Delicious food, great people & beautiful sights. Rovinj is the perfect weekend getaway.
You won’t want to leave your Airbnb without your camera because situated on the western coast of the Istrian Peninsula is the most picturesque town in all of Europe. I might be biased because it’s really the only town in Croatia I got to explore in my short time there but it really is a beautiful place.
I was traveling with my friend, Liz (fellow yoga instructor & boss babe). We rented a car in Budapest & took the beautiful 6 hour drive through Hungarian countryside, as the landscape opened up to a mountainous shoreline to spend just a couple of days enjoying the Croatian coastal town of Rovinj. There are, of course, other ways to travel to Rovinj. If you want to fly directly into Croatia and rent a car to get there, I would suggest looking into flights flying into Zagreb.
Rovinj was settled by the Venetians so it has a very Italian feel. Cobblestone streets lead you through colorful buildings zig-zagging every which way, up and down small hills on a tightly packed peninsula. Vibrant, warm painted buildings. Flowers and greenery literally everywhere. Gelato shops on every corner and pasta on every menu. How could you not fall in love with Rovinj?
Let’s talk about the weather for a second. We went to Croatia in early August meaning that the weather was a hot, humid and balmy 95°F/35°C. Pack light and loose fitting clothing for Croatia in the height of summer (July/August). I might even suggest forgoing the bra if you can stand it. Or walk around with your bathing suit under your sundress so that you can jump into the water at anytime (highly recommended and SO fun!).
Rovinj was sunny and bright so you’ll also want to pack sunglasses and sunscreen, especially if you’re someone who burns easily. For me, it was maxi skirts and loose-fitting tank tops, I did wear a bra on day 1 (which I regret and immediately learned from my mistake) and a sun hat for extra protection from the sun.
We arrived at our beautiful Airbnb in Rovinj on a Sunday where we dropped off our bags & immediately asked for dinner recommendations. Turns out there was a popular (even with the locals) restaurant within walking distance with delicious Italian seafood dishes recommended to us by our Airbnb host, Mladen, a very kind man who lived in the lower flat of our building. We changed out of our yoga pants into a clean, fresh pair of yoga pants and headed out for dinner.
I had no idea what to expect but when we got to La Perla I was excited by its indoor/outdoor ambience. We were seated right away as it wasn’t very busy and greeted by a young Croatian who was eager to recommend the best wine at our request. Not going to lie, I was feeling super fancy for being two girls who just drove 6 hours and hadn’t showered or even taken 2 minutes to look in the mirror and fix my hair. That was just the beginning of the hospitality and incredible experience at La Perla.
We started with a fish plate appetizer. Now, don’t laugh… but living in Detroit, we don’t always get the best fresh fish experience (okay, we don’t EVER get a fresh fish experience) so there was some fish on this plate that perplexed us. There was what looked like a whole piece of fish that I’m not sure why we thought it was okay to bite straight into.Liz took a big ol’ bite out of this piece of fish, swallowed and afterwards exclaimed, wide-eyed: “I just swallowed something hard!” Oops! Okay, so… moral of that short story? Check for bones.
The rest of the plate included fresh conch, tuna, smoked salmon, anchovies, etc. We both ordered pasta as our main dish, mine with gnocchi and scampi. Delicious! When we finished our wine & asked for the check, it was delivered with a complimentary dessert and dessert wine. Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. The manager came over and asked us to come over to the bar to try some of his mom’s homemade Croatian liquors and proceeded to tell us about a beautiful view of Rovinj that we could access in just a short walk down the hill towards the Adriatic.
Before we move on from pasta, I’m going to let you in on a little secret… Three words: BLACK TRUFFLE RAVIOLI. I had it on two separate occasions on the Istrian Peninsula and both times I was blown away so I’m unashamed to assume that all Croatian Black Truffle Ravioli is to die for and not to be missed out on. If you’re looking to duplicate my Black Truffle Ravioli experiences, try Konoba Boccaporta (Pula) and Rio Bar (Old Town).
Settled by Italians, you’ll get a taste of Italy without actually stepping foot inside the country itself. One of the best things ever is happening upon an amazing place to eat just because you’re hungry without doing any research to get there. I couldn’t write an entire post about Rovinj without mentioning the pizza at Sala Adria.
That being said… do you ever get so excited to eat the food that was just set in front of you that you immediately dig in? And then the millennial inside of you is just screaming because now you can’t get that perfect picture of your giant slice of delicious Italian pizza for the blog post you’re going to write later? Maybe it’s just me… but that pizza just looked too good to wait another second. *insert pizza and drooling emoji here*
Liz and I shared a salami pizza, definitely big enough for two and sat facing out at the cobblestoned streets after walking up and down the art & shopping district. The pizza came out thin crust & absolutely mouth watering.
