Because even with its wealth of Roman architecture, Pula is still not as well-known or overrun with tourists as it deserves to be.
Giardini Street is a wide, tree-lined stretch next to the old city walls where locals gather for drinks late into the evenings.
You probably didn’t know
Istria’s regional produce, including excellent wines, extra virgin olive oils, prosciutto, asparagus and wild rocket has earned it the nickname ‘Little Tuscany’.
Suggested reading and viewing
To read: Dante’s Divine Comedy rather ominously references Pula as one of the circles of hell, thanks to the Roman graveyards the 14th-century poet saw outside the city walls while visiting the city. To watch: Pula’s Roman amphitheatre features in the 1999 fantasy film Titus starring Anthony Hopkins.
Things to do in Pula
Close by the Roman amphitheatre, the nearby Amfiteatar Restaurant produces fresh plates of modern Mediterranean cooking such as octopus carpaccio and baked seabass with vegetables from its own kitchen garden.
With the local Istrian cuisine borrowing heavily from nearby Italy (Trieste is about 1.5 hours drive north of Pula, via Slovenia) one of Pula’s best restaurants is named Milan. And serves beautifully al dente homemade pastas, fresh shellfish and home-grown olives.
Trapan Wine Station
With no fewer than four different types of soil, Istria is a winemaker’s paradise. Visit the Trapan Wine Station in nearby Šišan, a 10-minute drive outside the city, where you can sample some of the region’s vintages produced by new-age grape aficionado Bruno Trapan.
Also in the nearby village of Šišan is Bodulka, a fine restaurant attached to the family-run Velanera hotel. The open-air dining room overlooks rolling fields, and the chef stirs up tasty plates including fragrant saffron risotto and a killer chocolate lava cake.
Giardini Street was built as a city garden in the mid-19th century and then transformed into a paved marketplace dotted with trees and lined with bars and cafes. In the early evenings locals flock here for an Ožujsko beer or a glass of Istrian Malvasia wine and to catch up on the day’s events.
Luna’s Lounge Bar
If your idea of a night out revolves around cocktails and sunsets, head for Luna’s Lounge Bar at the Park Plaza Histria, near Verudela beach; it’s open until midnight daily.
Pietas Julia, overlooking the harbour is the city’s best spot for those keen to hit the dancefloor. There’s an outdoor lounge serving wood-fired pizzas before the electro/house music gears up indoors, playing until 4am on a Saturday.
Prefer rock to house? Rojcnet, situated in the basement of the Rocj Centre, is the place to head for indie kids, with live gigs every month.
The Central Market
To experience the sheer variety of Istria’s produce – from wild honey, freshly landed seafood, olive oils and of course the famous Istrian truffles – visit Pula’s bustling Central Market, a traditional iron-framed glass structure built in the 19th century.
Those with a sweet tooth should pop into Captain Jack, an emporium on Sergijevaca close to the city’s famous Triumphal Arch of Sergii, where barrels are piled high with multi-coloured candies.
Head to Flanaticka Ulica, the main shopping street in Pula, to find clothing, cosmetics and shoe shops from international and home-grown brands.
Before he moved to nearby Trieste and wrote his masterpiece Ulysses, James Joyce spent six months in Pula teaching English to Austro-Hungarian naval officers. It was here he wrote what was to become Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and his legacy is still celebrated today in Uliks café, where the language school once stood, and where a bronze sculpture of him sits on a chair outside.
The Triumphal Arch of Sergii
Built between 29 and 27BC to commemorate the Sergius family, who were in positions of power at the time, the Triumphal Arch of Sergii is known as the ‘golden gate’ of the city of Pula and was once part of the city walls. While the walls were mostly pulled down in the 19th century, the arch survives, with ornate decoration on its western, city-facing side.
Brijuni National Park
The Brijuni National Park is an archipelago of 14 islands just a few kilometres off the coast. It is where Josip Tito, once president of Yugoslavia, would host film stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Sophie Loren, using it as his summer residence. Daytrips to the island, perfect for family trips, leave from Fažana, a 15-minute drive north of Pula, daily.
Events to look out for:
- Pula Film Festival (July)
- Seasplash Reggae Festival (July)
- Pula Summer Festival (July-August)
- Istrafest (July-August)
- Outlook Festival (September)
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