Eating in Istria, Croatia: Truffle Trails and Tasty Tales
Explore charming towns, indulge in truffle delights, and uncover hidden gems. Experience Istria, Croatia
When we first set foot in Istria, Croatia, we couldn't help but fall in love. The winding streets, the blend of cultures, and the sheer beauty of its landscapes were enchanting.
Though our journey did not encompass the southern part, like the renowned Rovinj or Pula, we found ourselves immersed in the truffle-rich regions of Istria, full of beautiful towns and enticing konobas (taverns). Here, amidst the incredible scenery, we embarked on a culinary journey that we're eager to share.
First thing first, where to stay? The hotels in Istria, Croatia are plenty to choose from. Not a hotel kind of person? Don't worry. There are also apartments and villas that suit every traveler's style and budget.
Our choice was Apartment Mita. Not only was the accommodation cozy, but we also got to savor some incredible olive oil – courtesy of the hospitable owners. A testament to the fact that Istria's gastronomic magic isn't limited to truffles. Their wine and olive oil? Simply out of this world!
Istria, Croatia, Things to Do
So, long story short, when you're not busy savoring every bite of truffle-laden dishes in Istria county, a whole tapestry of experiences awaits you. The peninsula is like a treasure chest filled with scenic views, vibrant art, and timeless architecture.
And while each corner of Istria holds its own secret charm, there are a few towns that just stand out and demand a visit. So, after or before filling up our bellies, we set out to discover, and here are the must-visit towns based on our memorable escapades.
An artist's paradise, Grožnjan is brimming with handcrafted treasures. There is not a single shop, building or street that we've seen in this amazing small town that we didn't love.
As I said, this place is really an artist paradise. So if art is your calling, ensure you have ample luggage space! Furthermore, if you are a jazz fan, you may want to visit Grožnjan during their annual Jazz festival.
However, options for dining are sparse. Even so, there are a few terraces ideal for refreshments and taking in the view.
A tad more commercial but no less charming, Motovun boasts a livelier atmosphere that you should not miss.
Now, speaking of food, two places caught our fancy here:
Konoba Mondo Motovun
You know when you find a spot that just screams local vibes? Konoba Mondo in Motovun is that place. Those cute turquoise windows and the chill terrace? Perfect for a romantic evening or just catching up with friends. As for the inside, it feels like stepping into an old friend's cozy living room.
Now, let's talk food. Everything we had was pretty darn delicious. However, their truffle polenta is the real deal. Imagine it served in a crispy parmesan bowl loaded with truffle shavings. Yep, it's as dreamy as it sounds.
Yes, our start there had a few hiccups due to a young lady who for some reason seated us but then forgot to bring us the menus. Yet that was solved pretty quickly and we ended up having a lovely dinner.
And hey, if the late Anthony Bourdain gave it a nod, you know it's got to be good!
When in Motovun, get yourself to Konoba Fakin for some of the best views around. Imagine enjoying your meal with Istria's lush countryside stretching out before you.
Their truffle risotto? Absolute flavor bomb! But, heads up – the mashed potatoes aren't their strong suit. For some reason they use instant mashed potatoes and that's totally unacceptable in my book. However, maybe it's just their quirky signature move; who knows?
Still, the food game here is strong, the wine is delicious, the service implacable and in the end it's all about that authentic Istrian vibes.
However, just like in most places around the world, the real charm of Istria lies in its secret pockets and surprises. Like the delightful Konoba Rino in Momjan.
This hidden gem felt like an old friend's home, oozing rustic charm and warmth. From the moment we entered, there was this unmistakable buzz of authenticity.
It was like a never-ending food party where everything was delicious. Massive portions, truffle surprises in almost every dish, and flavors that'll have you coming back for more.
And let's not forget about the lovely staff who treated us like family. This place? 100% would recommend and the one we loved best during our stay.
If you want to take a break from the lovely hills and need a seaside breather, Umag is just a half an hour or so drive. It's breezy shores can offer you a relaxed day at the beach if that's what you are looking for.
Although our visit was short (and scorchingly hot), it's a decent spot for an ice cream break. It is not the best place Croatia has to offer when it comes to seaside destinations, but enough to see the sea and the seagulls.
However, Istria is about more than just touristy towns. As a matter of fact, it's peppered with not just amazing, hidden konobas but also tiny villages waiting to be discovered. Like the 11th-century village, Piemonte d'Istria, where time seems to have paused.
And before we wrap up our journey, I am sure that you will want to know more about truffle shopping. There are plenty of shops to choose from. However, we bought our Truffle butter and truffle salt from a quaint Motovun shop called Bencic Truffles.
We also bought some special travarica (their local distilled spirit) from a nice shop in Grožnjan called Aura.
Remember that the shops I am talking about sell local crafted goods, that are a little bit more expensive than the average. So if you find them to exceed your budget, the supermarket variety we found was also pretty darn good and at more than fair prices!
Tips and Tricks
Language barrier? A sprinkle of Italian will come in handy here. Mobility is key, so consider renting a car. Visit in September for the magic truffle season, and always book your table in advance!
If you still have questions about Istria, Croatia, maybe answering the most frequently asked ones will help.
Q: Where is Istria, Croatia?
A: Located on the westernmost point of Croatia, Istria is a picturesque peninsula that's a fusion of Croatian and Italian cultures.
Q: How far is Istria from Dubrovnik?
A: Post our Istria escapade, we headed to the Dubrovnik Riviera – an 8-hour scenic drive.
Q: How to get to Istria, Croatia?
A: A car journey is ideal, but for flyers, Pula Airport is well-connected. Another route? Fly into Venice and hop onto a ferry.
Q: What are the most traditional foods?
A: Istrian food is a delightful mix of its Croatian and Italian heritage. Truffles, olive oil, wine, cheese and cured meats are staples.
Q: Where to eat breakfast in Istria?
A: If you stay at a hotel, I am sure that they can arrange something for you. Since we rented a flat, we enjoyed breakfast at home, trying out the collection of cheese, cured meats, and truffles we found in local shops and supermarkets.
Q: Is Istria, Croatia, expensive?
A: It really depends on your expectations. However, it's way more cheaper than Tuscany, a similar region in Italy. We paid around 50 euros/night/couple for the accommodation, and an average meal with starter, main course, and wine was around 80-90 euros/couple.
In wrapping up our Istrian tale, here's a little piece of advice: immerse, explore, and eat to your heart's content! This won't be our last visit, and we hope it won't be yours either. Safe travels and happy munching!
**This article was written in September 2023. Please note that circumstances can change over time. If you discover that any venues mentioned have since closed, kindly inform us. Thank you!