Even though the airport is in Pula, instead of staying in Pula we decided to set up home base in Rovinj and day trip there. There’s a bus station in the middle of Rovinj with nearly hourly buses to there and back so it’s easy to do.
The bus ride is about 45 minutes but it’s a scenic path through picturesque olive tree fields and country side with brief glimpses of the ocean, stopping occasionally in small towns along the way. I enjoyed the scenery while Katy worked on her blog. The Pula station is about an 8 minute walk out of town but it’s easy going.
While Split is bubbling with tourists and Rovinj seems like a medieval Disney attraction (in a good way), Pula is an actual working class town with a busy port and a city filled primarily with locals. It has a lively town center full of shops and restaurants and just enough antiquity to make for sight seeing without being the target of cruise ships or major tours.
I liked Pula quite a bit. It was decidedly more grimy in parts rounding out any real city. Local pubs with average Joes grabbing a pint. Even a sex shop. But given that the sign was in English white block text on black background leading into a nondescript door, I’m thinking it wasn’t for locals. Truth be told it looked like bait for middle aged drifters who wouldn’t be missed by any loved ones. We decided to steer clear.
The Roman amphitheater
The main draw in town is a well preserved Roman amphitheater that you pass immediately after the bus stop. We didn’t pay the entrance fee to see the cellars but you get spectacular views all around it. I think the best angles were found from the first little park you hit. And there’s a little cafe at the top where you can pretend you’re in Rome having an espresso.
Heading straight past the amphitheater towards town you cross the main pedestrian drag in town Flanatička ul. where you’ll find the market and countless street cafes. It’s lively and feels local, not just a trap for euros.
Take a right at Flanatička and you’ll find the Arch of Sergii, a 1st century triumphal arch leading directly into old town. Old town snakes around the base of a large hill so to your right you’ll see roads and staircases leading up. But keep straight and you’ll hit the main square where you’ll find the Temple of Augustus and the forum built when Augustus was the Roman ruler.
The Temple of Augustus
The only remaining temple of four (Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva) it’s an impressive structure to still be standing after all of these years. It was bombed during the world war and reconstructed. The building next door still has the back walls of the Juno temple but was converted into an administrative building in the 13th century.
At the top of the hill that old town is built around you’ll find the main church and a castle/fortification built by the Venetians in the 16th century over the remains of the Roman capitolium. We decided not to pay the entrance fee and walked around the outside instead with great views of the city. At the back of the castle you’ll find a smaller roman theater that’s decently intact. Though some local douchebags had covered it in gradeschool level spraypaint scrawl complete with a shitty swastika. I guess that’s human nature. The Italian fascists attempted to steal the larger amphitheater and move it to the Italy mainland but abandoned the project due to cost. I guess no one learns their history.
Lunch at Restoran Kantina
I found a recommendation online for a lunch spot and we were not disappointed, though I did go a little overboard on the cheese. We got to sample 6 kinds of local cheese, each great in their own way, with a some condensed wine for dipping. The truffle pasta was the best part to me. Yum! By the time I made it to my salad I couldn’t eat the ham or cheese. I was cheesed out. And Katy got an absolutely mammoth serving of whole grilled squid. I recommend but I didn’t eat anywhere else to compare it to.