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The Istrian peninsula

Istria (Croatian, Slovene, Serbian: Istra; Italian: Istria; Istriot: Eîstria; Hungarian: Isztria), formerly Histria (Latin), is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. The peninsula is located at the head of the Adriatic between the Gulf of Trieste and the Bay of Kvarner. It is shared by three countries: Croatia, Slovenia and Italy.



The geographical features of Istria include the Učka mountain (Monte Maggiore) which is the highest point in the Ćićarija (Ciceria) mountain range, the rivers Dragonja, Mirna (Quieto), Pazinčica and Raša (Arsia), and the Lim bay. Istria lies in three countries: Croatia, Slovenia and Italy. The largest portion (89%), "Croatian Istria" (Hrvatska Istra), is further divided into two counties. The largest portion is Istria County in western Croatia. Important towns in Istria County include Pula (Pola), Poreč (Parenzo), Rovinj (Rovigno), Pazin (Pisino), Labin (Albona), Umag, Motovun (Montona), Buzet (Pinguente) and Buje (Buie), and the smaller towns of Višnjan, Roč (Rozzo), and Hum (Colmo). A small slice in the north, including the coastal towns of Izola, Piran, Portorož and Koper, and the muinicipality of Hrpelje-Kozina, lies in Slovenia and is part of Slovenian Istria (Slovenska Istra), while a tiny region in the north, consisting of the comunes of Muggia (Milje) and San Dorligo della Valle (Dolina), is found within Italy. The ancient region of Histria extended to a much wider area, including also the Kras (Carso) plateau, the south-western portions of modern Inner Carniola, and the modern Italian Province of Trieste, but not the Liburnian coast which was already part of Illyricum.[citation needed]



Early history

The name is derived from the Illyrian tribe of the Histri (Greek: Ιστρών έθνος), which Strabo refers to as living in the region. The Histri are classified in some sources as a "Venetic" Illyrian tribe, with certain linguistic differences from other Illyrians[1]. The Romans described the Histri as a fierce tribe of pirates, protected by the difficult navigation of their rocky coasts. It took two military campaigns for the Romans to finally subdue them in 177 BCE. The region was then called together with the Venetian part the X. Roman Region of "Venetia et Histria". Per ancient definition the north-eastern border of Italy. Dante Alighieri refers to it as well, the eastern border of Italy per ancient definition is the river Arsia (Raša). The eastern side of this river was settled by the people whose culture was different to Histrian. Earlier influence of the Iapodes was attested there, while in some moment between the 4th century and the 1st BC, the Liburnians extended their territory and it became a part of Liburnia.[2] On the northern side, Histria went much further north and included the Italian city of Trieste and the region of Venezia-Julia. Today, Trieste and Venezia-Julia are not included in Istria for political reasons.

Some scholars speculate that the names Histri and Istria are related to the Latin name Hister, or Danube. Ancient folktales reported—inaccurately—that the Danube split in two or "bifurcated" and came to the sea near Trieste as well as at the Black Sea. The story of the "Bifurcation of the Danube" is part of the Argonaut legend. There is also a suspected link (but no historical documentation is available) to the commune of Istria in Constanţa, Romania.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the region was pillaged by the Goths, the Eastern Roman Empire, and Avars, annexed to the Lombards Kingdom in 751, annexed to the Frankish kingdom by Pippin III in 789, and then successively controlled by the dukes of Carantania, Meran, Bavaria and by the patriarch of Aquileia, before it became the territory of the Republic of Venice in 1267. The medieval Croatian kingdom ( see Kingdom of Croatia ) held only the far eastern part of Istria (the border was near the river Raša), but they lost it to the Holy Roman Empire in the late 11th century.

Venetian Republic and the Holy Roman Empire

Austrian Littoral in 1897

The coastal areas and cities of Istria came under Venetian Influence in the IX century. On 15 February 1267, Parenzo was formally incorporated with the Venetian state.[3] Other coastal towns followed shortly thereafter.

