Pula Roman Arena
Day 1: Board in Pula, a location loved by civilizations for millenniums as evidenced by the Roman Arena anchoring the center of town, the largest Roman Arena still in existence in the world. Pula is at the end of a large natural protected harbor, the perfect spot every civilization identified as a terrific location to settle. Pula has been the administrative center of Istria since the Roman Empire and it is from here that the bounty of Istria of seafood, wines, olive oils, honey, and black and white truffles have been shipped out for centuries. Pula has also been a center of shipbuilding and today, ships are still being built along the waterfront.
Board and wander over to the Roman Arena to explore the interior. A guided tour can be arranged if wanted. There are remains in Pula from both the Bronze Age and the Hellenistic Age, however, the greatest impact, at least that which is seen today in Pula, was that of the Roman Empire. The Pula Arena was built between 27 BC and 68 AD, much of it still standing to this day anchoring the harbor front area of the city. The Romans also created both a water supply and a sewage system for the city and built strong surrounding fortification walls with ten gates. The remains of some of the walls can still be seen today within the city along with several of the gates including the triumphal Arch of the Sergii, the Gate of Hercules (in which the names of the founders of the city are engraved) and the Twin Gates. It was in Pula that Crispus Caesar was executed in 326 AD and Gallus Caesar was executed in 354 AD. After the Fall of Rome, this part of Croatia went through various rulers just as was the fate of other areas of Croatia.
Croatia Pula Roman Arena Interior showing Oval Shape
Identifiable as an arena, as the structure is built in an oval shape, the arena in Pula is the only remaining Roman Arena in the world with a complete encircling wall. Undergoing cleaning, today one can see the original color of the cleaned part of the arena white stone wall gleaming against the remaining stone wall as darkened by modern pollution and imagine what the Arena once looked like and will look like again when fully cleaned with stark white walls against the bright blue sky. With the cleaning, one can perhaps understand the impact this huge Arena made in Roman times on those arriving in Pula harbor. Built to host 20,000 spectators, we know today by the post holes remaining in the arena structure that those spectators sat in comfort as a huge cloth cover, soaked in bee’s wax to repel rain, came out over the seating area for sun and rain protection. Today, the labyrinth of space underneath the Arena where animals were housed before the events, and where Warriors and Gladiators prepared are open to the public with explanatory signage.
Not far from the Arena is Pula Old Town, once the Roman town which was further enlarged during medieval times and is filled with little winding walking streets. The easiest entrance is through the Roman built Arch of the Sergi, also known as the Golden Gate. This majestic arch was erected around 27 BC by the Sergi Family to commemorate three brothers who fought in the naval battle of Actium where the future emperor Augustus Caesar defeated Marc Antony and Cleopatra on the Greek mainland. It stood at the entrance to the Roman town, the remains of the corresponding walls of which can still be seen along the road leading to the gate. The walking streets open up into a lovely piazza housing the perfectly proportioned Roman Temple of Augustus built between 2 B.C. and 14 A.D. Fronted by a high porch supported by six Corinthian columns, the temple survived the Christian time period by being converted to a church only to be destroyed by a bomb when Pula was heavily bombed during WWII in 1944. The Temple was painstakingly re-constructed stone by stone after WWII, and now houses a small archeological museum.
After exploring Pula, return aboard to cruise 20nm to a beautiful anchorage close by (2 hours 20 minutes) for the night. Break out the water toys and jump in the water for swimming and water toy fun. Overnight on anchor, dinner on board.
Day 2: This might be the day to head inland to Livade, the truffle center of Croatia, as both black and white truffles are hunted in the surrounding woods. If wanted a private one-hour truffle hunting exhibition can be arranged to head to the woods on a little private train, to meet one of the local truffle hunters with his dogs. Truffles have been planted for the dogs to find, and the walk through the woods is on semi cleared trails, as otherwise, it would be impossible to walk through the undergrowth or know if a truffle would be found or not to see the truffle hunting dogs at work, but this is an opportunity to see how a true professional truffle hunter works with his well- trained truffle hunting dogs. Black truffles are hunted year around while white truffles are hunted for a short season from September through December.
Have a truffle extravaganza lunch at Zagante Restaurant, of – what else – dishes with fresh truffles, which is an excellent opportunity to enjoy a fresh truffle meal at an excellent value as truffles in Croatia have not yet been priced at the higher values found elsewhere.
Perhaps enjoy a local winery, for a wine tasting, honey, olive oil or even donkey milk tasting. Or head to the walled fortified village of Motuvan, that is an Eze in natural situ, yet to be found by the crowds, and walk up to the plaza at the top.
