Istria is a beautiful peninsula with thousands of contrasts.
One amongst all? The colors: the intense green of the hills, the red ground wet by rains or dry during the dry season, the blue of the sea bathing the jagged shores. The sea is the attraction for many seaside activities, but it is in the countryside that we want to bring you, in the small Venetian styled villages, all to be discovered. In the villages that rise here and there on the highest promontories, where white bell towers emerge among the trees' crowns. It is the Istria of the hills, of the fields cultivated with the fatigue of people who still speak the Venetian and the Istrian dialects. Animals are always close to the houses: sheeps, hens, pigs, cattles and especially goats. There are also vineyards, olive trees, sometimes bowed by the bora wind. Istria is to be known, it is beautiful both for a vacation and for the whole life.
1. Picking up wild asparagus
In spring, picking up wild asparagus is one of the funniest activities. You don't have to think of anything else than to beat the others by picking up more asparagus than them. It is a pastime that frees your mind as you focus only on searching them among the trenches in the woods. You return home dirty and with your arms scratched. Wild asparagus tell you that summer is coming soon. The best recipe is to eat them with fresh hen eggs after frying them into a pan, so they lose a bit of bitter taste. The omelette of Šparuge is a classic dish.
2. At the slopes of Mount Učka
Moving slowly helps to get you into the environment you are visiting. Most of the time, we walk to the slopes of Mount Učka, along the paths of the Istra Trails, with a spectacular view of the islands of Cres, Lošinj and the Adriatic. There are trails marked by low, medium and high level, but it is also good to invent your own track. Učka is the highest mountain of the peninsula, reaching 1396 meters with a 360 degree view but is not the only place worth visiting. Get yourself a good map and explore!
3. Glorija's grandma's sheeps
There are a lot of farms: in Labin there is Mirijana's one that has 53 sheeps, in addition to many other animals that give her work and make her company. Glorija is her niece. She is a smart girl, speaks many languages, has lived in many countries, but she has never forgotten to love her birthplace. When she can, she gives her grandmother a hand. Sheep shearing is one of the most important activities, it requires precision and patience, and if you are really good at it, the sheep will relax so much to almost fall asleep.
We gave you some sparks to visit and walk in Istria. Remember to wear a pair of comfortable and sturdy shoes, such as AKU Mio Surround. The countryside, the scent of the grass, the sheeps' bleat and the shadow of a large oak await you. In Istria, like all over the Croatian coast, out of season is another life.
photographic reportage and texts by Giacomo Frison www.altripiani.org