I’ve always assumed summer is the ideal season to visit Croatia and dreamed of chartering a boat to go island hopping along the Dalmatian coast. While it was too cold to live on a boat during our trip, now that we’ve experienced Croatia in the fall I’m convinced October is truly the best time to visit!
My favorite part of the country was undoubtedly Istria, a small peninsula bordering Slovenia in the northwest corner of the country. Formerly a part of Italy, the region is known for their ancient roman hilltop villages and many of the locals only speak Italian to this day. I loved the marvelous vineyards, olive groves and costal towns that reminded me of Amalfi and we spent a magical three days in this region to celebrate my birthday.
We stayed at the beautiful Meneghetti Wine Hotel, an elegant stone farmhouse covered in glowing red vines about 20 minutes outside of Rovinj. Surrounded by olive groves and vineyards it reminded me of the great estates in Napa – a favorite spot when we’re back home in California. Our room was unreal, two stories, with a dining table and sitting area with French doors that opened out to a private terrace with vineyard views, and a sprawling bedroom up a flight of stairs. Breakfasts were laid out in the former servants’ kitchen, where we’d gather local meats, cheeses and fresh baked breads and a hunk of honeycomb before settling under the canopy of vines in the courtyard outside. You can either visit the working winery onsite or experience Meneghetti’s wines paired with dinner. We opted for the later and had the best evening feasting our way through the menu of locally sourced ingredients.
The next day we took a day trip to Rovinj, a walled coastal town painted in rich autumnal hues. Our friend Erica recommended Mediterraneo Bar where you can sip cocktails right on the rocks outside the city walls and we picked up an ice cream as we wandered. We were a little overwhelmed by the crowds in Dubrovnik, and ended up enjoying Rovinj so much more due to the quieter city streets.
My favorite thing we did in Istria, even in all of Croatia – was when David surprised me with a truffle hunt for my birthday. I absolutely LOVE truffles and when I’m home I put truffle on everything – eggs, popcorn, steak, and salmon. I can’t get enough! The morning of my birthday David hired a local truffle hunter, Nikola, to take us out into the Motovun forest with his two dogs, Beba and Nero, in search of these elusive treasures. This year’s truffle season has been particularly hard, resulting in hours spent hunting with little to show for it and sky-high prices for truffles. We were lucky that we found a few small truffles, two black truffles and one white that we were able to eat straight from the ground. Delicious!!! If you saw my Instagram stories that day you know how much fun those dogs have when hunting, racing through the woods, inspecting every potential smell, digging in a frenzy when they catch the scent of truffle. It was so much fun and an activity I highly recommend when you’re in Istria, as there are only two places in the world you can find white truffles. (The other being in Piedmont, Italy.) We finished the birthday celebrations by driving to the top of the town of Motovun for a four course truffle meal at Mondo Konoba. It’s hard to navigate the irregular cobblestone streets and simultaneously take in the sweeping views of the surrounding valley but when you finally make it to Mondo Konoba reward yourself with a carafe of local wine and a heaping portion of truffle risotto!
Thank you David (and Meneghetti!) for making my birthday weekend extra special!
All photos by David and Stacie Flinner for stacieflinner.com!