Pula, Croatia: A touch of Rome without all the crowds

Are the gloomy days of autumn weighing heavily as all the work, obligations and activities pick up pace after the summer break? Fortunately, there are still sunny places around Europe where you can escape for that last hurrah before winter sets in. 

One of these places is Pula, a charming coastal town in north-western Croatia known for its rich history, attractive Mediterranean cuisine, and a perfectly preserved Roman amphitheatre. 

See some ancient history
A short walk from the city centre will take you to the Pula Arena, which was built between 27 BC and 68 AD and is the most perfectly preserved Roman Amphitheatre in the world. It’s also among the six largest surviving amphitheatres anywhere. Historians consider its survival to be miraculous in the light of the constant warfare that the city has experienced since being founded. 

The city has changed hands almost twenty times throughout its history of over 2,000 years, and has been partially or completely demolished five times! At its low point in 1750, following centuries of war, plague, famine and neglect, Pula’s population had dwindled to just 3,000 inhabitants, and the city existed mostly as an overgrown ancient ruin. However, the city’s deep roots and strategic location would lead to a comeback just several decades later.

The abundance of historical relics doesn’t end there. Along with several more well-preserved Roman arches and temples, the city boasts architectural sights from every era, such as The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, initially built in the 6th century and rebuilt during the Renaissance. There are several Austro-Hungarian public buildings, and the rich Archaeological Museum founded by Napoleon’s administration in 1802.

Unforgettable cuisine
Pula’s Istrian cuisine features not just a balanced blend of Mediterranean and Continental ingredients, but also a commitment to excellence. There are 15 Michelin-listed restaurants in the Istria region, including two located in Pula: Alla Beccaccia and Batelina. 

The variety of seafood, meat, vegetables, oils, and wines found here means that you can experience something extraordinary whichever season you choose to visit. Perhaps the most famous ingredient in Istria is the truffle (tartuf) mushroom, which is creatively blended into a variety of delicious dishes.

Cultural events

Concert: Mixed vocal group Nešpula – 23rd Nov 2018
Nešpula is a vocal group that performs both Croatian folk music and vocal adaptations of various modern works. The concert will take place at the Sacred Hearts Museum and Gallery Centre. 

24th Book Fair(y) in Istria, 29th Nov – 9th Dec 2018
This literature fair includes attendance and speeches by Javier Cercas, a Spanish writer and senior columnist at El Pais, and Wole Soyinka, a famous Nigerian writer whose works were honoured with the Nobel Prize in 1986.

Concert: Jazz by Madeleine Peyroux, 9th Dec 2018
Madeleine Peyroux is an American jazz singer and songwriter. She is the winner of the 2007 Best International Jazz Artist award by BBC. Her concert will take place at the Istrian National Theatre in Pula.

Why should you visit Pula at this time of year?
Autumn provides the perfect balmy atmosphere to stroll along Pula’s long seaside walkways, and enjoy all the incredible sights that Pula has to offer, without having to deal with the crowds found during summer. 

You will also be able to enjoy plenty of travel discounts for the low season and get more out of your visit with the same budget. 

Pula is easily accessible by very affordable international flights and is even connected to Venice in Italy by a three-hour ferry ride. You can also take day trips to nearby places famous for their architecture, such as Rovinj, and places noted for their cuisine, like Pazin and the Istrian wine region.