Dubrovnik, Croatia has long been called the “pearl of the Adriatic,” and it’s not hard to see why: the charming coastal city’s smooth marble streets and old stone buildings practically sparkle under the Mediterranean sun.
But if Dubrovnik is the pearl of the Adriatic, I hereby dub Rovinj – a small picturesque fishing port filled with red-roofed buildings that range in color from golden yellow to soft pink to fiery orange – the jewel of the Adriatic.
The town of Rovinj is situated on a small peninsula bordered by the Adriatic Sea on three sides. Every inch of the peninsula is covered by colorful buildings, public squares and stone streets – built right up to the water’s edge – creating the illusion that that town is rising straight out of the sea.
A stark contrast from the rustic vineyards and walled hilltop villages of Green Istria (but located less than one hour away by car) Rovinj embodies the very essence of Blue Istria: colorful winding alleyways, sapphire blue water lapping the rocky shore, and the smell of the sea in the air.
But much like the small towns of Green Istria, modern-day Rovinj has a heavy Italian heritage and influence. If Green Istria can be compared to Tuscany or Umbria, Blue Istria is like the Italian Riviera.
Stroll Through Rovinj’s Old Town
Rovinj is small and walkable, and (like in most cities in Croatia) cars are not allowed in the old town area. There’s a paid parking lot just outside the old town, just a few minutes’ walk from the entrance to the historic part of the city.
As you pass through the alleyway that connects the modern part of the city with the old town, you’ll sense an immediate change in atmosphere; the streets are narrower, the buildings are older and more colorful, the architecture is more ornate, and the energy is lively and festive.
Wandering through Rovinj’s old town, you’ll pass plentiful cafes, souvenir shops, art galleries, and boutiques selling bold jewelry and breezy scarves. Grisia is Rovinj’s main artist’s street, lined with galleries and shops where local artists will wave you inside to browse their collections.
Climb the St. Euphemia Bell Tower
As you make your way uphill towards the waterfront, you’ll inevitably stumble across the Church of St. Euphemia, the focal point of Rovinj’s skyline. This pretty Baroque church is filled with a number of paintings and other artistic treasures from the 15th – 17th centuries, but for me, the true highlight was making my way to the top of the bell tower to enjoy the views.
Enjoy Plentiful Seafood, Pastas, Pizzas, and Gelato
There’s no shortage of places to grab a bite in Rovinj, ranging from casual cafes to fine dining. Here, you can order tasty pasta dishes topped with fragrant truffles or fresh seafood, flavorful pizzas and soups, and fluffy, cloudlike gelato.
We had our best gelato just outside old town, in the Port of Rovinj. This bustling area of the city is a joy to visit; you can enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants, watch the fishing boats sail into the port, or simply grab a gelato and enjoy the sea breeze and sunshine.
Many travelers opt to base themselves in Rovinj and take day trips to the various other towns located throughout coastal and inland Istria. Alternatively, Rovinj is an easy and entertaining daytrip from almost anywhere in the region (like Motovun).
Have you ever been to the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia? If so, did it conjure up images of Italy, the way it did for me?