Sunday, 13 December 2020

Epic Imagination! How Converted Mines Below Labin Istria Will Look

December 13, 2020 – An incredible reimagining of the mines that run deep below the centre of Labin Istria – the two-kilometre long complex will be accessed spectacularly via a see-through elevator

French writer Jules Verne liked to venture deep. The second most-translated author ever to have lived (between number one, Agatha Christie and number three, William Shakespeare – both British), his stories were quite often regarded as fantasy tales for children, owing to the poor, early transference of his French text into English. When read in his native tongue, he fantastical imagination, perhaps the roots of all science fiction, are better expressed. This is plainly evidenced in two of his most famous books, 20, 000 Leagues Under The Sea and Journey To The Centre Of The Earth.


Jules Verne's inspiration can be found in physical form on the streets of Zagreb, where the 20, 000 Milja bar entertains with its submarine-themed décor. Though without any formal attribution, the project about to be undertaken by the town of Labin Istria could just as well be inspired by his other bestseller. Because, just as Jules Verne's journey to the centre of the earth was like no fantasy previously expressed, a limitless imagination seems to have gone into how the mines below Labin Istria will look once converted.


Newly revealed images display a visitor's space like nowhere else in Croatia. Though not quite at the centre of the earth, the new attraction lies some 166 metres below ground. The thrilling experience of a visit is set to begin before you even reach its entrance – access will be gained by a see-through elevator (lift).


The attraction is set to be divided into five modules – entrance and information area, an art gallery for exhibitions and multimedia installations, an escape room entertainment area, an education zone with 360° projections, a gastro module, centring a wine cellar ( featuring local wines from Istria, which are among the most-prized of those produced in Europe – the mine conditions being perfect for their storage) and a gift shop where souvenirs from local producers, arts & craftsmen will be available.


The sprawling complex is set to extend some two kilometres into the former mines of Labin Istria. That's no short walk! But, part of the route is being designed as a train ride, although the last section must be done on foot, due to the specific conditions of the tunnel.


The town of Labin Istria was once the centre of mining endeavours in Croatia. At the height of its operations, some four mines operated in Labin Istria. In early 1921, the town was the scene of a miners' strike which quickly grew into an anti-fascist rebellion, a movement essential to securing Croatia's future independent state. It was the first of its kind and resulted in the declaration of the short-lived Labin Republic (also known as the Albona Republic). This particular mine, located in downtown Labin, was the last to close and did so in 1989. 2021 is the 100th anniversary of the Labin Republic, an anti-fascist struggle for which the town is extremely proud. It is hoped that works on the mine conversion will begin then.

All images © Level 52 / 3DX Studio / City of Labin

Monday, 16 November 2020

Savudrija: 600 Million Kuna Investment for Istrian Resort

As Novac/Barbara Ban writes on the 15th of November, 2020, while most investors in the Croatian tourism sector have put the brakes on a bit due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the levels of uncertainty surrounding the development of the situation regarding public health and, consequently, the economic crisis, a new Istrian resort with a hotel worth about 80 million euros is emerging in Savudrija.

This new Istrian resort's construction began back in mid-October. The company Cista voda projekt (Clear water project) from Savudrija is formally investing in the project, and the co-investor is Vojislav Gajic, who is the head of the company that deals with the construction and sale of real estate in Novi Sad called Aleksandar Gradnja. His company has been known for the construction of residential and business premises over on the Serbian market for more than 25 years now. Vojislav Gajić says that this new Istrian resort will be ready for the 2022 tourist season.

''This is an investment of about 80 million euros, and we managed to solve deal with all of the documentation with building permits in just 10 months, without any problems. We completely changed the project that was supposed to be realised there. Regardless of the overall situation with the pandemic, we haven't been having any problems with our investments, including this one in Savudrija. All aspects of possible problems on the market have been taken into account and the investment has been covered,'' Gajic explained in a telephone conversation.

The land on which the project financed with Serbian capital will be realised, was bought at a public auction two years ago, and was sold in the bankruptcy process of Vila Savudrija at a starting price of one kuna. Cista voda projekt bought the land for 17.2 million kuna.

