Truffles and Wines of Istria

DC Vekic blog May 14, 2013

 

10-day/9-night Value Packed Culinary Extravaganza – Deluxe Tour of Istria, Croatia 

$2,345 per person (8 persons minimum required)

 
What will you see:
Zagreb-Ljubljana-Postojna-Motovun-Livade-Porec-Rovinj-Pula-Opatija-Krk-Zagreb

Designed for serious foodies and those who appreciate quality wines and good things in life.
 
BOUNTIFUL ISTRIA says old Roman sign inserted in wall of local high school in city of Rovinj in Istria, Croatia. That simple sign truly describes this Croatian peninsula-province, in northern part of the Adriatic at Croatia’s border with Slovenia.
If god created a perfect destination, a perfect place to live or visit, than it got to be Istria. And old Romans, they knew it, they cherished it and they immortalized it. During the mighty Roman Empire Istria was one of the main food baskets and old Romans food supply regions.
 
Three sides of the Istrian peninsula are surrounded by beautiful, clear and azure waters of the Adriatic. Numerous islands doted around present natural sanctuary and breading grounds for rich sea life creating an enormous base for the fishing industry. Daily fresh catch is brought to local markets, restaurants and hotels. For sea lovers this is the ultimate paradise.
Central Istria resembles very much like Tuscany. Imagine little medieval towns perched on the top of the hills surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. And the red fertile earth produces some of the best wines and olives found anywhere. In relatively small territory, there are more than 110 wineries, most of them small, family owned boutique wineries producing some incredible wines. There are numerous marked wine routes, some on dirt roads where you can hit number of these wineries in just a few hours. Olive oils are also produced using natural process in small stone mills and all of them are 100% virgin, no mix of olives, no preservatives added. “If you liked Tuscany, you’ll love Istria”, said M. Robertson, one of our past clients. Add to this the region’s production of organically grown vegetables and crops, small farm and family production of the best prosciutto and home-made cheeses found anywhere in Europe.
 
Not until 1995 did residents of Istria realize that they were sitting on another gold mine. In late autumn that year a young man by the name of Giancarlo Zigante, discovered the biggest white truffle ever found. After alerting the media, he soon became recognized as the record holder for discovering the largest truffle ever found, weighing about 2.5 lbs. His finding was subsequently registered in the Guinness Book of World Records. From that point on, Istria became new truffles capital of the world. According to experts, Istrian truffles are of superior quality to any other truffles in the world. Following Zigante’s discovery, the buzz about truffles broke out internationally, attracting flocks of visitors to Istria from all over the world. Not only did they enjoy savoring the unique flavor of truffles, they also discovered Istria’sexcellent wines, high quality olive oils and arguably the best prosciutto in the world. Numerous small boutique wineries have sprouted throughout the region in the last 15 years. Skipping forward to the present, Mr. Zigante is a prosperous businessman and the proud owner of the beautiful B & B Zigante Inn and Zigante Restaurant, serving exceptional dishes with the precious truffles as the featured ingredient. He also owns a truffle-processing factory and a chain of retail stores featuring a range of exceptional gourmet items from Istrian truffles to olive oils to wines and more.

Incidently, Indy car driver Mario Andretti was born in Motovun.
Our specially designed tour will take you to the heart of this “gold mine.” You will stay at one of boutique hotels including the Zigante Inn, try its famous restaurant, and visit the location where truffles are harvested with experienced truffle hunters and their truffle-sniffing dogs. We will take you to many of the Boutique wineries in the region, where you will not only sample a range of local wines, you will also have the opportunity to taste and assess Istrian prosciutto and olive oils. Complementary to this delicious sensory experience, you will see one of the most picturesque towns in the whole of Europe; we’ll take you to the natural spa, Istarske Toplice, for a revitalizing spa treatment with natural springs minerals and much more.
ITINERARY
Day 1 SaturdayZAGREB – Arrival (D)

 
Welcome to Croatia!Upon arrival at Zagreb Airport, transfer to your hotel, where you’ll meet your tour guide, have dinner and a restful overnight stay at the 5* Esplanade Hotel (formerly the Regent Hotel).

Day 2 Sunday 

ZAGREB–LJUBLJANA – POSTOJNA CAVES – MOTOVUN (approx. 3.5 h. drive) (B, L, D)The Longest Day

Your morning city tour of Croatia’s impressive capital, Zagreb, will include old section of the Upper Town, the city’s historical center, St. Mark’s Church with its multicolored roof, the Cathedral, the Croatian National Theatre, among other sites. After lunch we’ll depart for Istria and will make a stop in Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia for brief sightseeing. On to Postojna Caves, the largest underground cave in Europe with its own railroad 140 ft under. After sightseeing and resting in Postojna Caves, we will proceed to Istria and town of Motovun/Livade, Croatia’s “Tuscany country” and the new truffles capital of the world. This is where the largest white truffle was discovered in 1999 and recorded in the Guinness’ Book of World Records. Accommodation and dinner at hotel Kastel in Motovun.