Austrian Empire (1797-1805)

The Inner Istrian part around Mitterburg (Pazin), had been held for centuries by the Holy Roman Empire. In 1797, with the Treaty of Campo Formio, the Venetian parts of the peninsula also passed to the Holy Roman Empire.[citation needed]

Napoleonic Era 1806-1813

The Holy Roman Empire ended with the period of Napoleonic rule from 1806 to 1813, when Istria became part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy (1806–1810) after the Peace of Pressburg, and then part of the Illyrian provinces of the French Empire (1810–1813) after the Treaty of Paris.

Austrian Empire (1814-1918)

After this short period, the newly established Austrian Empire ruled Istria as the so-called "Küstenland", which included the city of Trieste and Gorizia in Friuli until 1918. At that time the borders of Istria included a part of what is now Italian Venezia-Giulia and parts of modern-day Slovenia and Croatia, but not the city of Trieste. Today, Istria's borders are defined differently.

Italy 1919-1947

Istria under Italian rule (1918-1945). Fascism took over in Italy in 1922, four years after Istria was annexed.

After World War I and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, Istria was given to Italy. After the advent of Fascism, the portions of the Istrian population that were Croatian and Slovene were exposed to a policy of forced Italianization and cultural suppression. They lost their right to education and religious practice in their maternal languages [4]. The organization TIGR, regarded as the first armed antifascist resistance group in Europe[citation needed], was founded in 1927 and soon penetrated into Slovene and Croatian-speaking parts of Istria.

SFR Yugoslavia 1945-1991

After the end of World War II, Istria was included into Yugoslavia, except for a small part in the northwest corner that formed Zone B of the provisionally independent Free Territory of Trieste (Trst); Zone B was under Yugoslav administration and after the de facto dissolution of the Free Territory in 1954 it was also incorporated into Yugoslavia. Only the small town of Muggia (Milje), near Trieste, being part of Zone A remained with Italy.

The events of that period are visible in Pula. The city had an Italian majority, and is located on the southernmost tip of the Istrian peninsula. Between December 1946 and September 1947, a large proportion of the city's inhabitants emigrated to Italy. Most of them left in the immediate aftermath of the signing of the Paris Peace Treaty on February 10, 1947, which granted Pula to Yugoslavia. After 1954, the border between the Slovenia and Croatia ran along along the river Mirna. According to the Croatian historiographer Stjepan Srkulj,[5] this is the first time in Croatian history that Istria has been fully under Croatian jurisdiction.

After the breakup of Yugoslavia - after 1991

The division of Istria between Croatia and Slovenia runs on the former republic borders, which were not precisely defined in the former Yugoslavia. Various bones of contention remain unresolved between the two countries regarding the precise line of the border [6]. It became an international boundary with the independence of both countries from Yugoslavia in 1991. Since Croatia's first multi-party elections in 1990, the regional party Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS-DDI, Istarski demokratski sabor or Dieta democratica istriana) has consistently received a majority of the vote and maintained through 1990s a position often contrary to the government in Zagreb, led by then nationalistic party Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ, Hrvatska demokratska zajednica) with regards to decentralization in Croatia and certain regional autonomy. However, that changed in 2000, when IDS formed with five other parties left-centre coalition government, led by Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP, Socijaldemokratska Partija Hrvatske). After reformed HDZ won Croatian parliamentary elections in late 2003 and formed minority government, IDS has been cooperating with state government on many projects, both local (in Istria County) and national. Since Slovenia's accession to the European Union and the Schengen area, customs and immigration checks have been abolished at the Italian-Slovenian border.

