The mild seas around Pula and the pristine coast of the Istrian peninsula have been a lure to travelers since ancient times. This beautiful natural area has long been a fertile producer of wine and a haven for shipbuilders. Today’s Pula is a commercially vibrant city with a deep personal appeal, thanks to its fresh sea breezes, fine cuisine, and welcoming people.
Pula’s historical roots stretch back countless millennia. Archeological sites in the region show signs of human cave-dwellings dating back 1 million years. Settlements formed here as early as the Bronze Age.
Around 177 B.C., Pula became a key port city in the early Roman Republic. During the Roman civil war of 42 B.C., Octavian – who went on to become Augustus, the first ruler of the Empire – had Pula destroyed. It was soon rebuilt, however, at the pleading of his daughter. The Roman architecture and artifacts that remain, including the amphitheater, date back to this period of reconstruction.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Pula’s political fate was in upheaval. It was conquered by many kingdoms over many centuries. Ostrogoth occupation preceded Byzantine rule, under which the city grew into a major shipping port. In the 8th century, Charlemagne arrived and Pula would remain part of his Frankish Kingdom for 360 years.
The Venetian Empire ruled off and on until 1797. Under Napoleon, Pula was part of the Kingdom of Italy. In 1813, it became a Hapsburg territory under the Austrian Empire. By 1918, with the fall of Austria-Hungary, Pula joined Italy once again. Under Mussolini, the citizens of Pula suffered severe hardships. In 1947, the entire peninsula became a part of Yugoslavia. Since 1991, Pula has been a proud Croatian city.
Pula Lifestyle and Culture
Pula’s cultural institutions and monuments reflect a long history and a rich heritage. Having been ruled by so many empires and kingdoms, it embraces the fruits of a diverse past, from its Tuscan-style wines to its Venetian and Renaissance architecture. After the cultural repression of the mid- and late-20th century, today’s Pula celebrates its emerging identity as distinctly Croatian.
The region surrounding Pula is a major producer of olive oil, and much of it is made in the nearby village of Vodnjan. Here, the Chiavalon family has been pressing the fruit for generations, creating one of the finest oils available. The village, too, is something to behold, with its medieval charm and fairytale ambiance.
Pula Sights and Landmarks
Eminently walkable, Pula’s best sights are close to our berth. Its most renowned attraction is the Roman amphitheater, one of the most complete and best preserved in the world. Locally known as The Arena, this fantastic symbol of the once great empire could hold 23,000 spectators. Remarkably, the stage has kept up with the times and today hosts musical performances.
The commemorative Roman Arch of the Sergii was built to celebrate a great war victory of the brothers Sergii in the Battle of Actium. Originally used as a city gate, the arch dates roughly to 29-27 B.C. Its classic Corinthian columns and relief work are as fine as any that might have been seen in ancient Athens or Rome.
Adjacent to Pula’s marina, the Temple of Augustus strikes a stately four-column pose. Built in honor of the Roman emperor sometime between 2 B.C. and 14 A.D., it is today both a historical marker and a living work of art. Originally built as one of a trio of temples, it alone has survived the passage of time completely intact.
Pula Entertainment and Activities
Outside Pula, the Istrian Peninsula is a rustic paradise of emerald rolling slopes, hilltop towns, wineries and truffles. One of the best truffle-hunting regions in the world, the earth hold many gastronomical secrets. The Motovun Forests in particular hide a wealth of prized white truffles; specially trained dogs sniff out this culinary delight, which can fetch prices in the hundreds of dollars per ounce.
Located on the western coast of the Istrian Peninsula in the northern Adriatic Sea, the city of Rovinj is a walker’s delight. Here, you can stroll past architecture and down narrow lanes dripping with the ambiance of the Venetian Empire, Many local residents of the city still speak Istriot, a lilting Romance language that is slowly disappearing.
Two miles off the Istrian coast, the Brijuni National Park is an intriguing mix of nature and history. The nature and safari park was established in 1978 for the pleasure of then-Yugoslav president Josip Tito. Today, the island is one part haven for Indian elephants, zebus and mountain zebras and one part historic preserve where Byzantine fortifications and a Roman-era summer villa still stand.
The Istrian Peninsula of Croatia has often been compared to Tuscany with its fertile soil, rolling hills and ideal wine-producing climate. Indeed, it is a perfect region for viticulture. In the villages around Poreč, White Pinot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines climb the hills. The winemaking tradition stretches back centuries and today the vintages produced here are among the most sought after in the world.View Cruises to Pula