Istria is a world unique unto itself.
Ownership of the Istrian region has been tossed around over the centuries between Venice, Austria, France, Italy, Yugoslavia and now Croatia. As a result, the culture is a convergence of Italian, Slavic and Croatian influences, which has given Istria a starkly different personality than any other part of the country.
If you are from Dubrovnik, you say you are Croatian. If you are from Istria, you say you are Istrian.
If you are from Oklahoma, you say you are American. If you are from Texas, you say you are a Texan.
So I can definitely empathize.
For all these reasons and more, it is easy to get lost inside the borders of Istria for days. Not in a Deliverance kind of way, but in the I-don’t-ever-wanna-leave kind of way.
You don’t need a plan. Don’t need an itinerary. You don’t need to research, and will find yourself challenged if you try. Just cruise up and down the hills at a leisurely pace. Stop and take a picture. Have a coffee. Explore a hilltop town. Have lunch at a restaurant on the side of mountain that you didn’t look up on Yelp. Visit with an olive oil producer. Take in a wine tasting, or two. Forget what time it is.
Here’s a bit more from our completely unplanned trip to Istria. Next up, the medieval hilltop town of Motovun, in which half its residents call Italian their mother language. Fun Fact: Mario Andretti was born here. Seriously.
Atop the hill past the city walls, a steep climb along a narrow cobbled street guides you up into old Motovun.
On the other side of the arched tunnel, the city opens up onto a bustling piazza. At its center is the Church of St. Stephen, the largest secular building from the Renaissance.
Shortly after we arrived, all I wanted was lunch. Inside a stone tunnel, on one hell of an incline, is Pod Voltom, a tavern with a truffle-focused menu. (Like that surprises you.)
We started with creamy sheeps cheese with black truffles and local olive oil.
Then, we had a beautiful black truffle risotto topped with more grated truffles.
Many of the restaurants with primarily truffle menus had this plaque outside their door. Loosely translated, “Tartufo Vero” means “This is where you go to get a damn good truffle meal”.
Below and across the valley from Motovun is the town of Livade. The forests surrounding Livade are one of the richest areas for truffle cultivation.
After lunch, we trekked back down the hill, past a few small vineyards until we happened upon Tomaz Winery. A couple of men sitting outside, chatting, enjoying the beautiful day as they sipped big glasses of wine told me we were in the right place.
A step inside revealed a wall littered with awards. Another good sign.
As thus we began our tasting of six different wines, a very healthy dose of each I might add. My favorite was the rosé.
While we left a little wobbly, our visit to Tomaz was the perfect end to a day in Motovun. Stay tuned for more from my trip to Istria, including the scoop on Istrian olive oil.