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Cultural and historical heritage

Evidence has been found of the existence of prehistoric people from the Palaeolithic era in the Istrian caves, while more than 400 hill-forts bear witness to the high population density of Istra in the bronze and iron ages. The Romans are credited with the first urbanisation of Istra: fascinating monuments speak to us of this time. Even the rule of Byzantium in Istra has left a strong imprint – Euphrasian Basilica is one of the most beautiful early Byzantine churches in Europe. The interior of Istra is rich with medieval towns and forts on hill tops, while numerous churches keep watch over their old medieval frescos.

The amphitheatre in Pula, or Arena, was erected in the 1st century during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. With its elliptical shape, dimensions of 132 x 105 metres and height of 32 metres, the Arena is the largest ancient structure in Istra and one of the six larges Roman amphitheatres in the world. Its primary purpose was for gladiator combats and could hold about 20,000 spectators. Today it is open for visiting tourists. In its underground areas is the exhibition “Olive and wine growing in ancient Istra” with the tools for production of oil and wine, including a large number of amphora. In the warm summer evenings, the Arena becomes the perfect place for pop-rock concerts, operas and ballets, as well as film festivals. The Euphrasian Basilica bears the name of the Pore� bishop who had it erected in the 6th century. Even though the old floor mosaic has been preserved, its most valuable mosaics are in the apsidal section. The entire complex (three-naved church, baptismal, atrium and what was once the bishop’s palace) were placed on UNESCO’s list of protected world cultural heritage in 1997. Dvigrad, located on high ground within the Lim cove not far from Kanfanara, is the largest city-ruins. In its vicinity once stood two castles (hence the name Dvigrad – “two towns”), however only the ruins of one have been preserved. Dvigrad was deserted in the 17th century after a plague epidemic. Today it is a cultural monument on 16,000 square metres. Nezakcij, an ancient city four kilometres from Pula, was the capital of the Histri until 177 A.D. when they were defeated by the Romans. Aside from the prehistoric hill-fort remains, here too Roman structures are recognisable and even foundations of early Christian basilica. The Church of St. Blaž in Vodnjan is the larges Istrian church and its 60 metre high bell tower is the highest in Istra. However it is significant because it holds the mummified bodies of three saints, as well as the rich Istrian collection of sacral art with 730 art pieces and items. When in Istra the Aleja glagoljaša (Glagolitic Avenue) comprising of a series of stone monument-markings set along the road from Roč to Hum in memory of the oldest Slavic script – Glagolitic Script, is a must see. Some other places you must visit when in Istra include: the ancient residential complex in the bay Verige on Brijuni, and the Triumphant Arches of Sergijevac, Augustus’ temple, the Small Roman theatre and Kaštel (castle) in Pula, the Church of St. Eufemia in Rovinj, the largest Istrian Paulist monastery in St. Peter in the Forest, frescos in the churches St. Mary of Škriljinah in Berma and St. Jacob in Vižinad and kažune – small field shelters made of dry walls, also the most well known symbol of Istra.

Such a rich historical heritage is revalorised through hosting various manifestations. Every July in the Pula amphitheatre we watch the Pula Film Festival which this year is celebrating its 53rd birthday (www.pulafilmfestival.hr), while beautiful Motovun has served as perfect backdrop for the charming Motovun Film Festival (www.motovunfilmfestival.com). The Arena has also played host to many musicians like Luciano Pavarotti, Andre Bocelli, Sting, James Brown, Joe Cocker, Simply Red and Jamiroquai, but also to well known opera and ballet ensembles. At the beginning of summer the Dvigrad festival of medieval music is held in a number of towns, while in the middle of July there is also the organ festival Organu Histriae ((www.organum-histriae.org). For decades now classical music is performed in the Euphrasian Basilica in Pore�, while during summer jazz concerts are held regularly in the atrium of the Native museum of Poreč. Gro�njan, the city of artists, also uses it charm to create a summer stage on which classic music concerts are held but also the festival Jazz Is Back (www.hgm.hr). Another ‘must see’ is Istra Ethno Jazz (www.istraetnojazz.com), a festival which brings eminent jazz and ethno musicians to perform in various ka�tels (castles). Blues and jazz are also played at the Music Nights festival in Novigrad (www.novigrad.hr), while punkers frequent the Pula festival Monte Paradiso and fans of electronic music enjoy themselves at parties throughout Istra. Svetvinčenat is well known for its Festival of Dance and Non-verbal Theatre (www.svetvincenat.hr), Umag is known for its festival of chamber theatre Zlatni lav (www.zlatni-lav.hr), Pula for its international theatre festivals PUF and MKFM (www.ink.hr), the Ulysses theatre performs shows on Brijuni and for the last 46 years the international exhibition of contemporary art Pore�ki Annale (www.culture-vision.com) has been held in Poreč. The Rovinj exhibition Grisia is special because it portrays works of children and affirmed artists…The Nature Park Dubrova in Labin gathers together sculptors from around the world at the International Sculpture Symposium, while the end of summer in Vrsar sees the beginning of the Sculpting School Montraker and at the entry of the Nature Park is the Park of Sculptures Dušan Džamonja.

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