Walking through the historic center of Istria’s capital, Pula, is like leafing through a  ledger of the region’s layered and complicated history. This beautiful Adriatic city on the southern most tip of Istria is well know for its large port, its mild climate and its long standing traditions of fishing, shipbuilding, and winemaking, just to name a few. But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Pula is that, over the centuries, this bustling port city has been coveted my one tribe or another, and mostly empires of extreme power and might. And nowhere is this more evident than in the architectural footprints that each civilization left on their way out.

Even though Pula’s history dates back over 3000 years, the Romans left an indelible mark on the city. Their domination of Pula changed the city forever; its urban planning, from roads to sanitary and public services, were left vastly improved. And though the Roman empire eventually fell, you can still see what it left behind:  ancient forums, Roman columns, a temple to the Emperor Augusts, and a breathtaking colosseum near the edge of the city’s port. These are just a few of the colossal architectonic reminders that great powers have passed through here. Later empires left equally amazing urban relics.

Anyone travelling by foot through Pula’s center will immediately notice that the Venetians, the Austro-Hungarians; and fascist and communist regimes were also here. Instances of these are found in brick and stone throughout Pula’s main square, Piazza Foro. Here you find examples of ancient Roman temples and stonework; heavy Austro- Hungarian buildings; rationalist architecture, and blocky Venetian brick work buildings. These are all clumped together in a pastiche of public building that tells the story of how Pula was and continues to be amazingly cosmopolitan. Literary luminaries like Dante Alighieri and James Joyce passed time in Pula, and during a casual stroll though town you will see placards and statues that mark where they and other artists once lived.

Beyond architectural wonders and a fascinating history, Pula has a trove of rollicking bars and innovative chefs. Their menus are inspired by their back yard larder: fresh fish and shellfish, Istrian wines, truffles and local cheeses and herbal breads. Epitourean has spent years exploring Istria, and more closely Pula, to create historical, adventure and gastronomic tours and unforgettable experiences for their clients.

                     

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Rocky Casale