Who would have thought that after traveling the world I would fall head over heels in love with a place? Well I did, so let me tell you why.
It’s always good when something or someone exceeds your expectations and while this happened to me many times throughout my travels in Croatia, my heart skipped a few beats when I stumbled across this charming region. It was back in 2010 when I filmed a sequel to WOW Croatia for my new series at the time, TAKEOFF with Ashley Colburn.
The first impression from the people to the landscapes and of course food were all so surprising that I knew nothing could be overlooked. The warmth of the Istrians (how they are referred to in the region) is contagious and they will be gracious enough to share their region with you the moment you arrive.
The hilltop towns throughout Istria were built for defense reasons and most have a church peaking through the center skyline. Perfectly situated, traveling by car through Istria is a great way to see the landscapes. These fairy tale looking towns such as Grožnjan, Oprtalj and Motovun hold tiny shops and restaurants all specializing in local specialties.
The region itself has four different types of soil that make the land rich with minerals to grow some of the finest grapes, olive oil and of course, the mysterious truffle. I strongly believe that sometimes the way to a significant other’s heart is through food and wine, and these grounded roots below the soil are strong. Home to two different grape varietals, the region holds the white Malvasia and the red Teran. I enjoy every time the wine touches my lips. Producers like Kozlović and Kabola have top of the line facilities for guests to tour, learn and taste these unique flavors.
Anything mysterious leaves most people wanting more and more and this is exactly what this Istrian specialty does, both before its found and after its been eaten. The only three places in the world where truffles can be found are France, Italy and Istria! The soil produces both black and white truffles, a mysterious mushroom that grows around oak trees. In Istria the dog finds the truffle and this is something everyone must experience. Put your walking shoes on and get ready to chase the dogs through the oak trees as their nose detects this aroma that lies below the soil.
Once the dog smells the truffle they will begin to dig and it is up to the hunter to stop the dog before it becomes too late. Carefully the hunter will store the truffles in paper towels and keep the dirt on the truffle until it will be prepared. Truffles go great with pasta, meats I’ve even had it on some ice cream. The most exclusive and highly valuable truffle can be found in Istria between the months of September-December. A truffle hunt will be a unique experience for all and when you taste it – well, personally I believe you will hate it or love it. I LOVE IT… obviously!
Another event that brings the love of people and their land together is during the harvesting of olive oil. From sunup to sundown friends and family gather in the fields to pick the olives and watch the olives turn to oil. It’s a time where everyone lends a hand and enjoys making the oil that they know will be soon be on their table. During the Roman Times, olive oil was seen as gold and in a way today to the Istrians still treat it as a precious gift. While the monetary value today is not as much as gold, it still holds a value to the people. At every table in Istria you will find a bottle and it will be made with love and care.
Through the years I have returned to Istria many times and every time noticed the hospitality was top notch. The love that the Istrians have for their land is shown in every sip of wine you drink, dish you eat or olive oil you taste.