What to see in Istria, Croatia?

Familiar and unfamiliar Croatia. The Istrian hinterland

From Pula we left early in the morning for Rijeka. But I would not have been me if I had not turned off again on the way to some local Mala Pindrovka. And if Labin is still somewhat known to tourists (mostly it is visited by beachgoers from neighboring Rabac), then the other two places had to moderators of the site previously put in the list of villages and towns. And also by tradition, both in Malaya and Srednaya Pyndrovka found something unique. But let’s move on from the allegorical to the narrative.

Labin, a beautiful town on the eastern coast of Istria, is situated on a hill overlooking the popular seaside resort of Rabac and is particularly attractive with its charming old town. Walking through the stone streets in the center of Labin one is struck again by the multitude of beautiful sights and colorful corners to be found in the European medieval town of 200 by 300 meters. Thanks to its rich history, the town exudes a beautiful combination of Croatian and Italian flavor.

In Italian, the town is called Albona. The history of Labin goes back to the IV century, when the first settlement on the city hill was founded.

Car traffic is forbidden in the Old Town, although I don’t understand how you can drive on a mixture of ramps, crooked cul-de-sacs and stairs… except maybe on a bike. Despite the proximity of Rabac, Labin is surprisingly quiet, and the curious tourist can count on a perfect photo opportunity.

For a long time Labin was the center of coal mining in Istria. The status of the mining center seems incompatible with the quaintly restored pastel-colored houses. Nevertheless, mining was carried out with such zeal that the town at the top of the hill has indeed turned very “black”. About 40 years ago a complete restoration of the town began, and now Labin honors its mining past only in the City Museum, which has a model of the former active coal mine.

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The old part of town is a fascinating place to explore, displaying a mixture of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture in a number of Venetian palaces and churches.

The main Titova Square is practically the only place in front of the medieval city wall to begin a tour of Labin. There are several free parking lots nearby where you can easily leave your car. Right in the square there are several restaurants and a very good coffee shop, the tiramisu and cappuccino were just like in Treviso.

The circular bastion is at the entrance to the square. It was built in 1604.

There is an Austrian-era cannon on the round bastion.

Through the nearby San Flore Gate we enter a real medieval old town. This beautiful city gate was built in 1589 and is still one of the most important sights in Labin. If you look closely, you can see the Venetian lion and the coat of arms of Labin above the arch.

The Baroque Frankovic Palace of Vlacic is the birthplace of Matija Vlacic Iliric, one of the leaders of European Protestant thinking of the 16th century. A philologist, theologian, historian and scholar, one of the brightest supporters of the Protestant Reformation in Istria, he was an associate of Martin Luther.

The Baroque palace of the Negri belonged to the family of the same name that moved to Labin from the Bergamo area in 1512. The first member of the Negri family to settle in Istria was Giovanni Antonio, banker and businessman. The family enjoyed the privileges and affection of the Venetian Podesta since their arrival, owning eight houses in Labina.

Next to the Negri Palace, the former tiny chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel stands out with its colorful façade. In the twentieth century it was abandoned and gradually deteriorated until an enthusiastic family couple bought it and restored it for their gallery.

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On the site of the old Fontiki, that is, the warehouse where grain was stored in case of drought, is the Little Theater. The Teatrino’s furnishing in classical style began in 1844, when it opened its doors to many visitors, and it was then that it became a very important place for Labin. Today, the Teatrino is active with the Italian Artistic Union. Behind the theater you can see the Clock Tower.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful buildings and at the same time one of the most important landmarks of Labin is the eighteenth century Baroque palace of the noble Battiala-Lazzarini family. Inside is now the City Museum. This historic square with its steep staircase and colorful buildings is certainly the most beautiful in all of Labin and an absolute highlight of the town.

The ensemble of the square is complemented by another landmark of the old town – the parish church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.

It dates back to 1336, the church building was built on the remains of a Romanesque temple of the XI century. Above the entrance to the church is the lion of St. Mark, the hallmark of the Venetian period.

It is also worth seeing the interior of the church, where there are works by some Venetian artists

We walk up the hill, soaking up the extremely beautiful authentic atmosphere of Labin with its colorful old town houses and its many details.

