PULA and ROVINJ (Istria, Croatia)

09/11/2021
Rovinj
Rovinj

Have you already visited the Colosseum  🏟  in Pula? It is one of the largest in the world.

Pula

Pula is a Croatian town located in the south of Istria and is also the largest town on this peninsula. There is a large cargo port (with a production ship) and thanks to its ancient monuments is also a popular tourist destination.

Pula was founded by the Illyrians probably in the 3rd century. BC and is thus the oldest town on the east coast of the Adriatic. In the 1st century BC, the Romans seized the southern part of Istria (under the leadership of J. Cesar) and established a colony there, which served mainly as a port. Thanks to the Romans, many historic buildings were erected here, such as the Triumphal Arch, the Forum and the palaces. The city was fortified by a high seems with a number of gates. Many of the original buildings were then dismantled and the stone was used to build fortifications.

The city was damaged several times, whether by fire, war or plague. After the fall of Austria-Hungary, the whole of Istria fell under the administration of Italy. During World War II the city was occupied by the Wehrmacht, and became the target of Allied bombing, many historic buildings were destroyed. In 1945, Pula, including the whole of Istria, was annexed to Yugoslavia and then became part of the Republic of Croatia.

Pula is home to about 90,000 people (including the suburbs).

What sights are worth visiting?

Amphitheater

https://www.ami-pula.hr

The symbol of the city and the main tourist attraction, from the 1st century A.D. It was built inside the walls by Emperor Augustus, but in a smaller form. Then Claudius expanded it and received its final form under Emperor Vespasian, at the urging of his mistress, a native of Pula. The amphitheater is called Arena, in Croatia, and is the largest and best-preserved Roman monument in the country, and is even one of the 6 largest in the world. The largest is, of course, Roman. The amphitheater has the floor plan of an ellipse measuring 132.45 x 105 m and is 32.45 m high. It could hold up to 23,000 spectators. It was built of quality limestone from nearby quarries. The arena's wrestling ground had about 68 x 42 m and under it many spaces have been preserved, where there were, for example, cages for wild animals or spaces for gladiators. The gladiators were mostly sentenced to death and lived in a building opposite the Colosseum. If there was a fight, the emperor present, stepped into the arena from the underground with the greeting "Morituri te salutant" - Going to death greets you. The floor was wooden, covered with sand, into which the blood of the wrestlers seeped. It could increase or decrease, which is also one of the attractions of the Pula arena. Entrance to the arena was free, the seats were divided according to the importance and wealth of visitors. In 404, gladiatorial battles were banned, the area was used for a cattle market, and the Colosseum was dismantled for its quality stone to exhibit other buildings. In the 16th century, the arena was to be demolished and dismantled for the exhibition of palaces in Venice. At that time, Roman Senator Gabriele Emo stood up for him and he managed to prevent this idea. In the 17th century it was to be dismantled again and the Kaštel fortress was to be built from it. Fortunately, then the builder Antoine De Ville opposed, and the arena was saved again.


Today, a permanent exhibition is located in the basement of the amphitheater - Viticulture and olive growing in Istria in antiquity. The ancient Romans have already dealt with these branches. Today, the amphitheater is used for cultural events in the open air. Famous tenors Pavarotti, Carreras, Bocelli, as well as Elton John, Tom Jones, Eros Ramazotti, Sting and others performed here. Hockey was even played here (yes, on ice).

The amphitheater has been reconstructed many times. Unfortunately, in 1980 the intervention was unprofessional and therefore the Colosseum was not registered with UNESCO. A comprehensive renovation has been underway since 2008 and is scheduled to last 20 years.

The arena is one of the 2nd most visited monuments in Croatia (the most visited are the walls in Dubrovnik), around 300,000 people pass through it every year (I assume that these are the ones who bought the entrance fee, but you can see quite a lot from the outside).

Kastel Fortress

https://www.ppmi.hr/en/ 

In the 17th century in Pula, the famous French architect Antoine de Ville designed a new Venetian project - the Kaštel Fortress. The main goal was to build a fortress around the center of Pula. A stone from a large Roman amphitheater was used for its construction, along with a stone from other quarries around Pula. The fortress was ideal for the first defense of the city and the port and today there is the Historical and Maritime Museum of Istria. In front of the fortress you will be interested in a number of old cannons. The fortress offers a magnificent view of the city of Pula, including the Colosseum and the port. The outdoor areas are freely accessible, if you want to go inside, there is an entrance fee. In 2021 adults 20 kunas, children 10 kunas.

Porta Gemina

Porta Gemina is a double Roman city gate. It was built at the end of the 2nd century. It was one of the ten city gates of Pula, which stood on the north side of the capital. 

In ancient times, Pula was surrounded by walls. These were demolished in modern times due to the expansion of the city center. There were about ten city gates, from which the Porta Gemina and part of the walls that connect it with the Giardin square are still visible. In the Middle Ages, the gates were buried underground. Only recently have they been dug up and brought to light. 

