Finding Home Away From Home In The City of Rovinj, Croatia
Getaway diaries from V‘s fashion director.
My forced stay in Europe after March shows in Paris, courtesy of COVID-19 pandemic, has over time become a blessing in disguise. After the exile in London, I joined my parents who have a house in a small town on the Adriatic coast. Given that the member states of the European Union opened relatively quickly and efficiently, this gave me space to explore Europe, but also my own country, Croatia. I deeply believe that some good needs to be found in every evil so I, like many of my colleagues, for the first time in a while really knocked hard on my reset button.
Last week, I took my two-year-old godson, codenamed “Dennis The Menace”, and decided to explore a region of Croatia I hadn’t visited in a good number of years. My mission was to re-explore Istria and its city Rovinj that stands like a pearl of the richest region on the border with Italy and Slovenia. You don’t go to a city like Rovinj if you want noisy nightclubs and parties that require a significant dose of ibuprofen the day after. Rovinj, like a good part of Istria, is a city to enjoy. I’m talking about the good, old hedonistic enjoyment that is, unfortunately, dying out in the Mediterranean. The “dolce vita” from legendary Italian films with the allure of it all created by legendary Fellini and his many contemporaries is hard to find today.
The Mediterranean as it once was is an endangered species. The Cote d’Azur has been taken over by megalomaniac yachts and thousands of influencers while my once favorite destinations like Capri and Portofino have gone wild with prices over the last decade. The goal of this research mission of mine was not to find the most elite destination but the one that is the most original and therefore unique. The essence of hedonism is not crazy parties and glamorous outings, but above all enjoying the seemingly simplest needs: food and drink. In this sense, Rovinj has proven to be an ideal solution because you can experience the real Istria thanks to breathtaking gourmet adventures. That’s what I decided to do during my extended weekend. Given the anxiety about the future of the fashion world and the chronic desire for fashion shows that did not take place, my best solution was to enjoy Istria while babysitting a rather wild but adorable toddler.
The choice for my “home away from home” fell on Grand Hotel Park Rovinj for several reasons; first of all, it’s a unique luxury hotel that was opened only a year ago and has imposed itself as the ultimate destination for one of a kind carefree enjoyment. There is also an unforgettable view of Rovinj, which offers one of the most beautiful sunsets in the world.
Another very important factor were the pools that served me as a real training ground for my godson. Grand Hotel Park consists of as many as three pools, of which the most impressive for the Instagram universe is infinite with a view of the city center, while the best for kids swimming lessons is the smallest one with a depth of only 45 cm.
Rovinj is located on the west coast of Istria and was first mentioned in the 7th century with the assumption that it originated in the period from 3rd to the 5th century. It is a town that lives by the sea, so almost every household has its own small boat that it uses for fishing or tourism.
The view of Rovinj looks like a postcard image from the ‘50s or ‘60s, so it irresistibly resembles a true “dolce vita” movie set.
The area of the town market is located in the very center of Rovinj, and all the fruits and vegetables come from small family farms. In addition to the classic offer typical of small Mediterranean places, you can also find homemade liqueurs, numerous honey versions and many truffle products for which Istria is famous. Actually, in Istria there is something called the “Bermuda truffle triangle” between cities of Pazin, Buje, and Buzet. Without a doubt, there you can find the best truffles in this part of Europe.
Although such scenes in Rovinj are common, it is actually unique to see them because as you pass through the center you witness distinctive forms of shipbuilding and repair of old wooden boats whose secrets are passed down from generation to generation.
There is only one thing better than the morning smell of the sea that can wake you up on the hotel balcony: numerous autochthonous plants that are carefully planted on almost all levels of Grand Hotel Park. We woke up every morning to the scents of lavender and rosemary. All this contributes to the overall experience where all your senses are constantly conquered.
Istria is world-famous for its Malvasia wine. It is a typical variety of white wine for the Mediterranean, which has sweet, seductive notes with a refreshing effect all day (and night) long. But my full attention was on the “Hugo” cocktail which consists of prosecco, elderflower syrup, soda water, and mint leaves. Hugo became my regular partner-in-crime during my stay in Rovinj.
Now time for food porn! After a whole series of tastings, I chose the dishes that won me over with their simplicity and innovation. On the second day of the visit, as an appetizer at the Bitinada restaurant, I chose tuna tartar with a touch of honey, served with berries. And it was divine! The restaurant itself is located near the ACI Marina overlooking Rovinj.
For the main course, the choice fell on seared sesame rolled tuna loin with cauliflower mousse. Basically these are simple ingredients but the trick is that they have to be local and fresh.
Brasserie Adriatic in the very center of old Rovinj thrilled me with a traditional handmade pasta called “pljukanci” served with shrimps, truffles, and asparagus. The highlight of the evening was definitely the sea bass fillet with celery cream, capers, and malvasia wine sauce. Once again, these are exclusively local ingredients while the dishes are literally prepared in front of you.
First evening was reserved for a haute cuisine experience at the Cap Aureo Signature restaurant. In this case, it is a religious experience for all who enjoy the magic of food. The set of four signature dishes lasted a full two hours while each dish was accompanied by a different wine. We started with year-old pickled beetroot with homemade yogurt.
There are chips and there are haute cuisine chips. This was one epic course. Basically crispy aged potato skin with sea fennel pesto as a dipping sauce!
Shopping is a kind of professional deformation of all of us who are actively involved in fashion and although during holidays we promise ourselves that we will ignore the shops, it never works for us. Lungomare Plaza is a danger zone even for those who avoid shopping. In this carefully designed area of stores, you can find everything: from Isabel Marant to Ralph Lauren from Zimmermann to Audemars Piquet. However, my favorite has become The Park Concept Store, which offers rare perfumes, designer clothes, and lifestyle brands such as Marshall and Dr. Dre.
Perhaps the greatest surprise was my rediscovery of the perfumes from the Roman house Profvmvm Roma. This is not a well-known brand, but rather carefully created niche perfumes that are not easy to come across. My favorite is definitely Dambrosia. It smells like the elixir of pear, almond, fig, and sandalwood.
What is great about the whole concept of Lungomare Plaza is the mix of Croatian designer brands with world-famous names. There are two Croatian brands that should definitely be singled out. Sheriff & Cherry is a playful brand that has already conquered the international market. It is about materials, fabrics, and shapes that immediately evoke a feeling of carelessness unique to holidays— think, terry cloth, animal prints, loose silhouettes, color blocking, and symbols of navigation.
The second is the Croatian pret-a-porter brand A’Marie, which is adorned with sophisticated but romantic minimalism. I highly admire the proportions and fluidity of the materials that make the whole design almost timeless.
P.S. The great thing about Croatia is that US citizens just have to show a negative COVID test not older than 48 hours (starting from the time of taking the swab until arrival at the border crossing). Which means there is no nightmare of mandatory 14 days isolation.
Grand Hotel Park Rovinj
Smareglijeva ulica 1A, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
Rovinj Green Market
Ulica Giueseppe Garibaldi, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
Setaliste Vijeca Europe 1 – 2, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
Obala Pina Budicina 16, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
Cap Aureo Signature Restaurant
Grand Hotel Park Rovinj
Setaliste Vijeca Europe, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia
Valdibora bb, 52210, Rovinj
Ulica Sv. Kriza 24, 52210, Rovinj