This is construction land that was owned by the Slovenian company Imos Holding from Ljubljana, which went bankrupt, and its biggest creditors are Nova ljubljanska banka, the Croatian Ministry of Finance and HEP. A large tourist project, Hotel & Resort Villa Savudrija, was planned on the land back in 2010. It would have consisted of as many as two five-star hotels with numerous villas with a total of 400 rooms, a casino, villas with swimming pools, a shopping area, swimming pools and more. Everything failed because the company, whose founder was the Slovenian builder Milan Kepic, ended up in bankruptcy after not being able to find an investor to invest for this project, which was eventually completely changed.

When the land was purchased, the public speculated that the Serbian ''king of sugar'', Miodrag Kostic, who owns real estate in the immediate vicinity, was behind everything. This regards the Kempinski Hotel and the Skiper Residence, as well as the local golf course managed by the MK Group company, owned by Kostic. He bought the Kempinski Hotel and the airport in nearby Portoroz.

When the land was purchased, the public was informed that behind the company stood the formal owner who is the founder of Vinemont Ventures, which is, in turn, registered in the British Virgin Islands. She owned companies that connected with Kostic himself, the media then wrote.

According to the court register, Cista voda projekt was divided and a new company, Beater Limited, was formed, which became the founder of the company that formally manages the project. When asked if Kostic is a partner in the project, the company denied it.

According to this project, an apart-hotel with 179 accommodation units, 55 luxury villas and three residential buildings with 18 apartments will be built on the land. In total, the new Istrian resort will have just under a thousand beds.

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Sunday, 8 November 2020

Istrian Tourism Continues to Shine - Hotels Work, Restaurants Full

November the 8th, 2020 - Istrian tourism is continuing to shine bright in the otherwise concerning world of not only Croatian tourism but global travel. The Istrian peninsula has been praised on multiple occasions throughout the duration of the ongoing pandemic for its handling of not only the spread of the infection but the way it has coped in a broader economic sense.

As Morski writes, this weekend in Rovinj, three large hotels are open and functioning: Grand Park, Lone and Eden. Maistra is too meticulous of a company financially to keep three big hotels open if it isn't paying off. In fact, there is a great demand for rooms.

''We booked the Lone hotel through On Thursday night, the page read that there were only two rooms left,'' writes

Two weeks ago, the luxury wine hotel Franca Cattunara in Nova Vas was also full to the very last room, as was the famous San Rocco in neighbouring Brtonigla. Restaurants in Istria are also solidly full on weekends, which was revealed this morning in Rovinj's Rio, which, at this time of year, also serves breakfast in precisely the same way as it does during the very height of the summer tourist season.

The phenomenon of stability during the second wave of the coronavirus crisis is obviously happening for Istrian tourism. Despite the virtually closed borders and the very small number of people infected with the new coronavirus, a solid number of guests still continue visit this gorgeous part of the country and boost Istrian tourism each and every weekend. These visitors are mostly from Zagreb, which was confirmed fifteen days ago by the owner of San Rocca, Tulio Fernetich; The ''weekend invasion'' of guests from Zagreb to Istria was visible this morning as well, according to numerous Zagreb registrations on cars parked in front of Rovinj hotels.

Istrian tourism, or at least some parts of Istria, are doing relatively well given the truly extraordinary circumstances that govern Croatia at this moment in time. Therefore, any lockdown measures for Istrian tourism and the local Istrian economy would be quite catastrophic indeed.

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Thursday, 15 October 2020

Open For Autumn: Istria the Only Coronavirus Free Region in Europe

October 15, 2020 – Istria the only Coronavirus free region in Europe, is safe to visit this autumn

Travel information provided by Belgian Foreign Affairs authorities currently places the Croatian region of Istria as the most successful in Europe at curbing the spread of Coronavirus. The region stands alone in being coloured green on the Belgian governmental map. As things currently stand, it can confidently be referred to as Istria, the only Coronavirus free region in Europe.

