The first thing you will hear about Savudrija is its famous lighthouse. But what fascinates me is its relationship to the sea and the unusual traditions that come from this relationship and define Savudrija today.
Ancient port, new appearance
What makes Savudrija different from most towns on the Adriatic is that it has no “real” main square. Instead it is the port itself, still brimming with fishing boats and batanas (a local type of craft boat), that still serves as the main gathering point for the locals to come together.
This might be unusual but it’s not new: the arrangement comes from the ancient Romans. In their time the port was strategically important for its position in the north and it consisted of a complex with a number of edifices, taking up 46,000 m2. Today it extends along the coast and encompasses not only the location of the ancient port, but also all the surrounding areas where you could once find Roman villas, and where you can today still find picturesque remnants of its turbulent past, as well as tranquil vineyards, rich pine forests and charming walking trails. The port was restored in 2011, and parts of the ancient Roman stone blocks that made up the breakwater of the ancient port were incorporated into the new port, making a stroll through it a walk through history.
Fish, boats and batanas
The second most famous symbol of Savudrija are its hanging boats. Fishing boats hung by ropes from wooden poles are an unusual and romantic site for tourists, but they are also a necessity for the fishermen trying to protect their boats from bad weather, and especially from the strong south-west wind they call lebić, whose waves would break the boats.
It is no wonder that boats are the object of devotion in a region that once lived from fishing and in part continues to do so today, which is why almost a third of the local families still have their own boats. One of the finest local traditions in Savudrija today is the manufacturing of the typical Savudrijan batana, a fishing boat typical in this region, which aso gave its name to the Savudrijska Batana Association.
Three languages, one tradition
Talija, the association of local Italians, is the most active group working to preserve the tradition of batana manufacturing. The local dialect of Savudrija is an interesting indicator of its turbulent history. Namely, due to its strategic position, numerous naval battles were lead over Savudrija ever since the 9th century; it would later be robbed by the pirates from the Neretva region and inhabited by Croats from Dalmatia escaping the Turkish invasion.
It has been ruled by the Venetians, Napoleon, the Habsburgs, fascist Italy, Slovenia, the Free Territory of Trieste, and Yugoslavia. All this heritage can be found behind the peaceful and picturesque fishing village with a unique atmosphere and hospitable locals whose roots belong in Croatia, Slovenia and Italy, and who often speak all three languages. Legend says Savudrija’s name comes from the latin expression “Salvo re”, that is, the escape of the king, because German Emperor Barbarossa’s son Otto supposedly found shelter precisely in one of the coves around Savudrija during a naval battle. Locals do not put much faith in this legend, however, they prefer the tale of the lighthouse.
A turbulent history always brings tales of turbulent loves that are the stuff of romantic legends. One such legend is connected to Savudrija’s most famous symbol: its lighthouse. According to legend it was created as a result of an unhappy love affair between an Austrian statesman and a Croatian noblewoman. Built in 1818, this is the oldest Croatian lighthouse still in function, and it was the first European lighthouse to use gas, which was transported from Labin. 36 meters tall, the lighthouse has a stunning view of Savudrija and the open sea. For those like me, who are not ready to travel to remote locations to sleep in a lighthouse, it also provides the opportunity to try the lighthouse life without experiencing the isolation.
Savudrija is perfect, whether you are looking for a romantic getaway for two or a family holiday. Romance with a touch of luxury and fantastic views offered by the local hotels such as Hotel Kempinski, are a unique experience. In Savudrija parents will also find some peace in the laid-back yet excellent wellness centres, such as the one at Villa Rosetta. What I love most about Savudrija is that the whole family is guaranteed an excellent time! Together or apart, fun is to be found everywhere here, on the beach and at the pool, on the golf course of the golf residence Skiper, or on a bike ride in the beautiful outdoors.
Savudrija offers the opportunity to try out the school of windsurfing, which is an extremely popular and accessible sport here due to the favourable winds and currents. Istria is famous for its cuisine and wines, and some restaurants in Savudrija have delighted visitors for over half a century, such as the famous local restaurant Maruzza! Family traditions are vital in Istria, especially when it comes to restaurants, as you can see at the Restaurant Pergola, whose fish delicacies are always adapted to the season and the spirit of ancient times, due to the gifted chef whom you can also fin in Zambratija.