Demographic history

Italians in Istria in 1910.
Ethnic map of Austria–Hungary, 1910 census
Percent of native Italian speakers in Croatia's Istria County in 2001

The region has traditionally been ethnically mixed. Under Austrian rule in the 19th century, it included a large population of Italians, Croats, Slovenes and some Vlachs/Istro-Romanians and Montenegrins; however, official statistics in those times didn't show those nationalities as they do today.
In 1910, the ethnic and linguistic composition was completely mixed. According to the Austrian census results (Istria included here parts of the Karst and Liburnia which are not really part of Istria and excluded ancient Istrian parts, like Trieste), out of 404,309 inhabitants in Istria, 168,116 (41.6%) spoke Croatian, 147,416 (36.5%) spoke Italian, 55,365 (13.7%) spoke Slovene, 13,279 (3.3%) spoke German, 882 (0.2%) spoke Romanian, 2,116 (0.5%) spoke other languages and 17,135 (4.2%) were non-citizens, which had not been asked for their language of communication. During the last decades of Habsburg dynasty the coast of Istria profited from the tourism within the Empire. Generally speaking, Italians lived on coast, all the inland cities and northern Istria, while Croats and Slovenes lived in the eastern and southeastern inland parts on the countryside.

In the second half of the 19th century a clash of new ideological movements, Italian irredentism (which claimed Trieste and Istria) and Slovene and Croatian nationalism (developing individual identities in some quarters whilst seeking to unite in a South Slav bid in others), resulted in growing ethnic conflict between Italians one side and Slovenes and Croats in opposition. This was intertwined with the class conflict, as inhabitants of Istrian towns were mostly Italian, whilst Croats or Slovenes largely lived out in the eastern countryside.

There is a long tradition of tolerance between the people who live there, regardless of their nationality, and although many Istrians today are ethnic Croats, a strong regional identity has existed over the years. The Croatian word for the Istrians is Istrani, or Istrijani, the latter being in the local Chakavian dialect. The term Istrani is also used in Slovenia. Today the Italian minority is organized in many towns (see, it consists officially around 45.000 inhabitants, the Istrian county in Croatia is bilingual, as are large parts of Slovenian Istria. Every citizen has the right to speak either Italian or Croatian (Slovene in Slovenian Istria) in public administration or in court. Furthemore, Istria is a supranational European Region that includes Italian, Slovenian and Croatian Istria.


As with many other regions in the former Yugoslavia, common concepts about ethnicity and nationality fail when applied to Istria. Discussions about Istrian ethnicity often use the words "Italian," "Croatian" and "Slovene" to describe the character of Istrian people. However, these terms are best understood as "national affiliations" that may exist in combination with or independently of linguistic, cultural and historical attributes.

In Istrian contexts, for example, the word "Italian" can just as easily refer to autochthonous speakers of the Venetian language whose antecedents in the region extend before the inception of the Venetian Republic or Istriot language the oldest spoken language in Istria, dated back to the Romans, today spoken in the south west of Istria. It can also refer to Istrian Croats who adopted the veneer of Italian culture as they moved from rural to urban areas, or from the farms into the bourgeoisie. In fact most of the families in Inner Istria are of Croatian or Morlak origin.

Similarly, national powers claim Istrian Croats according to local language, so that speakers of Čakavian and Štokavian dialects of the Croatian language are considered to be Croatians, while speakers of other dialects may be considered to be Slovene. Those Croatian dialect speakers are descendants of the refugees of the Turkish invasion and the Ottoman Empire from Bosnia and Dalmatia from the 16 century. Often they were Croatianized Vlachs and Morlachs. The government of the Republic of Venice had settled them down in Inner Istria, devastated by wars and plague. Many villages have the Morlachian name like Katun. Like with all other regions, the local dialects of the Croatian communities are very slightly varied across close distances. The Istrian Croats and Italian vernaculars had both developed for many generations before being divided as they are today. This meant that Croats/Slovenes on one side and Venetians/other Italians on the other will have yielded towards each other culturally whilst distancing themselves from members of their ethnic groups living farther away. There is still the Romanian community to mention, the Istro-Romanians in the east and north of Istria (Ćićarija) and parts of neighbouring Liburnia (the east coast of the peninsula, called Liburnia, which is not part of Istria but today administratively included).