The map is produced by Belgian authorities as a travel guide. Although it currently says Istria the only Coronavirus free region in Europe, the situation could change at any time. The travel advice and map are constantly updated.

The green colour allocation is the highest possible allocation on the map. It means that 'travel is possible - hygiene and social distancing rules still apply.' This is great news for those hoping to visit Istria during autumn.

The autumn season is particularly inviting to many fans of Istrian cuisine as it is the time of year in which fresh truffles can be taken from the county's forests. Anyone planning to this year join the hunt for truffles can now do so confidently as Istria the only Coronavirus free region in Europe.

On 6th October 2020, Total Croatia News's Donatella Pauković wrote about the county's excellent epidemiological situation in an article in which Boris Miletić, mayor of Pula said 'Istria is Again an Example to The Rest of Croatia!'

The head of Istria County's COVID-19 crisis management team, Dino Kozlevac, praised residents of Istria for their widespread respect of suggested hygiene measures. Explaining the county's good epidemiological situation, he said that residents of Istria have been wearing protective masks in closed spaces for three months, and it is those efforts that have created these positive results. While the awarding of the green status does not mean there is zero risk of Coronavirus being currently present in Istria, its lone standing within the continent does mean that Istria is right now the safest place you can travel to in Europe.

Istria was in the world headlines earlier this month when it was voted the world's best olive oil making region in the world, for the sixth year running. Today it may be famous as Istria the only Coronavirus free region in Europe, but it will always hold its title as one of Europe's best areas of gastronomy. As well as olive oil and truffles, Istria is internationally recognised as one of southern Europe's best wine growing regions. Istrian malvasia and teran are famous all over the world.

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Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Arena Hospitality Group Paving Way for Year-Round Tourism in Istria

October 13, 2020 - To develop year-round tourism and adapt to new market conditions, Arena Hospitality Group (AHG) has decided to open two of its camps, one in Pula - Arena Stoja, and the other in Medulin - the recently renovated Arena Grand Kažela, throughout the year. A look at the offer presented this winter.

“Arena Hospitality Group's wish is to develop long-term tourism in the south of the largest Croatian peninsula in cooperation with the tourist boards of Pula, Medulin, and Istria. At the beginning of this challenging 2020, and after coming out of the scale of unprecedented quarantine, we witnessed the demand for vacations in camps as the most sought-after form of accommodation. We believe that this type of demand will continue in the future," said AHG when asked how they decided on this move.

HRTurizam reports that plenty of sunny days and a mild Mediterranean climate allow southern Istria to become a year-round camping destination. Also, the destination offers guests a variety of facilities throughout the year - from sports and recreational activities in untouched nature, to exploring the rich cultural and historical heritage, and enjoying the traditional tastes of Istria, said AHG, and added: "Guests, especially those who come from urban centers, increasingly express the need to escape from cities to nature where, in the fresh air, in an intimate environment of nature, they can relax from daily obligations and stress.”

During the autumn and winter period, AHG has adjusted the offer. In addition to classic services such as electricity, water, and sanitation, guests will also have heated toilets, reception and coffee bar, and a restaurant within each camp.

But we can't forget the content. Through various activities organized in cooperation with partners, AHG will offer more than just a winter camping vacation through various activities within the camp, as well as throughout the destination. They also organized transportation to the new city swimming pool in Pula and nearby shopping centers, as well as various animation activities within the camps.

"Regardless of the day and month, Istria offers many historical and natural attractions that will inspire every curious traveler. The 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheater in Pula, the archipelago of the Brijuni National Park, the tranquility of the landscape of Cape Kamenjak and its numerous hiking and biking trails, and picturesque historic towns fortified on the Istrian hills," said AHG about part of the offer, and emphasized that the most authentic of Istria can be experienced in autumn and winter.

During October, guests will be able to join the harvest of the precious Istrian fruit - olives, and in nearby Vodnjan, taste some of the best extra virgin olive oils in the world. By the way, this week, for the sixth year in a row, Istria was declared the best region in the world for extra virgin olive oil by Flos Olei.

