Istria is a good place to mop up a few cultures at once – namely Italian, Austrian – and Croatian, obviously. Flying into Pula you could head north to Rovinj and stay at one of the Maistra Hotels – perhaps the futuristic Lone – you might describe it as ocean liner-esque but Lone sure isn’t art deco; the swanky Monte Mulini or spacious Eden. They’re all clustered together in a forest clearing – and this is what Croatia does best: pine forests down to crystal clear water. If you don’t care for a pool and prefer to be in Rovinj town then perhaps Angelo d’Oro is for you. Or if you fancy a big pool but don’t care for the town then Stancija Meneghetti, 2 km from the coast is a deluxe villa amongst the vineyards sleeping 10. The house chef will take care of you all week and recommend wine from the villa’s cellar.
Rovinj old town, with it’s Venetian architecture has a few bars cascading down the rocks to the sea and boasts plenty of good restaurants including quaint Ulika, Santa Croce and Monte. Perched at the top of the town Monte is distinctly Balearic in appearance: staff and space decked out in starched white. Although the food is very accomplished it is rather fussy and dished up with some comedy presentation. But hey, you’re on holiday – embrace that 90s dining style and enjoy it. Sure makes a change from all those ubiquitous sharing plates anyway!
When you’re done island-hopping on the coast head into the hills and perhaps coordinate with July’s Motovun Film Festival. This medieval hilltop town boasts a throbbing 500 residents, zero cars and a diminuitive but fabulous international film festival which props up screens all over the village – in tiny wood panelled rooms, shunted against the city walls and in walled gardens. Beware the truffle dogs who can raise the dead in the night – Istria reeks of the white Tuber Magnatum which cluster around Motovun’s oak forests. At the dinner table cut through some of that truffley richness with some of the local plonk such as the Malvazija dessert wine. The only hotel in the village, The Kastel has a lovely garden but if you’re looking for something a little more design led and luxurious then this apartment is for you.
It’s worth hunting out the chapel of St. Mary of the Rocks in Istria’s Beram which houses a unique ‘dance of death fresco painted by Vincent de Kastav in 1474. When you’ve had your fill of ‘Italian Istria’ sample ‘Austro Istria’ further down the coast. Opatija has an air of dowager duchess opulence with its grand hotels and cafes and offers great coastal ambles to the surrounding villages.