Croatia has become one of the most visited destinations in the world. Jutting out into to sparkling Adriatic, the northern peninsular county of Istria is home to about 200,000 people. Only 6% are Italian, and yet the markings of Italian culture are quite evident here, particularly along the western coast.
On this tour, we’ll get to know Istria intimately through visits to local producers and tastings of the local wines Teran and Malvàsia. Istrian cuisine reflects the gifts of its geography: fish and veggies typical of the Mediterranean Diet are emphasized here, as are cured meats, olive oil and pasta, an indicator of the enduring Italian influence. And we’ll learn about Istrian truffles on a hunting demonstration and around the table at a dinner highlighting this prized underground mushroom. (As in Piedmont, here white truffles are found from the end of September into late fall/early winter)
The Italian influence in Istria may be attributed to the more than four centuries of Roman presence, followed by five centuries of Venetian influence. Later Austrian-Hungarian domination left its traces, notable in the architecture, food, language and traditions. Here you find a distinctive mix of Slavic, Austrian and Italian cultures.
Towns here often use both their Italian and Croat names. On our tour, we’ll visit the picturesque coastal towns of Rovinj (Rovigno), Pola (Pula) and Poreč (Parenzo) as well as the quiet inland villages of Grožnjan (Grisignano), Motovun (Montona) and Buzet (Pinguente), with a grand finale of the exotic islands of Brijuni National Park.
Istria gets its name from the Histri tribe that populated the peninsula until 177 BC when the Romans arrived and incorporated it into the region of Venetia and Histria. After the demise of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD, the peninsula fell to barbarians such as the Goths and Lombards. Carolingian domination followed, until the region became part of the Venetian Republic in 1267.
By the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797, the Venetian Republic was dismantled and divided between France under Napoleon and Austria under the Hapsburgs. Austria won control of Istria and the Austrian Empire ruled the area, including the towns of Trieste and Gorizia (now both part of the Italian region of Venezia-Giulia), for over a century until their defeat in World War I. In 1918, the peninsula became Italian territory.
Italian irredentism, the political movement spanning the latter half of the nineteenth century into the early twentieth, sought to reclaim “lost” lands that it saw to be peopled by Italians. Italy clashed with Croatian and Slovenian nationalist movements, the result of which were ethnic conflicts lasting through World War II. After the war, Istria was incorporated into Yugoslavia and many Italians fled the peninsula into Italy or sometimes beyond, to America. (Of the former region, only
the towns of Muggia and Trieste remained Italian.) With the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991, Istria became part of Croatia, bordered by Slovenia and Italy. In 2013, Croatia, and its four million people, joined the European Union.
This tour has been co-designed with our friend and tour leader Andrea Marchesini who has been leading several groups in the Istrian peninsula. Come with us to explore the enchanting peninsula and meet the local Istriani for a full immersion into this unique slice of the Mediterranean while savoring the local flavors, enjoying the mild climate and gazing out over the pristine sea: dobrodošl!i (welcome!)
CYCLING TOUR IN ISTRIA
Minimum of 6 participants, maximum of 16, with a maximum guide-to-guest ratio of 1 to 8
DATES (8 days)
May 24-31, 2020 | September 18-25, 2020
For more info, dates and availability please contact us.
Per person in double occupancy: from $4,390 to $4,790
(this tour will feature 4- and 5-star hotels and tour price will vary depending on group size)
Single Supplement: $790
In addition, we pledge to donate more than 1% of your trip price to food literacy and environmental non profit organizations
- Discover wine, cured meats, olive oil and truffles over delectable meals, visits and tastings that demonstrate the best of Istrian culinary heritage
- Exposure to local culture and history with knowledgeable and experienced Tour Leaders
- Elegant and traditional accommodation mostly in 4- and 5-star hotels
- Unforgettable meals featuring the local cuisine
- Discover the must-see coastal towns of Rovinj (Rovigno), Pola (Pula) and Poreč (Parenzo), the quiet inland villages of Grožnjan (Grisignano), Motovun (Montona) and Buzet (Pinguente), and the exotic islands of Brijuni National Park
- Exhilarating rides and opportunities to improve your cycling skills with your Tour Leaders
- Traditional, local recipes to bring home with you!