According to the 2001 Croatian census data for the Istria County, 71.88% of the inhabitants were Croats, 6.92% were Italians, 3.20% were Serbs, 1.49% were Bosnians, and 10.65% didn't want to state their nationality. Those declaring themselves regionally as Istrians made up 4.3%. Other nationalities had less than 1% each.[7]

The data for Slovenian Istria is not as neatly ordered, but the 2002 Slovenian census indicates that the three Istrian municipalities (Izola, Piran, Koper) had a total of 56,482 Slovenes, 6,426 Croats and 1,840 Italians.[8]

The small town of Peroj has had a unique history which exemplifies the multi-ethnic complexity of the history of the region, as do some towns on both sides of the Cicarija mountains that are still identified with the Istro-Romanian people which the UNESCO Redbook of Endangered Languages calls "the smallest ethnic group in Europe".[9]


See also


  1. ^ Wilkes, J. J. The Illyrians, 1992,ISBN 0631198075,page 183,"... We may begin with the Venetic peoples, Veneti, Carni, Histri and Liburni, whose language set them apart from the rest of the Illyrians...."
  2. ^ M. Blečić, Prilog poznavanju antičke Tarsatike, VAMZ, 3.s., XXXIV 65-122 (2001), UDK 904:72.032 (3:497.5), pages 70, 71
  3. ^ Notes Ecclesiological & Picturesque on Dalmatia, Croatia, Istria, Styria... by John Mason Neale. P76. Google Books.
  4. ^ A Historical Outline Of Istria
  5. ^
  6. ^ Tourism Development by Julio Aramberri, Richard Butler, p195
  7. ^ Population according to ethnicity by towns/municipalities
  8. ^ Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia
  9. ^ UNESCO Red Book on Endangered Languages

Further reading

  • Ashbrook, John (December 2005). "Self-perceptions, denials, and expressions: Istrianity in a nationalizing Croatia, 1990-1997". Nationalities Papers 33 (4): 459–487. doi:10.1080/00905990500353923. 
  • Luigi Tomaz, Il confine d'Italia in Istria e Dalmazia. Duemila anni di storia, Presentazione di Arnaldo Mauri, Think ADV, Conselve 2008.

External links

Coordinates: 45°15′40″N 13°54′16″E / 45.26111°N 13.90444°E / 45.26111; 13.90444

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Europe : Balkans : Croatia : Istria

Istria is the north-westernmost region of Croatia. In a triangular shape, it is bordered in the north by Slovenia, east by the Kvarner region of Croatia and on the south and west by the Adriatic Sea.

  • Beram
  • Cape Kamenjak
  • Groznjan
  • Hum
  • Limski kanal
  • Motovun
  • Vrsar


Formerly part of the Venetian Empire, this region has seen many empires such as Byzantine, Roman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslavian (Communist). The cultural legacy of Istria is thus very rich and diverse.

After defeating the Illyrian Histri tribe, the Romans settled in the peninsula and left a large heritage, turning Pula into an important administrative centre and building villas, amphiteatres and temples. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the inner land remained a feudal territory occupied by Slavs, Frankish, Byzantines and finally Austrian Habsburgs, while the coast fell under control of the Republic of Venice in the 13th century. Intermittent combats were held between both powers until the fall of Venice in 1797. Since that date, the Croatian population of Istria struggled for autonomy and were severely repressed both by Austrians and Fascist Italians, eventually ending with a revenge from Yugoslav partisans after the World War II, forcing all the Italians to leave. Relatively spared from the Yugoslav Wars, Istria is now a prosperous region. Latter years have seen a growing regional sentiment and a reconciliation with its previously conflictive Italian identity.

The peninsula offers stark contrasts: the interior is very unspoiled and mountainous with ancient walled cities atop hills with surrounding fertile fields, whilst the coast has numerous beaches -do not expect any sand in them, though- and stunning scenery of rocky walls plummeting into the sea. The Istrian coast is arguably the most developed tourist destination in Croatia. Hordes of Italian, German and French tourists enjoy package tourism during the crowded high season.

