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The Rovinj Travel Guide: An Istrian Gem

Rovinj

The fishing town of Rovinj is fast becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in Croatia. Writer Nilufer Atik finds out why…

Mention Croatia to most people and the first destinations they think of are either Dubrovnik or Split. But if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of these two major cities and experience a little more culture, peace and quiet, not to mention some of most unique luxury hotels in this diverse country, your best bet is to head west to the Istrian paradise that is Rovinj.

One of the last true Mediterranean fishing ports in the area and just a 60-minute drive away from Italy, this picturesque resort is dotted with venetian-style houses and elegant piazzas, circled around the sparkling, emerald-green Adriatic Sea. With its cobbled alleyways weaving their way through quaint boutique stores and gleaming white yachts lining the water’s edge, it’s impossible not to be charmed by this stylish town, where the atmosphere is one of unhurried calm.

Rovinj is a Croatian fishing port on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula.
Rovinj is a Croatian fishing port on the west coast of the Istrian peninsula. Image credit: pixabay.com/Lucky2013

According to recent research, Rovinj has become one of the hottest new holiday destinations in Europe, and if you ever get a chance to visit the coastal attraction, you’ll see why. While the beaches aren’t the golden, sandy variety found in the likes of Split, they are still among the most beautiful in Istria. Mostly comprising small bays of shingle coves broken up by promontories, where people can laze in the sun with homemade picnics or watch the ships coming in and out of the harbour, many of them are within walking distance of the town centre and wherever you lie or sit, you’re guaranteed to get a glorious view of the mesmerising skyline in the distance. Plus, with warm temperatures from early May to mid-October, there is plenty of time throughout the year to enjoy the scenery while catching some rays.

Lone Beach, situated south of the marina and approximately 1500 metres from the old town, stretches along Lone Bay and is one of the best loved beaches in Rovinj. It is part of the protected Zlatni Rt (Golden Cape) nature park, and extends from here all the way up to Monte Mulini beach in the north. The gravelled inlet is perfect for both sunbathing and swimming as the thick oak trees just a few metres away from the shore mean you can always dry off or cool down in the shade when needed. But be warned – there are quite a few jellyfish near the water’s edge from late afternoon so you must be on your guard when taking a dip.

The other advantage Lone Beach has is that it can only be reached by foot or bicycle so there is no traffic noise to interrupt the sounds of birds chirping in the trees. The sheltered bay is also a popular anchoring spot for private yachts and motor boats and there are wide green areas for those who prefer to sunbathe on grass.

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Rovinj (Rovigno in Italian) is coastal Istria’s star attraction. Image credit: Nilufer Atik

Monte Mulini beach, around a five minute walk north via a pathway that leads all the way into the old town, is a little more sophisticated. Paved in white concrete combined with natural rocks, it provides more of an exclusive sun-seeking experience. With huge bean-bags scattered around the Mulini Beach Bar and smartly dressed waiters serving fancy cocktails to lounging holidaymakers as Ibiza-style chill-out music plays in the background, it’s where most of the five-star guests from the nearby Hotel Monte Mulini congregate.

But then you won’t find many visitors to Rovinj who aren’t in five, or at least four-star accommodation. In recent years, residents have developed a sharp eye for maximising profits from tourism by upgrading most hotels and restaurants to at least four-star status. Among one of them is the eye-catching Lone Hotel.

A seven-minute walk from Mulini Beach, this high-end boutique establishment stands out not only because of the glorious forest enveloping it, but its unique appearance. Built to look like a luxurious ocean liner floating on a hillside, it’s a design hotel that blends beauty with luxury, style with elegance. All of its 248-bedrooms offer spectacular views of the Adriatic Sea from floor-to-ceiling windows and furnished balconies. And while it might not seem obvious from the minimalist black and white exterior, inside, the hotel’s design concept has been strongly influenced by the surrounding landscape. In the reception guests are greeted by a hanging garden, designed by installation artist Silvio Vujicic, and all of the furnishings in the rooms and luxury suites consist of wood, stone and fabric panels in subtle tones to reflect the simplistic beauty of nature.

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The Lone Hotel offers both an indoor and outdoor swimming pool. Image credit: Nilufer Atik

There are 202 superior rooms, 18 Grand rooms and 16 Jazz rooms – so called because they come with their own outdoor Jacuzzis. The 12 suites (some of which have their own private swimming pools) include four Bay suites, three Gallery suites and one Presidential apartment which, at 129 square metres in size, is the largest and most luxurious suite in the whole of Rovinj.

Contemporary art work and sculptures by local artists adorn the walls and floors in virtually every communal area of the Lone, the most prominent of which is an installation called ‘Room For Running Ghosts’, which sits in the hotel’s atrium and was created by internationally renowned artist Ivana Franke. A spectacular metallic structure of criss-crossing lines, it drops through the spiral white staircase as though magically suspended in mid-air.

Other features at the Lone include both indoor and outdoor pools, a spa and gym, an on-site nightclub, and three restaurants – L, ON and the seafood bar E. While E is the ideal place for a light lunch or sushi snack and ON focuses more on Mediterranean style buffets, the a la carte, 220-seater L restaurant provides a real fine-dining experience. The menu – which changes with the seasons and offers several interpretations of global favourites such as Thai curry or Vietnamese shrimp skewers – is largely based on traditional Croatian cuisine, using the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients. There are also more than 200 domestic and foreign wines and champagnes. You can arrange a wine and oil tasting evening too if you want an additional gastronomic treat. Plus the restaurant opens up to a meadow surrounding the hotel pool, making it ideal for a post-dinner stroll in the evening.

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The eye-catching Lone Hotel offers spectacular views of the Adriatic Sea. Image credit: Nilufer Atik

But if you would rather eat out, Rovinj town has plenty of restaurants and bars serving freshly caught fish and traditional delicacies. One of the most popular is Kantinon, a tavern-style eatery overlooking the waterfront. It offers a cosy, casual atmosphere with an excellent, varied menu, quirkily printed on fake newspaper.

Culinary delights include baked scallops in breadcrumbs, grilled scampi in sweet olive oil, and barley with squid in black ink sauce. For the meat lovers there is a selection of cold and cured meats served with mouth-watering cheeses and warm bread – not to mention delicious Istrian sausage dishes. An extensive Istrian wine selection pairs perfectly with the food, and with excellent service from the friendly, accommodating waiters, reasonable prices and the soothing sound of soft jazz wafting in from the street musicians outside, an evening at Kantinon is a memorable and fitting way to end your trip to this Istrian wonderland.

A premium double room at the Lone Hotel is priced at around 400 euros (£335) per night, including bed and breakfast. A family room for four is around 663 euros (£556) and a Gallery Suite around 700 euros (£587). For more information go to www.maistra.com/hotel-lone-rovinj