In November, during St. Martin's Day, at one of the many local celebrations, they will be able to taste another top Istrian product - wine - and participate in the baptism of a young wine. This year, Istria has 60 wines with the Decanter label.

Istria has long been sufficiently branded through wine, olive oil, and gastronomy, as well as various events, from Teran Day to Truffle Day, and many smaller stories such as the new event "Autumn on a plate in Central Istria," which will take place from  October 16 to 31, 2020, in restaurants in central Istria. During this event, caterers will offer a variety of traditional Istrian dishes made from autumn ingredients of the region, all to strengthen the gastronomic offer of central Istria and further connect family farms and caterers in the postseason.

Arena Hospitality Group is certainly paving the way for 365-tourism in Istria and is hopefully setting an example for other regions in the country.  

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Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Istria Appeals to Austria, Slovenia to Introduce Selective Measures for Croatia

ZAGREB, Sept 16, 2020 - Croatia's Istria County and all the towns in it on Wednesday appealed to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa to reconsider the possibility of introducing selective measures for Croatia, on a region to region basis, given the very good epidemiological situation in Istria.

Late last month, Austria and Slovenia put Croatia on their respective red lists of epidemiologically unsafe countries in light of the global coronavirus pandemic.

"Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, Istria County has responded promptly and was the first region in Croatia to impose restrictions. The timely, resolute and responsible actions by the Istria County COVID-19 Response Team and the great discipline demonstrated by our citizens, visitors, and businesses in observing the measures adopted have ensured us a continually good and very stable epidemiological situation," the county prefect and mayors said in their appeal to the Austrian chancellor.

They added that Istria County and all the towns in it welcomed the efforts by the Croatian government to reach an agreement with the neighbours and EU member states on introducing an epidemiological regime at the level of Croatian counties and not the country as a whole.

"We are confident that the opening of Istria to citizens of Austria will be welcomed not only by Istria and Croatia but also by our friends in Austria," the appeal said.

In an appeal to Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, the signatories expressed hope that he would take the necessary steps to ensure freedom of movement between Slovenia and Istria given the very good epidemiological situation in Istria.

"The main part of the tourist season is behind us and in that regard, we have shown that with a good strategy we can ensure a safe environment both for the local population and for tourists," they concluded.

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Saturday, 29 August 2020

Around Istria with Environmentally Friendly Transport

August 29, 2020 - Istria is in the limelight as the Istrian Development Agency implements two cross-border cooperation projects with Italy. The main goal is to connect the coast and the interior as well as the promotion of environmentally friendly forms of transport.

In addition to other activities of the Istrian Development Agency and the experience of 50 implemented EU projects with a total value of HRK 500 million, two projects in the field of mobility are being implemented, in which IDA is a partner. As writes, these are ICARUS and MIMOSA.

ICARUS project

Last year, a project called ICARUS - Intermodal connections in the Adriatic-Ionian region foresaw the growth of seamless solutions for passengers and invested in that with a total value of 2,200,000 euros, of which 180,000 euros are intended for IDA.

In partnership with HŽ passenger transport, this project will arrange a section of the train on the Istrian railway for the needs of bicycle transport. Travellers will have the opportunity to continue their journey by exploring other parts of Istria after exiting at one of the stations on the route or the new bike path Kanfanar - Rovinj. This second option will be possible after the completion of the reconstruction of the former railway line, which is being regulated by the City of Rovinj and the Municipality of Kanfanar, and to which the Istrian Development Agency has partly contributed.

So far, the "Analysis of shortcomings and needs in mobility in Istria County" has been prepared within ICARUS. It is a study that includes a description of the current situation, the systems implemented so far, and the legal basis and relevant strategies, after which the "Guidelines for the development of IT solutions" were developed as a starting point for the following activities and projects.

As part of this project, IDA held a webinar in cooperation with the Istrian Development Tourist Agency on the topic of bicycle transport in Istria, attractions near bicycle paths and plans. After the webinar, a quiz called "Discover Istria by bike" was organised, the winner was awarded a bicycle, all with the aim of promoting healthy transport habits.

