While the serene surroundings of Bolara Šešanta are the perfect place to relax, unwind, and idle the hours away learning a new cookery skill, and enjoying great food, we are perfectly located for anyone looking to explore a little further afield in Istria.
We are a short drive from a wealth of amazing sights, attractions and experiences – scroll down for our suggestions.
South-east of Istria, Cres (pronounced “Tsress”) is an intoxicating island. Its forest-covered north is a wild and natural paradise, where you may even snatch a glimpse of the amazing griffon vultures that cruise the skies; the south has cute towns and great beaches.
Daytrips are available to Venice by catamaran from Poreč, giving you 5 hours to buy an ice cream and explore its canals and squares.
The Istrian peninsula has long been a borderland. From the 13th century the peninsula was divided: coastal towns held by the Venetian Republic; the interior by the Austrian Habsburgs. The coast was characterised as wealthy-urban-Italian, the interior poor-rural-Slavic, with the exception of Pazin in central Istria, the multi-ethnic Habsburg seat. After a brief Napoleonic era in the early 19th century, Austria-Hungary gained the entire peninsula, only to lose it after World War I to Italy. Under Fascism, forced Italianisation worsened ethnic relations and the economy deteriorated.
After World War II, the peninsula fell to Tito’s Yugoslavia, minus Trieste (and, for nearly a decade, a part of the north-west corner of Istria, which was designated as the Free State of Trieste, rather than Italy or Yugoslavia. Bolara was just inside this part, so didn’t join Yugoslavia until 1954). The resulting mass exodus of some quarter million ethnic Italians combined with a policy to resettle Istria with South Slavs dramatically changed the demographic. Croatia and Slovenia broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991 and during the wars received refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today most of Istria falls in Croatia with a smaller part to the north in Slovenia.
Istria is linguistically very diverse – partly because bits of it are in Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. But even the Croatian part is officially bilingual: while most people speak Croatian, many actually speak Italian, due to the area’s centuries-long connections with Italy and Venice. In fact, our nearest town, Grožnjan (or to give it its Italian name, Grisignana), still has the highest proportion of native Italian speakers in Istria.
It gets more complicated, though, because what people actually speak is neither standard Croatian nor standard Italian. That’s why our house number 60 is ‘šešanta’ around here, rather than the Croatian ‘šezdeset’ or Italian ‘sessanta’. Most Istrian “Croatian” speakers use a kind of dialect called ‘chakavian’ (čakavski) because of the word people use for ‘what?’ – in standard Croatian you say ‘što?’ but here it’s ‘ča?’. It’s quite different from standard Croatian, which is actually more similar to standard Serbian and Bosnian than it is to čakavski. Then, most Istrian “Italian” speakers actually speak a Venetian dialect called Istro-Veneto, which has its own distinct vocabulary, grammar and spelling – and even its own festival every year! Our neighbours are Istro-Veneto speakers, so we’re learning fast …
To complicate matters further, this all changes from town to town and even from village to village. Up the road in Buzet, they speak a much more Slovenian-influenced dialect (‘kaj??’).
So you’ll see a lot of Italian influence in the language, but with a Croatian slant, and if you know some Italian it’ll get you a long way. You’ll be eating plenty of gnocchi and prosciutto, but you’ll call them ‘njoki’ and ‘pršut’. And if you eat them with a fork from a plate, a standard Croatian will tell you you’re using a ‘vilica’ and ‘tanjur’, but Istrians know it’s a ‘pirun’ and a ‘pijat’.
Fear not, though: if you are not equipped with Croatian or Italian in your language repertoire, you can get by fine with English almost everywhere, though efforts in the local language(s) will always be very well received.