Istria Essentials

(Map by Newhouse Design)

Getting there
Croatia Airlines flies direct from major European capitals to the Pula airport, and Ryanair flies direct from London. But most people prefer to drive. The closest big-city gateway is Trieste, Italy, 25 miles across the border (in fact, some even consider its southern suburbs part of Istria). Ljubljana, Slovenia, is about three hours away by car; Venice, Italy, and Zagreb, Croatia, are both within a three-hour drive.

You can also take a ferry over from Italy. Catamarans from Venice sail to Pore (about two hours) once or twice a week April through October and almost daily in July and August (011-39/041-272-2647, venezialines.com). The service also connects Venice with Piran, Rovinj, and Pula, but with less frequency. From late April to late September, there's a ferry from Trieste, with stops in Portoroz/Piran (45 minutes), Porec (about two hours), and Rovinj (about three hours) (011-39/040-303-540, triestelines.it).

Getting around
Buses connect most towns throughout the region, but the peninsula is best seen by car—that way, you can explore towns on a whim. Autoeurope.com has consistently low rates. It's wise to invest in a recently published map, available at most souvenir shops or drugstores, when you arrive. Many maps purchased outside Istria don't show all sections of the Ipsilon, the highway that spans most of the region.

The language
Croatian can look like a jumble of consonants, but once you understand a few key things, you can pronounce any word. A j is pronounced roughly the same as a y. The little "v" over a letter means you should pretend there's an h immediately following the letter; an accent over a c means you should pronounce it "tch," like the t in future. So, for example, Stojsic, the name of the farmer, is pronounced "stoy-shitch."

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