Tag - Croatia

Insider Tips to an Amazing Edible Adventure

Planning an edible adventure? We asked some of our most seasoned travelers for insider tips about how to best live in the moment and then bring that moment home…

1. Pack lightly! You can always buy cheap flips flops and shampoo when you get there. Leave room to bring home culinary souvenirs.

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2. Alert your travel companions of your daily activity plans. If you want to go biking on the Parenzana Trail in Croatia, or plop down in the blue caves in the Rio Secreto in the Yucatán, let them know beforehand so they can join… or at least know where you are.

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3. Pack snacks–if you’re hiking or exploring a new village, load up on local treats for the trip. That way, you can maximize your time without having to stop every two hours and pay for overpriced coffees and nibbles.

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4. Keep a diary. No doubt, your friends will forever ask you what you did and where you ate. Write it down. If not for yourself, for the sake of paying it forward to future travelers.

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5. Take pictures! So obvious, we know, but your family and friends on Facebook want to know about your big life. Side note, your diary will come in handy a year from now when you finally get to the business of making a photo book of your trip and can’t make heads or tales of your photos…stockvault-gold-hill1153106. Write. A letter or postcard from a journey is an unexpected and precious gift in today’s society. Spice up your friends’ and family’s junk mail piles with a thoughtful, handwritten post from your adventure. Bonus: it also engages you deeper with your travel experience.

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7. Eat everything! Be adventurous. As we’ve discovered in all our years providing culinary travel, food is a truly special way to experience a culture. You’ve come all this way… open your mind and your mouth to all the tastes and treasures your destination holds.puglia-market8. Forget what you learned as a kid and talk to strangers. One of the dreamiest aspects of travel is meeting people with experience and perspective completely different from yours. This kind of social adventure strengthens character and makes for a very rich and new travel experience.

2013-02-20 15.19.109. Do your homework. No one expects you to take a foreign language class in preparation for your trip but brushing up on some common phrases and customs will go a long way. Engage locals by asking thoughtful questions or testing your pronunciation… we guarantee the gesture will be appreciated.2013-12-28 13.38.3910. Just go! Are you reading this blog because you’re dreaming of a trip but don’t feel the time is right? Like most things in life, there will never be a perfect time to travel and waiting for the right time to present itself can become a futile effort. Travel, especially an Edible Destinations adventure, is educational, energizing and, above all, fun, which is something we all deserve.

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Click here to explore all the culinary adventures we offer and begin planning your Edible Destination!

Postcard from Istria

Notes from Istria from an Epitourean traveller and what he and his travel companion found along their journey. We had so many extraordinary experiences during our trip to Istria.  Our favourite was biking on the Parenzana Trail. The former train tracks are now a great hiking and biking trail that snake through Istria’s interior woodlands. We had a birds eye view of the region’s hill towns and countryside. We chose a downhill path that led us to local honey producer’s, Medea. The owners treated us to a 45-minute honey tasting before we crossed the street to have one of the best truffle-themed meals of our lives at Zigante.

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For us the point of this trip was to learn about and taste as many local specialities as we could. Out of these, our wine tasting at Kzlovic Wine Estate was phenomenal, and in such a beautiful location. We also learned a lot about local olive oils when we visited Vodnjan Chiavalon Olive Oil Estate. Epitourean brought us to see about a dozen other outstanding Istrian food, wine and beer producers. I think we caught the best of what Istria has to offer.

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Of course we wanted to see some of the region’s stunning villages, coastal towns and port cities. We stopped into Porec for the day, where the urban landscape is a wonderful mash up of Roman, Baroque, modern and and contemporary architecture. Rovinj was nothing less than dreamy and walkable, and a gorgeous seafront town. The hill top enclave of Groznjan, with its art galleries and incredible vistas of surrounding green hills, was one of the most charming places we’ve every visited. We will be back for certain.

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Has this postcard piqued your Istrian interest? Click here to book your journey to the Truffle Epicenter.

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On the Truffle Hunt in Istria

Discovering Istria’s Bounty of Truffles

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Istria’s Motovun Mountains are one of the world’s largest sources of coveted black and white truffles. Only here, where Epitourean offers a range of fabulous culinary and outdoor excursions, are these delicious and pricey tubers available to harvest nearly twelve months a year. Compare that with countries like France and Italy, places that many truffle lovers associate with the pungent fungus, but that have shorter and more defined harvest seasons. This is one tasty reason that Istria clocks on our culinary radar. Here, chefs grate black truffles on pasta in the middle of June and shave white truffles over eggs and risotto in late December and January. Even during the earliest spring days of March, Périgord truffles are found here, and some cooks prefer to slice them paper thin and slide them beneath the skins of chickens before they hit the roaster.

