Today, Miloš and I took a nice little day trip out to the ancient Istrian city of Pula. Istria is the peninsula that makes up the northwestern part of Croatia. The drive from Miloš’ hometown of Crikvenica was about an hour and forty minutes. We arrived in Pula in the early afternoon, and were eager to take advantage of the fantastic sunny weather. (Something that’s been quite rare so far this year.)
Here’s a map of the area!
As you can see, this part of Croatia is very close to Italy, and the Istrian peninsula was highly influenced by Venice, due to being a part of the Venetian Republic for centuries. (You can see the direct water route between the two cities of Venice and Pula on the map.) This connection to Venice is especially noticeable in much of the architecture in Istria’s cities. But this area (and Croatia in general) was first a strong part of the Roman empire, with the architectural remains to prove it. Many are still around today!
Our first stop was the famous Roman amphitheater! Built in the first century AD, Pula’s Arena is the sixth largest amphitheater in the world. It’s also the only one to have four side towers and all three stories preserved. We took our time exploring this impressive structure – trying to imagine the gladiators that fought on the very spots where we were walking.
Of course, I took lots of pics! Here’s a look at Pula’s Arena:
After exploring the Arena, we headed out to see the rest of Pula!
The city is built right along the water, so it has a large marina area. After visiting the Church of St. Anthony, we walked down towards the water (where we saw a very active school of fish right by the water’s edge), passing the ancient Twin Gate, looping into the old town to the open Forum area where we saw the Temple of Augustus and The Town Hall. Close by in the old town are the ruins of the House of Agrippina, where an ancient bust of the empress Agrippina was discovered during excavations. Then we trekked up the hill in the center of town to hike along a little path next to the Fortress (Kaštel), while enjoying excellent views of the city below us. Behind the Kaštel are the ruins of a small Roman theatre. We also continued along to see the Gate of Hercules, which is the oldest surviving Roman structure in Pula. Not far away from there is the Triumphal Arch of Sergius. We finished by grabbing an early dinner at Bistro Alighieri – a lovely little restaurant specializing in Mediterranean cuisine. On the way back to the car, we walked through the streets of old town again, where we saw the Cathedral of Pula in the lovely evening light.
Here are some more photos of our day AND additional interesting info about some of the sites!
First up, the Church of St. Anthony. It’s located immediately next to the amphitheater, and it’s tower can be seen rising majestically, even when standing inside the Arena.
Next up, the Twin Gates. They were constructed between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, and are considered to be the most beautiful of all the city’s ancient gates.
We spent a few minutes walking along the marina, and saw an amazing school of fish, swimming in circles at the top of the water. So cool!
We then took a left turn inland, and headed through the pedestrian streets of the old town towards the Forum. Once there, we were able to see the Temple of Augustus and the Town Hall. The Temple of Augustus was dedicated to the first Roman Emperor and was built between 2 BC and 14 AD. Much of it was destroyed in the second World War, but it was later reconstructed and it now houses an ancient sculpture collection.
While walking along the narrow street away from the Forum, we happened upon a little sign pointing to Agrippina’s House. We wandered down a little alley to find a grouping of ruins. Upon further research, I learned that the site derived its name due to a 1st century bust of Agrippina being found in the ruins during an excavation in the 1980’s.
We strolled along another narrow street and stumbled upon the Church and Monastery of St. Francis. It was perched higher above the street, along the hill leading up to the Kaštel.
As we climbed to the center of town, we came upon a grassy steep hill leading up to the town’s old Fortress/Castle. (Kaštel) The Fortress is surrounded with cannons and is circled by an empty moat. It was built in the 1600’s by the Venetians. Currently, it is home to an impressive museum. On the other side of the fortress hill, we descended upon the remains of the Small Roman Theatre.
After finding the Roman Theatre, we trekked back down to the old city walls to visit the Gate of Hercules and the Triumphal Arch of Sergius. The Gate of Hercules is the oldest remaining Roman structure in the entire city of Pula. You can just make out the sculpture at the top of Hercules’ head. The Arch of Sergius is a much large and imposing structure, at one of the entrances to the old town.
And then after dinner, we walked through the old town towards the Arena, where our car was parked. Here are some of those pics!
One last look at the Pula Arena, and we were on our way back home!