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.
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.
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.
Has this postcard piqued your Istrian interest? Click here to book your journey to the Truffle Epicenter.
Discovering Istria’s Bounty of Truffles
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.
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.
Bucket List: Biking Istria’s Parenzana Trail
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.