Although Pula is the main town, according to population and culture, relatively rural Pazin is the administrative centre of the peninsula.


Croatian. Among locals, Italian will often be understood along the coast, rather than English.

Get in

Pula is the main transportation hub for Istria so most people will arrive there if they are not driving. Some boat lines arrive to Poreč, too.

By bus

Buses run from Trieste in Italy, Zagreb and other major cities to Pazin in the centre of Istria, and most to Pula in the South.

By air

Ryanair provides a connection London (Stansted) to Pula three days a week, and Dublin Pula also. Scandjet connects Pula to Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm once a week (on Saturdays) during the summer. Germanwings also serves Pula.

By train

Trains run daily between Ljubljana in Slovenia and Pula, and from Rijeka to Ljubljana. Unfortunately due to historical accident, the two train lines do not meet up despite some works having been commenced on a rail tunnel to link the two short distances.

  • Roman structures in Pula, including the Arena and Forum.
  • The old Venetian town of Rovinj.
  • St Euphrasius Basilica in Poreč.
  • The many beaches along the coast.
  • Brijuni (Brioni) Islands - private playground of Tito including an international zoo, dinosaur footprints and Roman and Byzantine ruins.
  • Hill-top villages of Groznjan and Motovun, populated by artist communities.
  • Magnificent frescoes of Our Lady of the Rocks chapel in Beram.


Istria is a fine region to practise hiking and biking, as much in the mountainous inland as in the coast.

Visit istria-bike for a set of bike routes around the peninsula, and bike rental places.

The Southern end of Istria is arguably the best place for biking. Ask for a bike map in Pula Tourist Office, showing well-marked routes around the coast and in the Cape Kamenjak.

Also, all the authentic foodies and gourmets willing to discover the delicacies of Istria are invited to visit istria-gourmet.

With diversity at the heart of Istria, you’ll delight in new culinary experiences and reconnect with traditional flavors.

We invite you to discover our rich gastronomic heritage, culinary icons, food and wine events and celebrations, restaurants and taverns. Join us in exploring forgotten flavors and traditional techniques, as well as sophisticated, trendsetting preparations.

  • Visit Lovran, Istria, near Opatija, for the Days of Cherries Festival in June
  • Join the Truffle Days festival in the Motovun/Buzet area in late September
  • Attend a music or folklore performance in the unique atmosphere of the Pula Arena
  • Motovun Film Festival, Motovun, Istria (On the main road between Buzet and Buje), +385 1 374 07 08 / 374 07 07, [1]. Internationally-renowned film festival in the hilltop Northern town of Motovun.  edit


Istrian gastronomy is known by its huge diversity. Pasta, gnocchi, risotto and polenta, as well as its high-quality vegetables (which can be found, at a cheap price, in any of the numerous open-air markets present in almost every Istrian town), accompany main dishes, as an Italian heritage. Especially, Istrian peppers have international recognition.

At the coast, fresh fish and seafood are a tradition. Scampi is the favourite, together with squid and sole. In the inland, air-cured ham (Prsut) and sausages are the highlights.

But the gastronomic pearl is no doubt the truffles. After the beginning of the season, in late September, truffles can be found accompanying any dish and sauce. Especially recommended is pasta with truffles. Also, olive oil with truffles is a typical product of the region.


Istria is a land of vineyards. Wines are sweet and fruity, with a wide variety of grapes present, such as white malvasia, red teran and muscat. The most famous vineyard area is Kalavojna, on the Eastern coast.

Regional liquor grappa is widely produced in here, with several varieties available.

Get out

The hilly Cres island in the Gulf of Kvarner can be reached by car ferry from Brestova.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:



From Latin Histria, from the ethnicon of the Illyrian tribe of the Histri who inhabited the region.