The two holes are decorated with three half-columns with composite heads. The slats once used to lower the grilles in order to close the gate are preserved. The gate also contains a plaque in the name of Lucius Menacio Prisca, a city councilor and senator who personally financed the construction of one of the city's water supply networks. The plaque was not originally part of the monument; was found next to it and located in its upper middle part in the late 19th century. Today, the gates lead - in front of which the remains of a partially reconstructed octagonal mausoleum from the 2nd or 3rd century AD were discovered to the Archaeological Museum in Pula, to the castle and to a small Roman theater.

Sea aquarium in Pula

https://www.aquarium.hr/ 

The aquarium in Pula is one of the most beautiful in the Adriatic. The richness of the Adriatic and the century-old military history of Pula are unique in this way. The aquarium is located in the 130-year-old fortress "Verudela", which was once part of the powerful defense complex "Fortress Pula" built during the reign of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Today, the historic fortress is inhabited by hundreds of fish species from all over the Adriatic and several tropical marine and freshwater species, as well as fish from Croatian lakes and rivers. Meet them in the rooms, corridors, tunnels and moat of the once mighty fortress.

Admission in 2021 130 kn adults, children 100 kn.

The port of Pula  

https://aci-marinas.com/hr/marina/aci-pula/

The huge natural harbor has been used since early antiquity and served as the main seaport of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. In the heart of this historic port, just a few meters from the arena, lies the ACI marina with 194 boat moorings. Pula International Airport is only 5 km away. ACI marina Pula is a real city port, located in the heart of Pula. It is also the only port in the Mediterranean that offers a unique view of the Roman amphitheater. The port is located in a natural bay between the peninsula and the breakwater, which provides excellent protection.

There is a reception with currency exchange, parking, restaurants, toilets and showers, gas station, customs and you can rent a boat or car.

Central Square in Pula - Forum

Forum, Piazza Foro, Republic Square. These are all the names of the most important square in the center of Pula. It is located at the foot of a hill on the west side of the city, near the coast, and its history dates back to the 1st century BC.

The most important part of the Forum is the northern part, there were three ancient temples. Central was dedicated to the chief gods Jupiter, Juna and Minerva. Unfortunately, this temple has disappeared without a trace in the abyss of history. To his right was the church of the goddess Diana, which was incorporated into the building of Pula City Hall at the end of the 13th century. And on the left stood the temple of Emperor Augustus and the goddess Roma. And he still stands here today. This temple, completed in 14, is also the only building that remembers the beginning of this market square. The other sides of the square were closed by palaces, city buildings and statues.

Like any good Roman forum, Pula was primarily a place of public debate, political gatherings and citizens' meetings.

The Forum remained the main square of Pula even in the Middle Ages, when the town hall palace was built here, built more or less in the Venetian style. And the Forum retains its important role in the public life of the city even today. The town hall still stands here and we also see hundreds of citizens discussing and meeting here, thanks to the number of restaurants.

Rovinj

Rovinj is a historic town with a port in western Istria in Croatia, about 30 km from Pula. And it is the second most visited city in Istria, after Pula. About 14,000 inhabitants live here. The agglomeration also includes a number of small islands, only some of which are inhabited. In addition to tourism, the locals are mainly engaged in vine growing and fishing.

The old historical part of the town is located on a small peninsula (once an island) and is marked by Venetian culture. The little space for construction is determined by the character of the local buildings - narrow tall houses standing next to each other, winding alleys and stairs, rising to the highest point of the city, to the temple of the patron saint and protector of the city, St. Euphemia, which the locals call Fuma. Legend says that after the martyrdom in Chalcedon at the beginning of the 4th century, her body disappeared from Constantinople to sail in a sarcophagus directly to the shore near Rovinj. She was buried here with great glory and today lies in her sarcophagus in the church, which is dedicated to her. Today, the statue of St. Euphemia overlooks the city from the top of the 12th-century bell tower, in the immediate vicinity of the church (the bell tower is the second tallest in Istria at 60 meters). At the bell tower it is possible to step out and enjoy the wonderful view all the way to the Italian coast.

The town of Rovinj was ruled in the 14th century by the Venetians, who thoroughly fortified it. Unfortunately, not much of the fortifications has been preserved. Of the seven city gates, only three have retained their original appearance. Although the City Gate, which has undergone building modifications, is not one of them, it is the most famous of them due to its location near the main square. The important monuments include several churches and especially the Romanesque baptistery of St. Trinity from the 12th century.

The greatest attention is focused on the historic core, in whose ancient houses you will find a rich selection of interesting handicraft souvenirs. In particular, the narrow alley Grisia is absolutely unique in this respect - it is actually one large gallery with a rich selection of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, glass, jewelry, etc.

The coast is lined with one restaurant after another and you can taste both local specialties and many Italian ones. The bonus is the view of the harbor and the bell tower on the hill.

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