Friday morning we packed up our belongings, and headed out to do some last minute errands and absorb a tiny bit more of Venice before our 1:45 bus to Croatia. We hit the lovely gastronomica in Campo S. Barnaba for prosciutto, mortadella and mozzarella, and the bakery for bread, and topped off Jane’s phone account. We spent some time with Tintoretto at the Scuola di San Rocco. I love that they have mirrors available so you don’t have to strain your neck while looking at the amazing ceiling.
We made sandwiches for lunch, and then headed to Tronchetto to catch the bus. Had some amusing interactions with two Italian-born brothers in their 60’s who had emigrated to New Zealand; now visiting Italy and Croatia with their wives. The bus trip was enjoyable, though we ran late because they had oversold seats in Trieste, and that needed to be sorted out. (one woman spent the first part of her trip cheerfully sitting in the bus stairwell, another on her boyfriend’s lap)
As we turned into the Istrian peninsula, the landscape turned hilly, with grapevines, green valleys, and pine forests. In Rovinj we were met by the charming Zelko who walked us to the apartment, showing us recommended shops and restaurants along the way. The apartment is right over the market and has a lovely view out the windows of the waterfront. It feels like a Croatian grandmother’s house, with doilies and dated features and furnishings. It’s spacious and comfortable, so who cares. Happily it has double-glazed windows, so things were quiet.
We wandered out, enjoying the lively atmosphere. The Old Town streets are of Istrian stone like those in Puglia, beautiful with the gleaming white color and treacherous when wet. Most of the tourists seem to be German, with some Brits and Italians.
Lots of tourist-oriented shops, but at least many were selling local products–wine, olive and truffle oils, truffle products and local crafts. And there seems to be a bakery on every corner selling breads and pastries from both European and Middle Eastern influences. We found the Piassa Grande wine bar, and conveyed Shannon’s greetings to Helena and Mandy, who were as lovely as rumored. Sat and enjoyed three different glasses of local wine with a plate of sausage with truffles, then shared a salad and pasta with yup, more truffles. I particularly loved one of the Teran wines; Larry preferred the Cab.
In the morning, Larry went for a run along the water, and came back with a warm borek from one of the bakeries and a SIM card.
We went downstairs to have a coffee and do some shopping. Bought salad vegetables, ripe apricots, and some sort of sweet green/purple tiny plum from an adorable old lady who will probably become “our” market lady. Some sort of whole grain bread with seeds from the bakery. We also wandered into the butcher shop for some local prosciutto called prsut, and got a slice of fresh tuna steak for dinner at the fish market. The tiny supermarket was a bit mystifying, as the only Croatian we’ve yet learned is Thank You, and the text on all the packaging was Croatian. Bought what we thought was yogurt, butter and cream, we’ll see when we get home.
Yup, the stuff in the cup was cream, score.
Zelko came by to walk Larry over to the car rental place and then show him where to park.
We went for a walk along the water, and looked for a place for lunch. Nothing jumped out at us, but as we doubled back to the apartment we saw people eating appealing looking food at the tiny kanoba right next to our apartment,Taverna da Baston. This turned out to be a great choice, as we loved our fish lunches–I had grilled branzino with sautéed potatoes and spinach; and Larry had a plate of grilled sardines with salad. Extremely fresh fish cooked over a fire–it doesn’t get much better than that. The owner brought over some grappa, Croatian jet fuel. The couple at the neighboring table had a three year old daughter who spent her time playing with the shopkeeper of the junk store across the street, and was given a little bracelet as a goodbye present. Sweet.
Larry has been battling a local cell service provider over their plans–their web page gives details of a package plan that he found out doesn’t in fact exist. At first their customer service rep had been happily helpful, but once Larry started challenging the misrepresentation, there was radio silence. Avoid Bon Bon.
Spent more time walking around. There’s some guy making balloon animals for children, most of the kids using them to swat at each other. Some of the “animals” look like long penises, complete with testicles. Go ahead kid, smack your brother with a neon green penis. We sampled cheese from a gentleman selling them in his doorway down the street from the apartment, and bought a hunk of local pecorino with truffles. Found the “beach” in town, with steep stairs down to the rocks where people were sunbathing. The earlier tour groups had largely departed by now, and town was quieter. The sparkling water, multicolored houses climbing the hill with the old church on the top does look like postcards. It’s unashamedly a tourist-oriented town now, but with a charmingly upfront air to it.
Dinner time. I made a tomato vinaigrette to go with the tuna Larry seared, and a salad. The fish was fantastically fresh. A bottle of local Malvasia plonk from a nearby store was just OK, need to find a better source for wine.
After dinner we went downstairs to sit on the sea wall and watch the sunset, lovely.