Big Mistake! Venice in June. Or July or August or anytime other than late January or early February, really. The city is beautiful. But it’s also always crowded. Everyone—from families with small children to students who don’t realize how expensive it really is to retirees finally taking that dream trip—wants to see the “Floating City.” Now, unfortunately, you just can’t wait to escape. Quick, jump on a ferry. You can be in Rovinj in two hours.
The Croatian city sits on the west coast of Istria, the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. Rovinj was claimed by everyone from the Romans to the Byzantines to the Austrians to the Italians before becoming part of independent Croatia. The hillside city has cobbled streets and red-roofed buildings. The top of St. Euphemia’s Basilica can be seen from everywhere. Little fishing boats fill the harbor. And islands full of holm oaks and pines sit just offshore.
That isn’t to say Rovinj is unknown or empty. But you can peacefully tour the Baroque basilica with its Venetian bell tower and 15th-century Gothic sculptures. You can take an uninterrupted photo of the Balbi Arch, the 1679 former town gate. You can stroll up Grisia to see Renaissance and Neoclassical architecture in the area where artists work with their windows wide open. You can take your time tasting olive oil at the farmer’s market near Valdibora Square. And you can still find an empty table at a seaside café to eat sea scallop carpaccio or black-truffle risotto, drink chilled Malvasia wine, and people watch.
When you’re ready for a break, follow the Lungomare promenade south toward the Zlatni Rt Forest Park. The Golden Cape has walking paths, bike trails, and rocky beaches. But you can explore them later, because your hotel is along the way. The Hotel Monte Mulini has an impressive entrance. The reception area has a two-story glass wall overlooking the pools, the forest, and Sveta Katarina.
Lucky you, your room has the same view. In fact, the rest of the comfortable, modern room barely registers once you open the door to your balcony. You spend the rest of the afternoon alternating between the pools and the shady, pebbly beach. From both places, you watch sailboats glide around Lone Bay. You head to the spa for a luxurious white-truffle facial. Then you sip a glass of Istrian sparkling wine at the bar.
Between the fresh air, the stunning setting, and the serene atmosphere, you’ve practically forgotten that other city across the Adriatic Sea. At least until January.