I don’t know about you… but breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I definitely wanted to find a blog-worthy spot to have breakfast in Rovinj so we found Buffet Trevisol. This cute spot is colorful & affordable. I’ve always been a huge fan of European breakfasts: meats, cheeses, orange juice, croissants & jam with a side of espresso. If you’re like me, then you’ll love Buffet Trevisol!
It’s situated somewhat in the center of Old Town on Trevisol Street just a short walk uphill from the water. It’s decor is packed into a small area outdoors with low-to-the-ground tables and chairs, bean bags & umbrellas to shade you from the sun. Keep in mind that it is cash only, though, so you’ll want to be sure that you have cash. There is an ATM nearby, though, in case you forget, but always check up on your Debit/Credit Cards foreign transaction and/or cash advance fees before traveling abroad.
You know it’s good when you return to a place for a second time on a short weekend trip. I had started following #rovinjcroatia on Instagram prior to our trip & it helped a TON with ideas of where to go. This location tucked along the sea wall was constantly popping up in my newsfeed and I knew right away that we had to go there for cocktails.
One of our first stops while walking through Old Town was this charming seaside gem called Mediterraneo Bar. Just another picturesque spot in Rovinj, painted colorfully with low tables, benches, pillows with fun patterns, poems painted on the tabletops, etc. There’s a level of comfort that makes a traveler feel at home, like you could just kick your shoes off and stay there forever sipping on Piña Coladas, Aperol Spritzers or all of the espresso your adrenals can handle and then some.
We found ourselves at this bar twice, once on our first day in Rovinj & then again on our last after a couple of hours basking in the hot Croatian sun. The bar sits on the rocky shoreline overlooking the very blue water of the Adriatic Sea, sailboats and tour boats passing by off in the distance. As you can imagine, this bar closes in the winter months. But if you’re looking for somewhere to stop for a refreshment or a pick-me-up espresso during Spring & Summer, Mediterraneo Bar is definitely the place to go.
The Church Of St. Euphemia
Situated at the top of the hill in Old Town is the Church of St Euphemia just a short walk from the previously mentioned Mediterraneo Bar. This church took 11 years to build & even longer to complete the interior. We only stopped inside briefly. The church houses several notable paintings as well as the sarcophagus in which relics of St Euphemia are kept.
It is also said that all visitors should see the altar of St Euphemia. For one of the best views in town, carefully trek up the steep, rickety stairs of the bell tower. You only need a short amount of time to take in all of the beauty and intricacy of this seemingly simple structure. It is definitely a must-see.
The beaches in Rovinj are not the white sand beaches you might imagine when you think of the word “beach”. They are rocky coastal beaches with hard surfaces upon which to lay on. Walking along the water, you’ll find several to stop at. My favorite of them all was Monte Beach, a short walk away from The Church of St Euphemia, downhill along the cliffside coast.
Bring a book, a towel, sunscreen and an empty schedule because this might be your favorite part of Rovinj. The beaches are quiet and the water warm. Jump in and take a swim to cool off and do it all over again. Rovinj has this relaxing atmosphere where time feels as if it has just slowed down to a sloth’s pace and the beaches are the perfect escape from reality.
Kayaking, snorkeling & cliff jumping
All of the above can absolutely be squeezed into a day’s worth of sight-seeing. That being said, you might be wondering what to do with day 2? Well, Liz has always been the more adventurous and courageous between the two of us so she suggested we travel to Pula for a kayaking, snorkeling & cliff-jumping guided tour.
A quick Google search led us to find Windsurf Station. The tour included kayaking and snorkeling cliffside caves & cliff-jumping. If you’re like me, the thought of cliff jumping has got your heart’s BPM raising and mild panic setting in. Don’t worry, if that’s not your thing, it is not a requirement of the tour.
You’ll need a car for transportation to get to this location as its about an hour drive South of Rovinj at the very tip of the Istrian Peninsula. We awoke early on day 2 and drove South through Pula to Premantura. To get into the park, you’ll need to make a quick stop to pay for parking and then drive into the park until you see the coast marked with Windsurf Station flags at the tip of the peninsula.
We were greeted by friendly Croatian dogs (yes, literal & adorable dogs). Our group was already preparing to head out to kayak the shore. We left our shoes and clothing behind. The tour provided dry bags, snorkels & plastic cases for your cell phone.