For a taste of very fresh seafood for an early cocktail hour, stop in Lim Bay at the Restaurant Viking for fresh raw oysters, from the shell farm at the bottom of the hill, and steamed wild cockles, mussels, and clams from Lim Bay. After returning on board, cruise (20nm, 2 hours and 20 minutes) to the island of Cres to anchor in Cres town harbor. Overnight on anchor. Dinner on board.
Marina and Old Town of Cres
Day 3: After breakfast head ashore to explore Cres Town. This town is known for its 16th-century Venetian Tower and Arsan Palace, which houses Cres Museum featuring local costumes, weapons, and other relics. Late morning cruise to Sveti Ivan beach to anchor for lunch and an afternoon of swimming and water toy fun. Just above the beach is the hilltop village of Lubenice.
Cres is an island full of history with everchanging civilizations in control from Greek to Roman to Byzantine to Venetian and finally Austro Hungarian and Italy as the main controlling nations until the end of WWII when the island was ceded to Yugoslavia. With the war of independence, the island is now part of Croatia. As a result, the island’s architecture and culture are very diverse and unique.
Once Cres and the neighboring island of Lošinj were one island but were divided by a channel and connected with a bridge at the town of Osor. Cres has been inhabited since the Paleolithic time period and the island’s name predates classical antiquity considered to begin in the 8th century BC. Enter Old Town Cres through the gates, initially established by the ancient Greeks, and explore the many little walking streets. In the center, there is an open piazza, with people selling different homemade goods. Also in Cres town, with architecture heavily influenced by the Venetians, see the municipal Loggia, remnants of the city walls, the old Roman bridge, and the Beli Olive mill.
Sveti Ivan beach has been ranked the 15th best beach in the world by BILD Magazine. Perched on top of a cliff 378m above this beach is the medieval village of Lubenice. Later in the afternoon hike up to the village, with a medieval fortress and the remains of the city walls.
In summer, the village hosts Lubenice Evenings, where some of Croatia’s best performers play. Perhaps there will be a planned Lubenice Evening when anchored in the harbor, to enjoy the music, evening air and beautiful view either before or after dinner depending on the scheduled concert time. Overnight on anchor.
Day 4: In the early morning while guests are still sleeping, cruise from Cres Island to Krk Island (35nm 3 hours and 45 minutes). Wake up in Krk City Harbor. Krk Island was also inhabited since prehistoric times, with various civilizations ruling the island. Krk City is considered one of the oldest towns on the Adriatic Sea.
Head ashore after breakfast to explore Krk City. Roman ruins can be seen today in some parts of the town, and within some private houses, are still Roman mosaics. Frankopan Castle close to the Kamplin park is worth exploring. Built by the Croatian noble family of Frankopan over several centuries and several generations, after the death of the first Count (knez) of Krk Dujam I Krčki, his sons continue to rule the island and the town of Krk from the Castle. Also, in town, are the Cathedral of Mary’s Assumption, and part of the city walls built during the five centuries when the Republic of Venice ruled the city.
The main square of the old city is called Kamplin, which is derived from the Latin word “campus”, meaning field. During Roman times, a training area was located here close to the thermal Roman spas, ruins of which have been found near the Franscian Monastery. The remnants of the temple columns in the square supported a very large building or temple built by the Romans.
The city was once known for its unique Romance language called Vegliotic (one of the two main branches of the extinct Dalmatian language), which was spoken until the early 19th century. There was a large Italian community in the city, but Italy eventually gave up the island in favor of Yugoslavia in 1921 (when the city was officially called Krk for the first time); there is still a small enclave of Italians living within the city today.
Enjoy lunch ashore at the unique Volsonis Restaurant with very good café style food, and a very good wine selection, but the real draw is for the experience of dining in a huge 2000-year-old Roman archaeological site underground, featuring ancient underground towers, corridors, sea water, and the only 2 altars to Venus in Croatia.
After lunch return on board to cruise to the island of Rab (20nm 2 hours and 20 minutes). First appearing in history as home to Illyrians in 360 BC, it was part of Liburnia and then part of the Roman Empire. The Emperor Octavian Augustus built town walls and gave Rab the title of Municipium. After, various civilizations, including for a short period the Kingdom of Croatia, ruled the island.
Rab Island is one of the greenest islands in the Adriatic and probably one of the most enchanting. It is covered with pine forests, has one old forest of oak trees still standing, and has beautiful sandy beaches.
Rab is well known for its mild climate that differs from the surrounding mainland due to three small mountain ranges which protect the island from cold winds, that sweep down from the Velebit mountains on the coast.
