Motovun – Istria, Croatia
Motovun is located in the northern part of the Istrian peninsula where it is known for their truffles and their wine region. There are tons of small towns to chose from but Motovun was supposed to be one of the more scenic ones since it is perched on the top of a hill and is central for exploring this region. There was no doubt that we were going to visit this area on the trip and it definitely warranted an overnight or two.
This was our first stop on our week long trip to Croatia. As we drove closer to Motovun, the area began to reveal itself – beautiful rolling hills of vines painted the surrounding land. And then Motovun appeared, high upon a hilltop looking all majestic. When we arrived to this area, it was clear we were going to want to stay a lot longer!
Our Airbnb was at the base of the hill where Motovun town center is located. Our Airbnb host was extremely lovely and a wonderful welcome as our first Croatian experience. This Airbnb was perfect – both for the space, the location, and the view. I wish we had more time to just enjoy the place but there is so much to do in this area it was hard to sit still. A huge benefit to this Airbnb was the proximity to several wineries within walking distance.
After an exhausting travel day, we showered and got ready for dinner at the center of town. From the Airbnb it was very walkable to the town center, about 15 minutes uphill. If you drive, there is a parking lot that requires you to pay and still to walk uphill for several minutes so it did not make sense for us to drive. As we walked higher, the views continued to get more stunning. Kevin and I kept looking at each other – “where the heck are we?!” The rolling hills of vines and farmland instantly reminded us of Tuscany – pure joy!
Our dinner this evening was near the top of the Motovun hilltop at Konoba Mondo – a truffle specialty restaurant highlighted in Bourdain’s Croatia episode as well as our Airbnb host. (konoba is the name for a dining establishment like osteria or trattoria). The first Croatian meal starting with truffles – already off to a good start.
Read the full dining review of Konoba Mondo here!
With happy bellies, we made our way down the hill back to the Airbnb and passed out instantly from an exhausting travel day.
We woke up feeling so great after many hours of sleep – we were ready for our day of wine tasting! Many of our European trips have centered around a wine region and we have always booked with a tour guide for several reasons including that it is not common to simply drop by a winery and expect a tasting, and so we did not have to drive and we could enjoy ourselves. On this trip, I had researched enough that it appeared that we could create our own wine trip and do it ourselves, especially since we had the car.
Since we would be wine tasting, I wanted to make sure we at least had something in our stomachs for breakfast. While I recalled some of the wineries mentioning a snack, I did not want to bank of it. On our way out, we stopped in the small town of Buje and grabbed Kevin coffee and croissants for the road Caffe Bar Atrij. Now we were ready!
Learn more about this wine region and about our wine tasting expereinces here.
After a wonderful day exploring this wine region, it was time to eat dinner. We drove about 10 minutes to reach Konoba Dolina – a traditional Istrian spot off the beaten path (thought nothing seems too beaten out here!). This was clearly a local spot – we were even asked how we found this place – the English menu provided did not even properly translate into English! The staff here were happy to have us and helped explain the menu.
We were so full from Istrain plates all day, we were looking to take it easy here. We ordered a mixed salad and fusi with wild boar (fusi is a homemade pasta of the region). It arrived quickly and not in the presentation I was expecting – everything was family styled which was really fun and the food was great.
For dessert, we got the Mille-feuille which was absolutely delicious – we could have ordered two instead of sharing. We were also brought over homemade grappa in a plastic bottle so you know its legit. Not surprising, a bit to strong for my liking. This place was awesome! Definitely swing by here while you are in exploring Motovun.
Wow, what a fantastic first day! I was already sad we were leaving this area tomorrow as we could have spent a week bouncing around konobas and wineries.
We took our time in the morning – since no one was checking in, our Airbnb host was generous enough to extend our check out time. We enjoyed the terrace once more, packed everything up so it was ready to go, and ventured out for breakfast. Since yesterday was so full, we did not have time to visit the town itself during the day so we took the morning to explore Motovun. Even thought it was still early, the sun was high enough to make the walk up to the town a bit sweaty. The town itself is not large – just enough to have a handful to store fronts to greet you as you make your way tot he top where there are a few konobas, a wine bar, and cafes.
The spot that I had in mind was unfortunately closed (despite Google’s info stating it was open) so we had to improvise. The B5 Wine Bar appeared to serve breakfast on a terrace shared by the bed and breakfast across from it but it was confusing. We inquired and were taken upstairs to a gorgeous view. They offered a coffee, juice, and croissant breakfast special that we took advantage of (minus coffee for me) and we absorbed every moment sitting here with the stunning view.
And just like that, we were saying goodbye to Motovun. The time here, while short, went by incredibly fast and I know we only scratched the surface of what this area has to offer. If you are planning a trip here, I know we will be incorporating many of the things we missed on a return trip:
- Motovun: rent bikes (cycling is very popular here), attend the film festival, visit more konobas (Konoba Santa Terra for sunset) and wineries that we missed, go truffle hunting
- Northern Istria: Visit more seas side towns (Umag) and hill towns, and more konobas (Konoba Buščina, Agroturizam Tončić), see the Ponor Butori and Sopot waterfalls, see the Pazinska jama cave, go hiking in the Učka mountain range
- You can even take a ferry to Venice or explore the Italian town of Triste
This region felt like such a hidden gem while we were there and I hope it stays that way!