belongs to the tiny city of Hum, known as the world’s smallest city. Though small in size and population, Hum has earned its status as a city with the fact that all of its city institutions are functional.

The Istrian interior is also known for its excellent wines and olive oil, the recipients of many awards from around the world, as well as its culinary offering, particularly truffles, a delicacy found in the Istrian forests, excellently prepared in local restaurants.

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