Three years to finish

As ICARUS has established good cooperation and communication with local and regional stakeholders, representatives of the public and private sectors, useful information has been obtained for further development. They are included in the activities of another project in which IDA is involved, and that is MIMOSA (Maritime and multimodal sustainable passenger transport solutions and services), with a total value of 7,140,000 euros, of which IDA has invested 374,750 euros. Implementation began in July this year.

In this project, the Istrian Development Agency will focus its activities on two pilot activities. The first one is the development of a smart card, and the second is the platform "Via Istra", which will enable the promotion of available forms of transport in Istria but also create new opportunities for economic development and supply in this region. The expected duration of the MIMOSA project is three years, and some of the partners are HŽ passenger transport, the Port of Rovinj Authority, and the Ministry of Regional Development and European Union Funds - Directorate for Islands.

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Saturday, 22 August 2020

PHOTOS: Spectacular 45th Prstenac In Barban, Istria

August 22, 2020 – After a 280-year absence, the historic Prstenac in Barban jousting tournament once again brings thrills and visitors to inland Istria.

Following a 280-year absence, the weekend of the historic Trka na Prstenac in barban jousting tournament has begun once more. Since it was revived, this is the 45th consecutive time the colourful event has drawn spectators and competitors to the village of Barban. The first recorded mention of Trka na Prstenac in Barban comes from the year 1696.

Flag raising on the opening night

The weekend-long festivities started on the evening of Friday 21 August with the traditional raising of the event flag in the square by the Parish Church of St. Nikola. Horsemen in traditional costume entered through the stone gate and performed the ancient ceremony before visitors gathered under recently darkened skies. The names of this year's competitors were read aloud. Following the theatre, visitors enjoyed the premiere screening of a documentary '30 Seconds', which followed four of the event's previous competitors.

Traditional Istrian folk costumes were worn, adding a timeless aspect to the theatre of Friday night at Prstenac in Barban

During the competition, horsemen must charge at full gallop down the 150-metre-long Gradišće trail and hit a suspended ring with a spear. Their endeavours require incredible skill and accuracy. Occurring at such high speeds, each individual run takes less than 12 seconds. The riders have practised this many times before coming here and have undertaken trial runs in the village since Wednesday.



Three images from the build-up to Saturday's Vine Race (Trka za viticu)

The Prstenac in Barban has taken place on the penultimate weekend in August every year since 1976. The thunderous sounds of horse hooves could not be silenced by COVID-19, although this year attendee numbers have been limited to 1,500.



16 horsemen are entering this year's event in the hopes of winning the traditional prize of a dagger and a shield. An additional prize, "The Bird Ring", the work of sculptor Josip Diminić, will also be awarded. The competitions began just after 5pm on Saturday 22 August with the Vine Race (Trka za viticu). This was the 25th annual undertaking of this pre-event. Later in the evening, clay pigeon shooting would take place under the challenging conditions of nightening skies.


The winner of Saturday's Vine Race was Milio Grabrović. He rode a horse called Ulika and was assisted by pikeman Aldo Paus.



The main event, the Ring Race Trka na prstenac in Barban, will take place at the same time on Sunday 23 August. Those unable to attend this year will be able to watch the event from a live broadcast on TV channel HRT 2 from 5.15pm.

All photos © Trka na Prstenac in Barban / Goran Šebelić / Karmen Radetikio

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Istria Strives to be Top Destination for IT Professionals, Not Just Tourists

August 12, 2020 - Istria has long been known as a top tourist destination. However, companies from the ICT sector operating through the ICT Istria Expert Group and the Croatian Chamber of Commerce in Pula decided to further brand the quality of life of their region to attract top professionals and companies.

HRTurizam writes that that is why a Branding Strategy has been developed that promotes Istria as an ideal place to live, work and study. The goal is to create a stimulating business environment in which the competencies of the sector will create significant benefits not only for ICT companies but also for the economy of the entire county.

