Rovinj (Rovigno in Italian) is coastal Istria’s star attraction, and it oozes intense charm. Originally an island, it was only connected to the mainland in 1763 when the narrow channel separating it was filled. The old town is contained within an egg-shaped peninsula, filled with steep cobbled streets and small characteristic squares, with a tall church tower rising from the highest point.
We go inside Rovinj with Lea, owner of the area’s newest Independent hotel ‘The Melegran’ (https://melegran.com/) (literally translating to “pomegranate”). Born to Croatian parents, Lea spent her childhood holidays growing up along the Istrian Coast. She knows the region like the back of hand – her grandfather was Mayor of Pula during the time of Tito, and Lea and her husband not only got married in Rovinj, but they also built a house there and then went on to create The Melegran – their laidback, chic bolthole in the old town.
THE PACKING EDIT
What is the best time to visit the Istrian Coast and why?
The season in starts in May and ends in October. Anytime during those months is a great time to visit – depending on what you are looking for – if you prefer a quiet and relaxing time, then Rovinj in May/June or September/October are good months. For a bit more action and buzz, July and August are peak months.
How would you spend 48 hours in Rovinj?
For me, Rovinj is magical place, with its cobbled streets, colourful houses, old boats in the port and many surprises around every corner. It also has beautiful views form the old church and excellent food. There are some places in Rovinj that are a ‘must do’ and I always recommend them to friends coming to visit.
I like to start my day with a coffee at Cogito Bar, serving delicious specialty coffee, or with a breakfast at the Adriatic Hotel, the only place in the old town that knows how to do a proper English breakfast! Post breakfast, my husband, kids and I like to hire a boat in the port and spend the day island hopping and jumping off into the crystal-clear sea. Bring a mask and snorkel, as well as a bottle of rosé!
I like to arrive back in town at around 6pm, the perfect time to head for an ice cream at Sweet Corner in the port. Just behind Sweet Corner, in one of the cobbled street, is SALT, a concept store, run by Luca and Chiara from Italy. I love to pick up some pieces from their collections and would highly recommend a visit!
In the evening, I would start my evening with a G&T at the Melegran Bar, in the old town. I would then head to dinner at Puntulina , which is a family run restaurant with tables set on terraces overlooking the sea, a rare find given the view and the setting. Their fish is always fresh and the cuisine exquisite.
After dinner, I would walk the streets in the old town to see whether there was any street music to listen to. I would take a last drink sitting on the steps on whatever place they were playing at before heading home.
The next day I would start my day with an espresso at Grota Bar, the local hang out by the market. You can stand around their high tables, watch locals tell stories and watch people buy local produce for their lunches. I would then grab a bicycle, head out to Monte Mulini beach and grab a sun chair in the beach club.
I would spend the day swimming, walking in the national park and enjoying drinks from the club. In the afternoon on my way back into town, I would stop on the promenade of the new Grand Park Hotel and wander through the shops, which house a lot of top local and international designers. At sunset I would head for a drink at Mediterraneo Bar, run by our friend Jasmin and enjoy one of their famous cocktails. For dinner, If I wanted to stay in town, I would either head to Monte, the only Michelin Star restaurant in Istria, situated very close to the church in Rovinj, on top of the hill, or Santa Croce to enjoy watching the locals and tourists flit by from the open air terrace whilst enjoying its fresh seafood prepared in the local way.
If I feel like taking a short trip inland, but not too far from Rovinj, I head to Meneghetti Winery , approximately 20 minutes drive from Rovinj. It’s a great hotel, producing very good red wine and houses a restaurant in a beautiful setting. You can have dinner surrounded by olive trees and rolling vineyards.
What is your favourite part of town and why?
I love the cobbled streets in the old town. There is always something new to discover and you sometimes feel like time has stopped. You see old ladies drying their laundry on clothes lines suspended between buildings and old men playing cards sitting on steps. It feels like you have wandered into a Fellini film. I hope Rovinj never loses that touch.
Describe Rovinj in 3 words.
Colourful faded elegance.
What’s the best way to get around?
Bicycle, as no cars are allowed in Rovinj.
Essential beauty item to pack?
Verso Hydration Serum for me, and 50+ Sun screen for my kids.
Favourite Hotel in Rovinj? Why?
It’s difficult as one of the owners of The Melegran, a new boutique hotel in the old town, not to recommend it! In the design and offering of The Melegran we have tried to honour the colourful elegance of Rovinj but inject all the modern luxuries and technology an experiential traveller expects.
If you do have time to travel a bit further inland into the wine region of Istria, (about a one hour drive), the new concept hotel from the Roxanich vineyard, just at the base of the approach to the hilltop town of Motuvun, is worth a visit.
Where do you shop?
For clothes – Salt or ‘Un Saluto da Rovigno’ in Garibaldijeva street, where you can pick summer dresses and nice beach bags
Otherwise I love to roam the galleries and look at local art. We always pick up something for the hotel, or our house back in London
I also always buy local olive oil and truffle paste, which I always take back with me to London.
Santa Croce (https://www.restoran-santacroce.hr/en/)
Balbi (for lunch)
For a night out?
Rovinj is not a clubbing place. A crazy night out might end up being having cocktails in various ‘hole in the wall’ bars in the old town and ending up in a lock-in with local musicians playing late into the night!
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