Stop first at one of Rab Island’s many lovely sand beaches, there are over 30, and enjoy swimming and water sports. Rab is one of the few islands with nudist beaches, should that be your style. Later in the afternoon continue to Rab Town to explore Old Town. Within one of Rab town’s many historic churches, St Justine, for historians, is the Museum of Sacred Art where there is a painting from the Titian school and a gold-encrusted reliquary dating back 1,000 years. Climb to the top of the 26-meter Bell Tower for a terrific view. Overnight on anchor in Rab Town Harbor
Day 5: In the morning, perhaps having breakfast on the way, cruise to the island of Losinj. (29nm 3 hours and 15 minutes) Considered the Sea Captain’s Island, the town of Mali Losinj has been a center of shipping and trading for centuries. By the late 1800’s, Mali Losinj was a wealthy town with the largest merchant fleet in the Adriatic Sea. That wealth is reflected in the architecture ashore, where the streets are filled with large sea captains’ houses.
Set at the apex of a long natural harbor and ringed by graceful, gently weathered Mediterranean town houses and green hills, the town straddles both coasts on the narrowest section of the island. A string of imposing 19th-century sea-captains’ houses line the seafront. The advent of the steam engine and steam ships led to the demise of the importance of Mali Losinj.
Today, it is considered the island of wellness, as every herb that grows wild in Croatia is said to grow on this island and it is said that the very air, redolent with these herbs has miraculous healing qualities. Various health resorts and spas are springing up on the island. This is the perfect spot for bicycle ride through the herb filled countryside to see the rest of the island outside of the town of Mali Losinj.
After a late morning bike ride, return have lunch on anchor in the bay, and enjoy the lovely water. Later in the afternoon wander the town of Mali Losinj for herbal soaps, and other health oriented items made from the natural herbs growing on the island or perhaps have a local spa treatment. Overnight on anchor.
Remains of Roman Villa on Veli Brijun Island
Day 6: Leave early in the morning with breakfast underway to cruise to Brijuni National Park (38nm 4 hours and 15 minutes) a group of 14 islands of extraordinary green beauty. One of the reasons to visit the Brijuni islands is the connection with antiquity, as the beauty of these islands has always been recognized and so often used by ancient civilizations as resort islands.
The islands were inhabited in the Neolithic era, and then fell under Roman rule in 177AD. Upon the collapse of the Roman Empire, the islands first were ruled by the Ostrogoths and then the Byzantine Empire until 776AD. The Franks and the Aquilian patriarchs were the next rulers and in 1331 the islands were ruled by the Venetian Empire. Cruise to Veli Brijun Island where there are the very well-preserved ruins of a Roman villa.
Anchor for lunch at Veli Brijun Island and enjoy the lovely water in this protected national park. As a protected area, the waters will be filled with underwater life. Visit the remains of the Roman villa ashore. Overnight on anchor in this quiet beautiful national park.
Day 7: Cruise to Rovinj, (10nm 1 hour and 10 minutes) on the mainland of the area of Croatia known as Istria. This is a town watched over by the Patron Saint Euphonia, whose body and sarcophagus floated into the harbor in the 1300’s. A Saint “thrown to the lions” in the 3rd century AD, after being tortured on a wheel at the direction of Emperor Diocletian, St. Euphemia was martyred for refusing to renounce Christianity. In the 1300’s many relics were being moved to Rome, and it is believed that the ship on which the sarcophagus holding the body of St. Euphemia sank around Rovinj, and the sarcophagus then floated into the harbor from the shipwreck.
The sarcophagus today is housed in the Church of St. Euphemia crowning the top of the hill in Old Town. Look up at the highest point in town, and a bronze statue of the Saint on top of a wheel can be seen perched on the peak of the church bell tower. Still looking after her people, when a storm is coming, the statue on a wheel spins so that St. Euphemia is pointing into town as if to say stay home. In clear weather, the statue spins to point out to sea as if to say leave home and head out to fish. Today, the fishermen still abide by which direction in any given day the statue might be pointing, to either stay home or go to sea and fish.
Stop first in a lovely anchorage at one of the many little islets in the large bay where Rovinj is located for swimming, water sports and lunch on anchor. Later in the afternoon head ashore to explore Old Town Rovinj with it’s many walking streets which is accessed via the Old Town main gate still standing. Later, perhaps have dinner at either Giannino or Puntulina both owned and operated by the same family and a Michelin Guide restaurant or at Monte in Old Town a Michelin one star restaurant; one of seven restaurants in Croatia with a Michelin star. Overnight on anchor. After dinner, Old Town comes alive with night life.
Pula Old Town Walking Streets
Day 8: Depart Rovinj and cruise back to Pula to disembark. (20nm 2 hours and 20 minutes.