 
Before dinner we will treat you with a massage/spa treatment at hotel’s spa. Dinner will be also at hotel’s restaurant and here you will have a chance for the first time to try delicious Istrian prosciutto, olive oils, excellent wines and exquisite dishes made with local truffles. Dinner will also include some local Istrian wines.
Day 3 Monday
MOTOVUN – OPATIJA – ISLAND OF KRK – MOTOVUN (B, L)Full Day Excursion by private car

In the morning after leisurely breakfast we’ll depart for Opatija, one of the oldest and most elegant tourist resorts in all of Europe. Opatija, nestled on the Croatian side of the Adriatic, was in the 18th and 19th centuries the summer

playground of European nobility. Kings, and queens, princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses gathered here for some fun and a good time. Many hotels and mansions built at that time serve today as wonderful accommodations updated with a touch of modern technology. We will stop for brief break and lunch at Plavi Podrum (Blue Cellar) one of 10 top restaurants in Croatia.

 
After lunch short ride (30 min.) to island of Krk, connected to mainland by several elegant bridges. After touring the island and High Tea at one of the local restaurants, we will return in late afternoon to Motovun. Evening is free for you to explore local cuisine or do fun stuff on your own. Our car and driver will be at your disposal.
NOTE: Don’t forget submit your order and consult chef for special diner for tomorrow!
Day 4 TuesdayMOTOVUN-WINE ROUTES-POREC-MOTOVUN (B, L, D)

Full Day Excursion by private car

After breakfast we will explore some more of Istria and show you some highlights of this beautiful part of Croatia. We will take a ride to the historical town of Porec, where the Euphrasian Basilica Complex is located, one of six Croatian monuments under UNESCO’s World Heritage Monuments protection. On the way to Porec, we will stop at Baredine Caves (Jama Baredine) and see several small pretty towns along the way. Porec is also very important tourist resort town and many hotels and villas are in demand during the summer season, in particular by Europeans. After sightseeing of city and Basilica, we will stop at country restaurant for a typical Istrian meal. Needles to say, tasting of local wines will accompany the lunch.
 
After lunch we will stop at Zigante’s Truffle Processing plant where you will see the entire process of canning this precious ingredient. After this stop we will hit several wine routes. You will have a chance to sample and buy some incredibly good local wines. All wine tastings are included. Return to Motovun in late afternoon.Tonight’s dinner will be at hotel Kastel and chef Ivan will personally prepare your order which you made a day before. Anything on the menu or you might want take chef’s suggestion and test his creativity (suggested). n

Day 5 WednesdayMOTOVUN-PULA-BRIONI-ROVINJ-MOTOVUN (B, L, D)

Full Day Excursion by Private Car

After leisurely breakfast we will take a short ride to Pula, the largest Istrian city.

No, it’s not Rome! Romans built about 50 coliseums around the Mediterranean, but Pula is the best preserved anywhere. Remarkably so with just a few of the original stones missing from its walls. The structure is used today for various community and public events, including Croatia’s annual Film Festival

 
We will visit this colossal monument, as well as other key attractions in the area. We will also take a short boat ride to the neighboring islands of Brioni, where former Yugoslav president Tito used to spend his summers. Ironically, just a stone-throw away from this beautiful island is island of Goli Otok (Denuded Island), the infamous prison for Tito’s opposition. Before continuing to the picturesque town of Rovinj. We will have a cozy lunch on island of Briuni.
 
Rovinj (pronounced: ro-veen). For centuries, this sleepy little fishermen’s village has attracted international artists. It was recently featured in National Geographic’s Traveler Magazine (National Geographic Traveler magazine Best of the World 2012 –Istria) as one of 10 places to visit in 2012. The entire town, a haven for creative inspiration, could be seen as one enormous studio, with every building, every winding street, every corner an inspiration for creativity. Its narrow cobble stone streets weave like a spider web through the town and up the hillside, where the Santa Euphemia cathedral stands tall as a loyal guardian and protector of the entire region. Galleries, bistros, cafes, restaurants and boutiques lace these colorful streets decorated with hanging laundry on clotheslines spanning between old houses and dwellings inhabited by the locals. Visitors love this charming town, which is featured in Mediterra’s Croatia deluxe tour programs. We’ll take a city walking tour, climb narrow crooked streets to the top of the hill and Sta. Euphemia Cathedral. Afterwards, we will embark on a small sightseeing boat and visit several islands dotted around this town.We will stay for dinner at a cozy seafood restaurant in Rovinj. You may choose anything on the menu and bottle of wine for 2 will be included as well.

Evening return to Motovun (30 min. ride) for overnight.

Day 6 ThursdayMOTOVUN-ISTARSKE TOPLICE-MOTOVUN (B, D)

Dinner at Zigante

Morning is free-Lunch on your own.After lunch we will hit a few more wine routes and leisurely explore Istria. The highlight will be afternoon High Tea and spa treatment at real, natural spa and hot water springs at Istarske Toplice (Istrian Spas). Both High Tea and spa treatment is our compliments. Return to hotel late afternoon.

