Thursday, February 5, 2009


A 2001 NASA satellite map of the Istrian Peninsula. The Gulf of Trieste and the Alps are shown in the left of the satellite capture. The Croatian islands in the Gulf of Kvarner are to the right.

The largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, Istria comprises land areas of three countries: Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Situated in the northeastern Adriatic opposite Venice, Istria's northern border is the Gulf of Trieste (Italy); the eastern limit is the Gulf of Kvarner, with its deep water port city of Rijeka (Croatia).

Croatia (Hrvatska in the native Croatian language -- important to know) occupies 89% of Istria's land mass, and most of the remaining portion lies within Slovenia. Italian Istria is just two tiny municipalities, Muggia and San Dorligo della Valle, both of which lie just south of Trieste. Click on map to enlarge.

In modern times, Istria was part of Italy until 1945. For some 500 years it was the summer playground of the Venetian Republic. The city of Venice, just a two hour boat ride away , is visible across the Adriatic on a clear day. Istria retains a distinct Italian flavor. Architectural reminders, such as piazzas and Tuscany-style stone farmhouses, are everywhere. Most towns have at least one church with a campanile (bell tower). Italian aromas fill the air from restaurants serving gnocchi, truffles and classic northern Italian fare.

Note for tourists: In Italy and Slovenia, the Euro is the unit of currency. In Croatia it is the Kuna, although Euros are widely accepted throughout Istria. One US dollar buys 7 Kuna.

The name Istria comes from the Histri tribe of the Illyrians. It took the Romans two military campaigns to subdue them (in 177 BCE). After the fall of the Roman Empire, Istria was occupied by Goths, Lombards, Franks (Pippin III in 789), and the dukes of Merano, Bavaria and Carinthia, before becoming part of the Venetian Republic in 1267. The area near the border between Slovenia and Croatia was especially valuable to Venice, because of its salt pans, which remain productive today. Inland portions of Istria were under the control of the Holy Roman Empire, and later the Hapsburgs and Napoleon.

Note to travelers:
I would suggest using the Trieste, Italy airport (TRS airport code) northwest of the city at Monfalcone just off this map at the tip of the top left arrow. There are twice daily Lufthansa nonstop one-hour flights from Munich (MUC airport code). Trieste (black area at top of map) abuts Slovenia (orange area of map). Green area is Croatia. Visit in order Piran, Groznjan, Motovun, Hum, Porec, Pula, Rovinj. The best (Piran and Rovinj) are thus first and last.