RABAC and LABIN (Istria, Croatia)

17/10/2021
Labin - Stari Grad
Labin - Stari Grad

The historic towns Rabac and Labin in the southeast of Istria, what can you see there?

Rabac

A small fishing village located in the bay of the same name in the Kvarner Bay. It originally served as a port in the town of Labin. About 1400 inhabitants live here. The funny thing is that around 10,000 tourists can stay here at once thanks to the number of hotels and apartments. Rabac belongs to the municipality of Labin, whose eponymous administrative town rises on a hill about 5 km above Rabac. In 1912, Rabac gained the status of a seaside spa and is called the Pearl of Kvarner. From an economic point of view, it was especially important for bauxite mining, when the most important mining took place between the First and Second World Wars. The oldest building is the church of St. Andrej from the 15th century.

Rabac is a popular holiday resort thanks to the clear sea, pebble landscaped beaches and the surrounding countryside, where palm trees mix with bushy seaside pines. The surroundings are very mountainous, so if you want to go cycling or hiking here, there is no bad training. Don't expect a lot of nightlife here, there are no nightclubs or other similar activities, it is rather a quiet place to relax. Apart from the port, several hotel complexes, a campsite, a few restaurants and shops for tourists, there is not much here. True, we were here at the end of September, which is more or less after the season, maybe it lives more here during the holidays, but I do not know where, max in hotel resorts that have programs for their guests. If you want to make a proper purchase of food, larger hypermarkets are upstairs in Labin.

In the port it is possible to book some boat trips or various water sports during the season. Rabac is also a popular diving place. There are 4 beaches awarded the Blue Flag for their exceptional cleanliness and maintenance.

If you enjoy hiking, you can take the marked trail from Rabac to Labin, which has the ancient historic center of Stari Grad and is much more interesting for sightseeing. The trail is only about 3 km (but up a good hill) and leads through wild nature with lush vegetation. It starts from the Oliva campsite and continues to the local stream, where it climbs steeply up many wooden bridges. You can admire lakes, waterfalls, rapids. There are two rest stops along the way. It is recommended to have suitable hiking boots, the trail around the stream can slide.

If you would like to stay in this area, I recommend the Girandella Valamar Collection Resort.


Labin

The town of Labin is located in the southeast of Istria and is divided into two parts - the modern development of Podlabin in the flat part and the historic center of Stari Grad on the hill. It has about 7000 inhabitants.

Stari Grad is definitely worth a visit. It will captivate you with its winding streets, small squares, high bell tower and medieval architecture. The historic core has undergone extensive restoration. Facades of houses and palaces, alleys, squares, stairs, churches, everything has a new coat. In the ancient houses you will find stylish cafes and shops with local products. The town is on a hill above the sea and you have a luxurious view of the surrounding greenery and Rabac, especially if you gain courage and climb a narrow high bell tower for a few small things. You can see all the way to the nearby island of Cres.

The history of Labin dates back to ancient times. In the 1st century BC, the Romans founded their settlement here under the name of Albon - the current name Labin evolved from it. The prosperity in the 19th century was mainly due to the rich deposits of black coal near the present-day village of Raša near Labin and the bauxite deposit.

The Venetians ruled here from the 15th century until the fall of the Venetian Republic. From the beginning of the 19th century, Labin was part of the Austrian Empire, until the end of World War I. After the war, Labin, like all of Istria, was acquired by the Italians, who very fiercely asserted their historical claims as the alleged heirs of the Venetian Republic. The local Croatian population, especially the miners from the coal mines in Raša, responded to the oppression, exploitation, nationalization and provocation of fascist Italy by the uprising. They occupied the mines, took power and founded the so-called Labin Republic in March 1921. It lasted only about a month, when it was forcibly liquidated by the intervention of the Italian army.

The historic Labin has retained its medieval fortress character in both its parts, Gorica and Dolica. In front of the Renaissance city gate is the central area of ​​the square with the Renaissance Marian Church (Marija od Zdravlja) and the city loggia, restored in the 18th century, now serving as a lapidary (a place where stone objects such as statues, tombstones, sarcophagi, monuments, fountains, crosses, milestones, etc.).

In the old town inside the walls, an ancient radial system of roads has been preserved - narrow winding steep streets and numerous staircases, often bridged by bridges leading to higher parts of Labin. Interesting are the Renaissance and Baroque palaces of the local nobility and burgher houses. The Palace of the Pretors (pretorska palača) stands out - the seat of the Venetian governors from the 15th century, the Scampicchi Palace from the 16th century, with a beautiful Renaissance courtyard, the Baroque palaces of Franković-Vlačić, Manzini, Negri from the 17th century and the representative, beautifully restored from the 18th century. It is in this magnificent palace that today is the National Museum with several interesting collections (eg archeological, mining, ethnographic).

Of the sacral buildings of historic Labin, the most remarkable is the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary (Rodjenja Marijina), originally Gothic, rebuilt in the 16th century. Several valuable paintings by Venetian masters are also worth seeing in it.


If you do not manage to park on a small square, which is a kind of center, do not panic and drive a little further, on the right side there is a large parking lot on a steep hill, and you are still in the center. There are several cafes and restaurants on the square. It took us less than two hours to walk through the entire historic center, visit the bell tower and have lunch. The bell tower of St. Just is 35 m high and dates from 1623. We were lucky to be completely alone in it, because I can't imagine anyone on those steep stairs and narrow corridors. From that height we had respect. At the very top, you can enjoy huge bells, which are forbidden to ring. The entrance fee was symbolic in 2021, 10 Kun.

There is a preserved mining tower in Podlabin and mining flags were on poles all over the town. According to the plans, modern laboratories were to be built in the underground, see photos, but we could not find out if this plan had taken place, rather probably not, it looked quite like science fiction.

So if you are going to spend a holiday down in Rabac, be sure to visit this beautiful medieval town. More physically fit individuals can walk from Rabac on a marked trail, which is about 3 km long and starts from the Oliva camp, but prepare for a rather steep ascent, good footwear is suitable, the surface around the stream can be slippery.

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