This Seaside Croatian Town Is Like Venice Without The Crowds, Per Rick Steves

If you love Venice but hate the idea of waiting in line for a gondola ride surrounded by throngs of peak season crowds, consider driving a little over three hours to another area with gorgeous views of the Adriatic Sea: Croatia's Istrian Peninsula. This area is a favorite of travel expert Rick Steves, who, on his website, recommends the entire region for its truffles, vineyards, sea air, and vibrant history. This beautiful region has picturesque little port towns that will delight travelers. While it may not actually be romantic Venice, it was once a part of the Venetian republic, and that cultural link endures.


Even though you may experience some flooding since climate change is making Venice sink, Rick Steves still recommends visiting. However, if you're looking for a less crowded and likely cheaper alternative, there is plenty to love about Istria, especially the town of Rovinj. The experience is certainly different from being in Italy, but if you speak Italian, you'll definitely get the chance to use it. While it might not really be Venice, this region of Croatia was a part of Italy until the mid-1940s, and today, many locals are still fluent in Italian and speak it in their daily lives. This peninsula has a rich cultural history, and as you travel, you'll catch glimpses of Ancient Rome and the Austro-Hungarian Empire amongst its pretty painted houses, rolling hills, and crashing waves.


Visit Rovinj for a Venice-like experience

"Croatia's romantic Rovinj is like a little Venice on a hill," Rick Steves stated on his travel website. While many people throughout the entire peninsula speak Italian, Rovinj may be an Italian town culturally. Explore its narrow, twisting cobblestone streets, where white stone buildings seem to crowd closer together. It's home to an exciting street market full of fresh vegetables, truffles, and dozens of street vendors selling arts and crafts.


While Venice may be married to the sea, Rovinj has a close relationship with the coast, too. One of the port town's best experiences is walking along its rocky beaches and looking out at the water — particularly at sunset with a glass of wine, according to an episode of Rick Steves' Europe. While there aren't any of Venice's gondola or traghetto rides (your budget will thank you), you can still enjoy the ocean and get a fantastic view of Rovinj's architecture from the deck of a boat by booking a tour.

Italian-style cuisine on the Istrian Peninsula

The entire peninsula of Istria offers a little taste of Italy blended with its own unique flavor. The seaside town of Rovinj, in particular, will have a lot for those in search of a quiet little Venice, but you also won't want to miss the bustling port of Pula, the Brijuni Islands, or tiny Hum, complete with cobblestone streets. While the scenery, art, and culture are incredible, the unique region's greatest feature for fans of Italy might be the food.


If you follow Rick Steves' advice to book your European travel plans based on your personal interests, the Istrian Peninsula may be the ultimate destination for foodies. In an interview with Rick Steves Audio Europe, Mariam Abdelghani, a tour guide from the peninsula, explained to Steves that the rich red soil found there makes it the perfect place for vineyards, olives, and truffles. On his website, Steves has particularly recommended the town of Brtonigla and the village of Livade as the best places to sample the culinary delights of Istria.