Proper noun




  1. A peninsula in Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy, on the northeastern coast of the Adriatic Sea.
  2. A county in western Croatia.


Derived terms

See also

Simple English

Istria (Croatian, Slovene: Istra, Italian: Istria), formerly Histria (Latin), is the biggest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea.

Census data

Municipality Other name (if bilingual) Country Inhabitants Mother tongue Italian Mother tongue Croatian/Slovenian
Labin, city Albona 12426 03.09% 92.62%
Buje, city Buie 5340 39.66% 53.76%
Novigrad, city Cittanova 4002 15.32% 77.59%
Vodnjan, city Dignano 5651 19.93% 73.16%
Poreč, city Parenzo 17460 06.42% 87.12%
Buzet, city


6059 00.87% 96.63%
Pazin, city Pisino 9227 01.21% 97.56%
Pula, city Pola 58594 04.87% 88.38%
Rovinj, city Rovigno 14234 10.81% 81.85%
Umag, city Umago 12901 20.70% 72.87%
Bale Valle 1047 22.54% 75.36%
Barban Barbana 2802 00.39% 99.21%
Brtonigla Verteneglio 1579 41.29% 52.83%
Cerovlje 1745 00.46% 99.31%
Fažana Fasana 3050 04.66% 90.75%
Gračišće 1433 00.28% 99.16%
Grožnjan Grisignana 785 66.11% 29.17%
Kanfanar Canfanaro 1457 01.51% 96.23%
Karojba 1489 00.94% 97.99%
Kaštelir-Labinci Castellier-Santa Domenica 1334 07.80% 88.23%
Kršan 3264 00.40% 94.49%
Lanišće 398 n.p. 98.99%
Ližnjan Lisignano 2945 08.05% 88.29%
Lupoglav 929 00.32% 98.82%
Marčana 3903 00.74% 97.72%
Medulin 6004 03.05% 89.77%
Motovun Montona 983 15.46% 81.28%
Oprtalj Portole 981 32.11% 65.04%
Pićan 1997 00.95% 98.05%
Raša 3535 02.63% 94.29%
Sveta Nedelja 2909 01.51% 97.32%
Sveti Lovreč 1408 01.49% 96.38%
Sveti Petar u Šumi 1011 00.30% 99.21%
Svetvinčenat 2218 01.17% 97.16%
Tinjan 1770 00.79% 98.59%
Višnjan Visignano 2187 08.78% 89.44%
Vižinada Visinada 1137 08.36% 90.59%
Vrsar Orsera 2703 02.96% 90.75%
Žminj 3447 01.28% 97.80%
Muggia Milje 13208 94.80% 04.80%
San Dorligo della Valle Dolina 6025 29.20% 70.50%
Koper, city Capodistria File:Flag of Slovenia (bordered).svg 49206 02.22% 74.14%
Izola Isola File:Flag of Slovenia (bordered).svg 14549 04.26% 69.13%
Piran Pirano File:Flag of Slovenia (bordered).svg 16758 07.00% 66.69%
Lovran Laurana 3987 01.71% 92.65%
Opatija, city Abbazia 12719 04.64% 93.81%
Mošćenička Draga 1641 00.91% 95.67%

Source: Croatian Census - 2001[1]. Slovenian Census - 2002[2]. Italian Census - 1970/2001[3][4]

Other pages


  1. Croatian census - 2001. Press Released Data, Censuses and look for the tabel: Population by Mother Tongue, by Towns/Municipalities
  2. Slovenian Census - 2002
  3. ISTAT, 14° censimento generale della popolazione e delle abitazioni 2001. Popolazione residente e abitazioni nelle province italiane - fascicolo provinciale Trieste, Roma, 2005 - (this is the official book from yhe Italian Istituto Centrale di Statistica (Central/National Institute of Statistics) about the census)
  4. Statistical and ethnographic study about the Slovene in the Provincia di Trieste. Scroll down for the data tabel


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