 
Tonight we will introduce you to superb truffle culinary achievements, a sensory experience to satisfy your palate. You’ll be served a full dinner at Zigante Restaurant, complemented by fine local wine. We will see also if Mr. Zigante could join us for dinner so you can hear from horse’s mouth the entire” Truffle Story.”
Day 7 FridayLIVADE-MOTOVUN

Truffle hunt I

Pre-dawn rise and off we go “truffle hunting.” A professional truffle hunter will pick you up at your hotel and take you on your first truffle safari. You will meet his dogs, the truffle finders (on some occasions pigs are used). With their

exquisite sense of smell for the special aroma truffles emit, they start digging in the precise spot where truffles are buried deep in the damp soil, at which time the hunter guide takes over. With his hand, he will dig about 2-6 inches until he unearths the prized nuggets known as truffles. Your guide will explain everything you want to know about truffles, including the difference between white and black truffles, season of harvest and conditions for growth.

Return to hotel in time for breakfast and rest. The balance of the morning is free. Lunch suggestion: at a nearby restaurant specializing in truffle dishes.

 
An afternoon visit to the historical hilltop town, Motovun. You will swear you are in Tuscany. Actually, if you liked Tuscany, we guarantee, you will love Motovun and this entire area.
Day 8 SaturdayLIVADE-ISTARSKE TOPLICE-LIVADE

Truffle hunt II-Finders-keepers!

Another pre-dawn early get-up and off for another truffle hunt. Our experienced truffle diggers will take you on another truffle safari. This time, all of the truffles you find will be processed and sealed so that you can take them home with you (processing extra). Return to the hotel in time for breakfast. Balance of morning free.After lunch we will take wine route No. 6 and visit a number of small boutique wineries. In the late afternoon, we will stop for a treat at Istarske Toplice, one of the best local natural spas. Our compliments! We will treat you to spa baths and a massage, readying you for a farewell dinner at the Castle Hotel on the hilltop of Motovun citadel.

Day 9 SundayMOTOVUN/LIVADE-ZAGREB (B)

Beginning of the end!

Your entire morning is reserved for leisure, shopping and relaxation. Our car and driver will be at your disposal should you wish to explore anything on your own. Late afternoon departure to Zagreb. Dinner at “Vinodol” Restaurant, one of the best Croatian restaurants and last chance to try some of Croatian interior wines. Overnight at 5-star Hotel Esplanade (formerly the Regent Hotel).

Day 10 MondayZAGREB

Return home

After an early breakfast, we’ll transfer to Zagreb airport for your return flight home.

HOTELS:ZAGREB: Esplanade (formerly the Regent) 5*

MOTOVUN/LIVADE: Kastel Hotel or Zigante Inn 5*

INCLUDED IN TOUR PRICE
  • RT transfer in Zagreb upon arrival and departure
  • 2 night accommodation at 5-star hotel Esplanade in Zagreb in DBL rooms
  • Daily breakfast in all hotels on tour
  • English-speaking guides locally hosted
  • Wine cellars and winery visits in Istria (cost of wine tasting not included unless specified)
  • 3 Lunches and 3 dinners
  • Air-conditioned modern mini-bus or sedan car throughout tour
  • All government taxes and fees
NOT INCLUDED:
  • Air to/from Croatia
  • Meals other than those specified in Itinerary
  • Travel Cancelation or Travel Interruption (for whatever reason) insurance-highly recommended
  • Medical and personal injury insurance
  • Admission fees to attractions, National Parks, museums and galleries other than those specified
  • Items of personal nature ordered in hotels
  • Tips to service personnel
OPTIONAL:
  • OW Transfers from/to Venice to/from Zagreb or Motovun $195 per person
  • OW Transfers from/to Trieste to/from Zagreb or Motovun $125 per person
  • One hour spa treatment and massage at hotel Kastel $125
  • Excursion to Istarske Toplice Spa including 2 hour spa treatment $250
  • Full day Excursion to Trieste, Italy (by car, van or motor coach) $250
  • Full day excursion to Venice, Italy by hydrofoil (summer months only) or private car) $298
  • Dinner at typical Istrian village restaurant where all organic food prepared on open fire pit with bottle of wine for two $175
  • Opera/Concert evening in Zagreb National Theater (subject to scheduling) $125
  • Dinner at typical Croatian restaurant in Zagreb (includes bottle of wine for two) $125
  • “Open Dining” is another Mediterra signature service. All lunches and all dinners throughout the tour will be included in the best local restaurants, where you may choose anything on the menu (a la carte).
  • Travelex travel cancellation & interruption of trip Insurance – highly recommended.
  • Medical Emergency and Evacuation Insurance (Mediterra signature service).
  • Complete 8-day (7-night) Adriatic islands cruise on a small ship from $995
What an amazing itinerary!
Grab your favorite foodie friend and let’s go to Istria!

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