Epicurean Nirvana in the Heart of Istria, Croatia Truffle hunting, wine tasting and olive oil making

 

With its Italian, Venetian and Austrian influences, Istria - a strawberry-shaped peninsula in the far north of Croatia – has rich culinary traditions and is a paradise for food-enthused explorers. With British Airways announcing an increase in flights to Pula*, this summer is the ideal time to sip, savour and sample the best Istria has to offer, whether it’s unearthing indigenous grape varieties at local vineyards, hunting for the treasured white truffle or feasting on fresh Adriatic seafood in Croatia’s first Michelin-starred restaurant.

 

Truffle Hunting

White and black truffle varieties reside in the Istrian ‘Bermuda’ triangle between Pazin, Buje and Buzet, thriving in the valley of the river Mirna and Motovun Forest, where the earth is rich in minerals. In fact, Istria holds the record for the largest truffle ever foraged and is the only place in the world where both white and black varieties can be found. Join an experienced guide, sharp-nosed hunting dog in hand, and roam the valley in search of the infamous – and highly valuable - white truffle. From earth to table, pepper a rich risotto with your freshly foraged truffles, or drizzle over pizza infused in Istrian olive oil.

 

Although autumn is prime time to chase white truffles, there are an abundance of events dedicated to the flavoursome fungus throughout the Autumn months – from bite-sized tasting at Truffle Days, to Tuberfest, a several-day celebration of wine, olive oil and truffles. Near Buzet, the Karlic family (karlictartufi.hr) run three-hour truffle tours, including a tasting session with truffle-flavoured products and a hunt in the oak woods surrounding their home.

 

Istrian Wine: From Grape to Glass

The triangular shape of the Istrian peninsula looks rather like a bunch of grapes – and given the strong vinicultural heritage of the region – some say this is no coincidence. Unbeknown to many, the culture-rich region plays home to as many as 130 indigenous grape varieties and some of Croatia’s top wineries, housing soaring vistas of vines producing Merlot, Malvasia and more. Whilst exploring local wineries, budding connoisseurs are invited to taste Teran, the region’s most popular red wine, typically deep ruby in colour and often blended with other grapes. Fruity, fresh and fragrant, and one of the oldest grapes in Croatia, Malvazija dates back to Ancient Greece, and is the most common white wine in Croatia.

 

Age-Old Olive Oil Trails

Hailed by epicurean explorers as the ‘new Tuscany’, Istria is famed for its fresh Adriatic seafood and favourable Mediterranean climate. People appreciate and understand the local ingredients, delight in their home-cooked delicacies and proudly protect family recipes, passed down through generations. Dating back through centuries, and perhaps the most highly valued Istrian ingredient, is the olive oil; rich, peppery and on par with that produced in Tuscany. The region has been dubbed best in the world for olive oil production for three consecutive years, and plays home to Roman-era olive trees; one of the oldest grows in Brijuni National Park, a cluster of islands off the coast of Pula.

 

Set amongst the olive groves, luxury hotel, restaurant and winery Villa Meneghetti (meneghetti.hr/en) dates back to the early 1900’s and sits close to Pula’s historic heart. Sommelier classes, creative cookery masterclasses and olive oil tasting programmes can be arranged, using hand-picked olives that grow within the estate.

 

Unforgettable Croatia (unforgettablecroatia.co.uk) offer a seven-night stay at five-star Hotel Lone on a B&B basis from £1,695 per person. The price includes return flights from London Gatwick or Manchester to Pula, private airport transfers, private walking tour of Rovinj, truffle hunting at Karlic Truffles, tastings at Aura Distillery and a tour of Motovun, Grosnjan and Pula, and wine tasting at Meneghetti.

 

*British Airways, EasyJet, TUI, Jet2 and Ryanair operate regular flights from the UK to Pula and Aer Lingus from Ireland

 

For more information on Istria, visit www.istra.hr/en

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