"The strategy will enable us better visibility and recognizability of our activities aimed at local self-government units, the academic community and the general public, all to popularize ICT in Istria. This sector can be a generator of strategic economic growth in the region, but it needs the support of the local community, not in business because they are top experts in their field, but in removing bureaucratic obstacles and the order of society itself," Dean Verbanac, President of the IT Group of Istria, points out, adding that through the development of the strategy, they have established the key advantages that Istria can offer as an ICT destination, but also identified the problems.

"Specifically, our shortcoming is the lack of professional staff. Joint action is needed to influence the creation of staff that will remain there. And not only that - we want to bring young ICT professionals to Istria," says Verbanac.

The corona crisis has shown the strength of the ICT sector, and now is the right time for the region to impose itself as an attractive destination for digital nomads. This requires the help of the state, i.e., the regulation of such a form of work that will enable experts to work for any world company and enjoy all the benefits of living in the local area.

The fact that innovative ICT companies such as Infobip, Inter Soft Technologies, Infosit are already operating successfully in Istria, achieving global success and representing a great development perspective certainly helps to attract experts. They are focused on new technologies, and often their clients are the world's leading companies in their segments. Thus, good foundations are already there.

The branding strategy defines five values ​​of Istria - courage, excellence, local value, openness and ease of living. The problematic points are, in addition to the already mentioned lack of human resources, finding accommodation for professionals and bureaucracy.

Work is already being done on the visual identity of the ICT Istra Association, which will communicate the balance between business and private life, and on the other hand, show the diversity of advanced solutions that emerge in a. positive environment. This is precisely the comparative advantage that is important to emphasize nowadays in order to attract domestic and foreign IT talents.

A great new direction, added value and upgrade to tourism. Istria is an ideal destination for digital nomads.

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Monday, 3 August 2020

Istria is a Hit: Medulin, Porec, Rovinj Recording Almost 100% of Last Year's Numbers

August 3, 2020 - In July, Istria achieved 60 percent of last year's tourist traffic. According to eVisitor, 630,000 arrivals were recorded on the Peninsula last month, and in 2020 so far, the number of visitors exceeded one million.

Glas Istre reports that on average, guests spent more than seven days on holiday, and in July, there were 4.77 million tourist overnights. The number of overnights spent since the beginning of this year in Istria increased to 6.7 million.

Caution and the higher possibility of respecting social isolation measures have taken their toll, so when it comes to Istria County, so this July, the most in-demand accommodation was camps and holiday homes. These two segments of the tourist offer, when absolute numbers are in question, achieved the best results. The category listed in eVisitor as household facilities recorded more than 200,000 tourists in July, and 1.5 million tourist overnight stays. These results are thirty percent worse than those achieved last July, but given that holiday homes and villas with swimming pools, which are extremely popular this summer, are in the same category as apartments, for which the demand is still somewhat lower, it can be assumed that a large number of buildings from this first group passed this July without the slightest gaps.

Istrian hotels also had slightly better occupancy than in June, but given the specific situation with the organization of business and compliance with all prescribed epidemiological measures, most of them opened their doors only last month. Hotel accommodation in Istria recorded 114 thousand tourist arrivals in July, and almost 640 thousand overnight stays, which is about 40 percent of the result achieved last year. When it comes to far smaller numbers, there are also segments of the tourist offer on the Peninsula, which, even in these times burdened by the constant threat of COVID, managed to achieve results that surpassed those of last year. In that sense, the absolute champion of July 2020 in Istria is nautical tourism, which with 4,207 arrivals and 33,329 overnight stays in both comparative indices, exceeds last year's results by about 2 percent.

In terms of the number of guests, the first are the Germans, who in July were only about 10 percent less than last year. The Slovenes overtook the Austrians in second place, who traveled far less abroad this summer due to a solid campaign by the Austrian government and the local media. While arrivals from Germany to Istria reach 87 percent, and from Slovenia, 95 percent of last year, those from Austria were halved. Thus, in July, the number of Austrians on the Istrian coast was as much as 53 percent lower than in the comparable period last year.

When looking at individual Istrian destinations, compared to July last year, Medulin is at as much as 95 percent, and Porec and Rovinj at about 90 percent. Interestingly, near Istria, there is one town that was 2-3 percent better than July last year - Crikvenica.

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