The kayaks are doubles so Liz took the back while I took the front. We each got our own paddle, hopped into our kayak and waded out to shore waiting for the other groups to cast off. Kayaking in the gorgeous, clear water was stunning. The group was leisurely so if you fell behind, you didn’t feel like you were holding anyone up.
Once we arrived at the caves, our tour guides took our kayaks and paddles and stacked them up on the rocks. They then had us swim underneath a low hanging rock form & into a deep water cave. They took photos of us underneath the water with their Go Pros.
We swam around the caves for a little bit and then head back out to open water where it was now our time to choose whether or not we wanted to cliff jump. I’ll be honest, I had never jumped off a high dive before so the fact that I was even considering jumping off a 40-foot cliff into the water below made time slow down significantly.
If you have never jumped off of anything but the side of a pool… practice! Jump off a 4 foot rock first, practice your form, learn how it feels in your body to jump off of something landing feet first & stick straight. Because out of everyone who jumped off of that 40-foot cliff that day, I was the only one who got hurt. While I don’t regret the experience, I want you to know that whenever you’re doing something this crazy, remember that it is dangerous and you are not invincible.
My tour guide asked me: “Do you want to do a couple of practice jumps first?” And the tough chick in me responded: “If I’m going to do it, I might as well just do it, right?” Oh, how wrong I was. I don’t know if I was trying to show-off, prove to myself that I am brave or maybe I really did believe that I should just go for it… but I should have practiced.
Liz & I climbed up to the top of that cliff. I looked down, felt panic in my bones and stepped back saying: “I don’t think I can do this.” Crouched nearby was another guy from our group seemingly willing himself to gather the courage to jump. I encouraged him, saying: “Why don’t we all jump at the same time?” At that moment I knew I was going to jump.
The three of us stepped up to the edge. “On the count of three,” Liz said. “1… 2…” I preemptively flinched to jump but quickly realized that she had not yet said “3” so I stepped back. On “3” I was a moment late. As soon as I jumped, I thought: “Body like a pencil, body like a pencil.” And my body listened for about a half of a second. And then mid-air flight mode took over my body, the upward force of the air pushed my legs into an L-shape & I landed thighs and butt first crashing into the water.
Under the water, I felt fire between my legs and a pain unlike anything I had ever felt in my entire life. I came up gasping for air, screaming: “It hurts, it hurts!” And at first the world seemed far away. I started to kick my legs and only felt the water punching me. I stopped as I felt Liz’s arms wrap around me. I began to cry: “I don’t want to do that again,” I said. I heard Liz’s laugh of relief: “You don’t have to”. Liz swam me all the way back to shore, the tour guide assisted me up onto the rocks and made sure that I was okay. They stayed by my side the whole time, comforting me & trying to bring me out of my state of shock.
Cliff-jumping is not for the faint of heart. It is optional and the liability for injury is 100% the jumper’s. And even though I got hurt, I am still so grateful for the memories and the tour itself. Just know that if you are going to jump off of a giant cliff, know the dangers & I can’t stress this enough: PRACTICE FIRST!
We got back into our kayaks and made the push back to shore. It was a beautiful scene of coastal cliffs and blue waters and memories to share with friends and all of you who are taking the time to read this blog. So, no. I don’t regret it for a single second. I just wish I had practiced first.
The Pula Arena
Following our kayaking, snorkeling & cliff jumping excursion, we drove back to Pula for a stop at the Pula Arena. Depending on the exchange rate at the time of travel, entry to the Arena costs about $8-$10 USD.
This amphitheater, which you may notice looks a little bit like the Colosseum in Rome, is one of the 6 largest remaining Roman amphitheaters left in the world. It is the only remaining amphitheater with all walls still in tact. It still serves as the venue for several events including the Pula Film Festival, several concerts & sports events. It can house 5000 spectators at once. During the summer months, the arena hosts gladiator fights, performances that serve as a recreation of history. This impressive structure certainly deserves a walk-through.
Rovinj is beautiful , there’s no doubt about it. If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation with good food & drinks, a relaxing atmosphere, great hospitality, beautiful views and lots of sunshine… Rovinj, Croatia is absolutely the place to go.
If you’re unable to rent a car to adventure to Pula, then explore Rovinj in all of its natural beauty as well as its local culture. The food, the drinks, the hospitality – it is all worth at least 10,000 Fitbit steps. Take lots of pictures! Eat lots of pasta. Soak your skin with sun & salt and enjoy the art, shopping and history that Rovinj has to offer. You’ll leave wanting to go back!
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