Tuscany in Italy is with no doubt one of the most beautiful places to visit in the country due to its breath-taking landscapes, the culture, food and history. But did you know there is an equivalent Tuscany in Croatia? That’s right. We are talking about the largest peninsula in northern Croatia called Istria. There are many exciting activities to experience and places of attractions to visit in Istria. The name of Istria as “Croatian Tuscany” stems from many years ago as this region was influenced by the Roman Empire. The main cities of attraction and tourism are Pula, Rovinj and Porec across the Adriatic coastline. However, Istria is distinguished by its fertile land and Mediterranean Cuisine.Besides the beautiful sceneries and the cities full of history, Istria is definitely a culinary experience you shouldn’t miss.
Due to the Mediterranean Climate and the geographical position near the Alps, Istria can offer a rich variety of products and flavors to your plate. Particularly, Istria is known for the wine production, the unique truffles as well as olive oil, which has been produced since Ancient ages. Regarding wine, the Istria wine region is best known for its native Malvazija Istarska grapes. These grapes are grown in the terracotta-rich red soils of the Istria and are used to produce rich red wines combined with grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and the native varieties of Refosk and Teran.Istria is divided into Red, Grey and White Istria soils. Each wine region is named after the color of the soil. The red color of the soil comes as a result of the high level of iron that it contains and it is usually found near the Adriatic coast.In the central area of Istria there is Grey Istria which contains flysch soil. This is the best option for the production of white wine because it gives off a great aroma. Last but not least, White Istria soil is similar to Grey, however it is rockier and contains limestone. Wines produced in White Istria consist of a higher level of acidity which adds an extreme aroma to them. There are plenty of wineries that you can visit in Istria. The largest city in the Istria Wine region is Pula. Every summer there are many festivals organized and there are plenty of local restaurants to try the cuisine accompanied by a glass of local wine.
Croatia is often overlooked as a country that produces olive oil, but the truth is, Istria has been cultivating exceptional olive oil since Roman times. The significance of olive oil is prominent in Croatian culture and it is often referred to as “liquid gold”. Olive oil is an essential dietary supplement and it is used in the majority of Croatian cuisine as it holds a great value to good health and longevity. There is amazing evidence of how old the roots of olive oil are in Croatia and that is an 1600 year old Olive tree on Veliki Brijuni island. It is written that “Istria has been ranked for the sixth consecutive year as the best olive growing region in the world for extra virgin olive oils by the prestigious Flos Olei, the world’s most comprehensive guide to virgin olive oils.” The reason behind why Istria’s olive oil is so unique is because of the Mediterranean climate and fertile soils in the peninsula, which play a vital role in the cultivation of exceptional olive grapes. The taste of the olive oil depends on the composition of the soil, the time of harvest and of course the species of the olive grapes. The olive grape species you will find in Croatia are “Buza”, “Oblica” or “Itarska bjelica”. Moreover, some of the olive oils are flavored, spicy, bitter, with garlic, or with peperoncino.While driving in Istria, you can find many small signs on the routes leading you to wine and olive oil producers. If you are interested in trying virgin olive oil tasting then you can visit a small village around Rovinj, Chiavalon.
The truffle is a rare type of mushroom, you can find only in Croatia, Italy and France. At the end of Autumn and in early winter is the season for the exclusive white truffles. Istria truffles are a culinary experience that is hard to resist once you try their superb taste. According to popular belief truffles are aphrodisiacal from when they were discovered almost 80 years ago in Motovun forest. White truffles are a great gastronomic pearl that can be eaten in different and interesting ways, such as Istrian pasta fuži or pljukanci, with fish or shrimps, steaks, truffle ice-cream and in a chocolate cake with olive oil. Moreover, in 1999 was found to be the largest white truffle in Motovun forest as it weighed 1,3 kilos and was registered on the World’s Guinness Book of Record.