While there are many established, family run companies and independent hunters of this regional Istrian delicacy, one in particular has caught our attention. Epitourean built a strong partnership with Zigante, a family of expert truffle hunters that procure every variety of truffle known in the area and produce over 50 different truffle products, from truffle oils and spreads to truffle salami and cheeses. Their shop and restaurant are together the epicenter of truffle culture here in Istria. It is a lovely stopover where Epitourean brings clients to shop for and taste local truffle specialties once they’ve finished a gentle downhill bike ride on the bosky Parenzana Trail.

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Looking to get in on the hunt? Take advantage of our limited-time offer to visit Istria during white truffle season at a special, discounted rate.

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Discovering Istria’s Parenzana Trail

Bucket List: Biking Istria’s Parenzana Trail

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Istria has a clutch of amazing destinations that we continue to discover and refer to Epitourean travellers. Of these are its bosky trails, which are perfect for year round hiking and biking. Most travellers tend to ignore the region’s stunning interior woodlands in favor of Croatia’s seaside resorts, beaches and boating activities. But that’s a bit of a shame, especially because there are so many stunning trails to explore. One of these is Istria’s Parenzana Trail, a moderately challenging path, that is best explored on bike, and ideal for those who are seeking gorgeous panoramas, a little activity, and small Istrain villages along the way.

The Parenzana Trail was once a narrow gauge railway that connected Trieste, Italy with Istria’s sea facing town, Porec. It operated until 1935, carrying people and goods between quaint villages and port cities. The journey was slow, around six or seven hours, because the heavy trains had to snake up and down hills, and through tunnels and towns. With the advent of more efficient modes of transportation, the Parenzana became obsolete. The Italian fascist dictator, Mussolini had the steel train tracks dismantled after 1935. They were loaded onto a boat and shipped down the Adriatic to be smelted and used toward WWII axis power war efforts. Weighed down by too much tonnage of steel, the ship sank to the bottom of the sea.

The trail’s fascinating history is obviously enlarged by the regions stunning beauty. In the summer the forests are green and lush, and in the autumn they turn gold and red like New England’s deciduous landscapes. Charming hilltop towns stand against soft blue skies, and along the way there are restaurants and shops that offer regional delicacies like truffles, honey, wines and olive oils. It is the perfect adventure, for groups, couples and solo travellers alike. Epitourean is pleased to discover and offer a range of fun, easy bike and hiking tours along this beautiful Istrain trail.

Our Favorite Istrian Wineries

Istria’s burgeoning wine business is something that locals will tell you is a tradition dating back millenniums. The region supplied Roman emperors, popes, Austro-Hungarian diplomats, and wine consumers throughout the wider Mediterranean. Today, this Istrian export is traded globally, and many of the region’s wineries have established tasting rooms, some in 19th century farm houses, others in modern, design driven spaces. Epitourean has strong relationships with many of the regions best wineries where we bring our clients on group or solo excursions. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Kozlovic Wine Estate is a family run business that has been making award winning red, white and dessert wines since 1904. These forth generation wine makers focus on producing native Istrian varietals on their 62 acres of vineyards. Their wines are delicious and seem to taste better when tried on site in their new modern tasting room. Don’t leave without sampling their white Valle wine, a crystal clear and fruity wine and one of Kozlovic’s classics.

2. Kabola Wine Estate produces one of the most unique wines in Istria, if not the world. They are of the few wine producers globally to make a wine fermented in large clay amphoras that they keep buried in the ground and allow fermentation to occur from the circulating natural yeasts in their environment. The result is a pleasantly unusual wine, best for drinking after dinner or by itself, and persimmon in color. Kabola is situated in a gorgeous valley that seems like a Tuscan landscape, and hosts daily wine tastings.

3. Bale San Tommaso Wine Estate sits on a 150-year old estate in Istria’s quiet village, Golas. Wine tastings happen in the winery’s recently renovated 19th century farm house. It’s a cozy wood clad room with tables and benches, and an upstairs loft that doubles as a sort of museum with an assemblage of antique farming and wine making equipment. Istrian delicacies and nibbles are offered to pair with the estate’s tipples, and the staff is incredibly warm and welcoming, not to mention wonderfully knowledgable of the Istria’s pantheon of wines.

4. Matosevic Wine Estate seems to always be bustling with eager oenophiles passing through to try the house’s latest vintage. The estate where the wine tastings happen is small, but charming, and has a large back yard planted with fruit trees and furnished with tables and chairs where tastings happen during the warmer months. These first generation wine producers are best known as the founders of Vin Istria, one of the region’s most important annual wine fairs.

5. Degrassi Wine Estate is probably Istria’s most prodigious wine making family, producing a whopping list of 30 different wines. Hidden off a busy road in northern Istria, this family run winery is blessed with a lively and animated sommelier who explains with clarity and detail the company’s wine making philosophy and the tasting notes of each Degrassi vintage. The tasting room is charming and rustic, and flanked on either side by a large fireplace and family-style table where the tastings are presented.

 

 

24 Hours in Pula

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.