On this 6-night tour you will experience quintessential Istrian cuisine, coupled with visits to small local producers. We’ll have plenty of opportunities to immerse ourselves in the local culture, history, art and traditions of the peninsula, and of course to soak in the crystal blue views over the Adriatic.
We’ll enjoy different activities such as walking, bicycling, relaxing, and meeting the inspiring local people.
If you prefer to arrive the day before please let us know and we will help you organize your pre night at the same hotel used on tour in Portorož, and an early transfer from Trieste centrale train station at additional price.
This is recommended just to allow you more time to settle in and get ready for the tour. You can reach Trieste from Ronchi dei Legionari airport via taxi or from Venice Marco Polo airport via taxi and train from Venice Mestre train station
Cycling Route Info on Day 1: Main Route: 14mi/1420ft of elevation gain | Extra loop adds: 6.5mi/900ft
Cycling Route Info on Day 2: Main Route 46mi/3850ft | Extra loop adds: 7mi1500/ft
We meet in Slovenia, in the border resort town of Portorož. After a light lunch and introductory meeting, let’s stretch our legs with a first warm-up spin by the sea. We are able to ride some portions of the Porečanka (Parenzana), a now defunct narrow-gauge railway that connected Trieste to Poreč (then Parenzo) from 1902 to 1935. In the late afternoon, enjoy the pool or a walk by the sea before our dinner tonight in town.
On our second day, we cross into Croatia. Pedaling away from the coast, we feel the air and the scenery change around us as we enter the interior. After enjoying a late morning wine tasting, we wend the country roads that carry us to the charming village of Grožnjan (Grisignana). Interesting (to an Italian at least!), Grožnjan is the only present-day Croatian municipality with an ethnic Italian majority. Lunch here is on your own, allowing time to explore the village before we ride on to our destination for the night: the hilltop hamlet of Buzet (the dispersed total population of the area is hardly more than 6,000). Here we savor a dinner featuring truffles.
Cycling Route Info on Day 3: Main Route 35mi/3000ft | Extra loop adds: 13mi/1330ft
Cycling Route Info on Day 4: Main Route 40mi/2330ft | Extra loop adds: 7mi/300ft
This morning we turn back toward the coast. From Buzet, we ride into the village of Livade for a truffle-hunting demonstration. As in Piedmont, the area is famous for white truffles in the fall and black truffles year-round. We stop in nearby Motovun, another perched village that boasts Celtic origins. In fact, its name comes from the Celtic Montona, meaning “a town in the hills”. Enjoy lunch here on your own and a stroll around the town.
Rolling on, we reach the coast again and the nearly 2,000-year-old town of Poreč. The area surrounding it has been populated since prehistoric times. Poreč is set around a protected harbor, which made it a recognized and coveted stronghold. Along with its neighbor Rovinj, Poreč is one of the most visited places in all of Croatia and a beautiful example of enduring Venetian architecture and influence. We enjoy a guided visit of Poreč and its UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Euphrasian Basilica, dating to the sixth century. The current structure conceals elements of the two churches that previously stood here, dating to the fourth and fifth centuries. We enjoy the sea and some time to unwind before our dinner in town.
Our fourth day takes us on an inland loop from Poreč. Our lunch stop is the Venetian town of Novigrad, notable for its curvaceous harbor and characteristic fortifications. Enjoy lunch on you own and a stroll here. Should time and interest allow, take in the Lapidarium Museum, which houses one of the most important collections of stone monuments anywhere in Croatia, dating from the first to the eighteenth centuries. We pedal on through the countryside punctuated by towns and villages, eventually returning to Poreč for some downtime and dinner on your own.
Cycling Route Info on Day 5: Main Route 39mi/2150ft | Extra loop adds: 8mi/300ft
Today we ride inland, passing through sleepy and remote villages such as Kanfanar and Bale, before reaching the fabled fishing port of Rovinj. Picturesque Bale is famous for its Venetian architecture. We stop here for a lunch on your own and an olive-oil tasting and a visit to a local producer. Upon reaching Rovinj, we check in at our elegant hotel near the sea. Enjoy the nearby beach before we reconvene for a walk in town and our dinner together.