We meet the 35-meter-high bell tower of St. Justus, which, from afar, forms Labin’s silhouette like no other building.

The bell tower was part of the former Church of St. Justus, which now does not exist.

If you walk a little further down the alley, you soon reach the Fortica observation deck in the northeastern part of the old town. From this terrace you have a great view of the surroundings.

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With magnification you can see the Bay of Kvarner and the resort of Rabac.

The next stop is in the real Croatian hinterland, in an extinct town, rather the village of Pichan. But Pichan was not easy – it turned out to be a former ancient Roman Pucinium, which was mentioned by Pliny and Ptolemy. It was known for its excellent wine even at the Roman court. Livia, wife of Emperor Augustus, believed that her longevity was due to the fact that she drank mostly this wine. During Byzantine rule, Pichan was the administrative center of central Istria. It was also the center of the diocese.

The old part of Pichan can be reached through the monumental 14th century gate to the right of which a diocesan palace was built in 1613 in the time of Bishop Antonio Zar.

Pichan is inseparable from the legends of the two saints, St. Nicholas, who are associated with the origin of the diocese of Pichan.

The legend of Saint Nicephorus the Martyr tells us that the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (who built the new capital, Constantinople) ordered that the remains of Saint Nicephorus of Antioch be placed on a ship and that a temple be dedicated to the saint in the place where the ship would stop on its own volition. According to a longer version, the body of the saint, after arriving at the shores of Istria, was transferred to a horse, which was left at liberty, it stopped at Pichan.

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The second legend tells of St. Nicephorus, Bishop of Pichan, whom someone from Pichan complained to the patriarch of Aquileia for his allegedly immoral life. To clear his name of false accusations and to prove his mission, Nicephorus offered to open a spring of drinking water by striking with a stick the barren and thorny acacia trees that grew on the ground. On his way to the patriarch of Aquileia, St. Nicephorus established wells in Gracisce, Krbun, Buzet, Trieste, and many other places. When he stood before the Patriarch, he had nowhere to put his cloak, so he hung it on the sunbeam illuminating the room – this sign was enough to clear him of all charges. On his way back, Nicephorus died, and his remains were kept at Umag until 1379, when they were stolen by the Genoese. However, in obedience to the saint’s wishes and as a sign of grace, his right hand was sent to Pichan, where it is still preserved in the local church.

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The parish church of the Annunciation acquired its present form after being renovated in 1753, the interior having been remodeled in Baroque style during the time of Aldarago Piccardi, the last bishop of Pichan in the eighteenth century. As the church became a cathedral, it houses a vast and valuable inventory, the most famous of which is the gold-embroidered cloak of the bishop, a gift from Empress Maria Theresa. The tombs of the bishops of Pichan and other honored citizens of Pichan, decorated with reliefs and coats of arms, are under the floor of the church.

The Pichan Bell Tower was built of white limestone in 1872. In addition to being one of the highest in Istria (48 meters), it is considered by many to be the most beautiful.

From Pichan on the next mountain we saw the next target – the town of Gracisce. It originated from an ancient Slavic cult site dedicated to Perun – the god of thunder. The memory of his worship is preserved in the name of the hill – Perunchevac. Perunčevac is one of those places in Croatia, where signs of ancient Slavic culture are particularly strongly preserved in toponyms. Around Gračišće are the Dol, the Meadow and the Dubravá.

Obeying the common fate of the peoples of this part of the Balkans, the ancient Slavs around Gračišće in the early Middle Ages came under the wing of the Christian, later the Catholic Church, replacing the patron saint of the settlement with one of the Catholic saints.

Gracisce became the feudal estate of the patriarchs of Aquileia,

then the dukes of Gorichko, and in 1374 became part of the principality of Pazin. The town was larger than the neighboring Pazin.

Medieval walls have been largely preserved on the west, north and east sides of the city, including the western city gate.

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The city is divided into several quarters, each with its own small square with a church.

The most representative, of course, is the center of the town – the square with the Church of Our Lady, the Chapel of St. Anthony and the Palace of Solomon.

This part of town can be reached through the west gate, built in 1549.

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