Cycling Route Info on Day 6: Main Route 37mi/1650ft | Extra loop adds: 12mi/600ft
Cycling Route Info on Day 7: Main Route 42mi/1800ft | Extra loop adds: 11mi/550ft
In the last two days we’ll overnight near the southernmost of the peninsula that we reach on another exhilarating ride from Rovinj to Pula. A microcosm of Istria as a whole, this town is known for its protected harbor, which made it valuable as a strategic location. Pula has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, and the Romans, Ostrogoths and Venetians, as well as the Allied Forces in World War II, have all ruled the city. Our journey culminates in a late afternoon guided tour of the town and its sites before dinner on your own with plenty of options available.
Our last ride features more of the southern Istrian peninsula inland and a stop in the little sea village of Fažana. From here we board a quick ferry for a nice ride on a more exotic atmosphere in Brijuni National Park, fourteen small islands separated from the Istrian peninsula by the Fažana Strait. This visit introduces us to relics of cultural, historical, geological and paleontological significance not to mention a host of flora and fauna, and the presence of the former residence of Marshal Tito, nowadays a museum that we discover together.
After breakfast at 8:30am catch our 1.5-hours private group transfer to Trieste train station from where you can easily reach Ronchi Dei Legionari airport via 30-mins taxi or Venice airport via 2-hrs train. Feel free to extend your stay in the area as well and from Pula you can catch a domestic flight to Split to explore Dalmatia. Doviđenja!
- 7 nights of accommodation in mostly 4-and 5-star hotels
- 7 breakfasts and 2 lunches
- 5 dinners with either a 3- or 4-course menu (one including truffles)
- Guided walking tour in Poreč and Pula
- Explore Rovinj, Portorož, Buzet and other small villages
- 1 visit and tasting to a local winery and 1 visit and tasting to an olive oil producer
- 1 visit and tasting to a cured meat producer
- 1 truffle hunting demo
- Ferry rides to/from Brijuni Islands
- Bike rental (see more info here) and Garmin Touring Edge unit (if you have one, bring yours and we’ll upload the routes onto your unit)
- Comfortable transportation and assistance by 9-seat van for all travel on tour as cited in the itinerary
- Refreshments, snacks, fruits and other local delicacies during our rides
- Two bilingual, professional Tour Leaders
- One group transfer from/to Trieste centrale train station at the beginning and at the end of tour
- Local taxes and gratuities for luggage porters and restaurant servers during tour
- 5 lunches and 2 dinners on your own
- Alcoholic beverages at group dinners (including wine, beer and spirits)
- Round-trip airfare and expenses to/from the tour
- Trip cancellation, baggage loss or travel delay insurance (this optional coverage is highly recommended and is not provided by Food.Stories.Travel.)
- Gratuities for your Tour Leaders
- Personal expenses, such as, but not limited to, phone calls, laundry, emails, snacks, gifts
Cristiano Bonino has organized and led tours for North Americans all over Italy for more than thirteen years. Currently, he resides in the Boston area with his American wife. Cristiano likes to say that he has been “hybridizing” over the past years in the U.S. He mixes the best of the both American and Italian cultures, which he loves, but never forgets his native roots in Turin, in Piedmont.
Andrea Marchesini Who is Andrea Marchesini? A professional drummer? A bicycle mechanic? A Slow Food aficionado? A farmer? A tour guide? All! With family from both South Tyrol and Liguria, he is a mix of two very cultures, German and Northern Italian. He is trilingual, fluent in German, Italian and also English, after years as a musician in New York City. Andrea is in love with his home region of Liguria and dedicated to helping you discover its wonders for yourself. He has led more than 100 tours in the past 15 years all over Italy, and is also knowledgeable about the Istrian peninsula where he has been leading many journeys.
Your itinerary has been meticulously hand-designed by Food.Stories.Travel. and his team. This journey is based on their favorite flavors and unforgettable past experiences. Every establishment you will visit has been personally vetted, tested and enjoyed by Cristiano, Andrea and the rest of the team of experienced Tour Leaders.
In some cases we’ll take you to places you could not find by yourself or in a guidebook.