Your Guide to the Best Food Festivals in Istria This Fall!
Love stumbling onto local fairs? Here is a handy guide to some of the best food festivals in Istria – Croatia’s top destination for foodie travelers!
In this traditionally farming region, fall is the harvest season, and this is when various food festivals in Istria are held. These are a great way to dive into regional culture, taste centuries-old specialties, and rub shoulders with the locals.
Every region in Croatia has its delicious local specialties and Istria is no exception. Located in the north-western corner of the country, the beautiful peninsula offers a delightful blend of Mediterranean and continental cuisine shaped by centuries of Venetian, Austro-Hungarian, and Slavic influences and the culinary traditions of Croatia, Italy, and Slovenia.
Istrian cooking is based on natural local ingredients – fresh meat, seafood, and homegrown produce and spices. Key elements include artisanal products like Istria’s excellent olive oil, asparagus, truffles, pasta, air-dried Prsut ham (similar to prosciutto) and of course, wine.
Truffles, truffles, truffles…
In the very heart of Istria, Motovun is probably the best-known of the medieval hilltop settlements which once dotted the peninsula’s interior. Nearby, along the Mirna River Valley, the Motovun forest is famous for its prized white truffles which have been harvested here since antiquity. The white truffle harvest season is celebrated with the annual Zigante Truffle Days – an event which spans 10 weekends (from 15 September to 18 November 2018) and brings together foodies from all over the world. It includes a truffle fair, an exhibition of wine and other Istrian products (like prosciutto, sausage, cheese, honey, olive oil, and grappa), culinary workshops, truffle-hunting demonstrations, and various tastings of truffle specialties.
Other food festivals in Istria celebrating the region’s famous truffles include the Subotina Festival in Buzet on 8 and 9 September (culminating in the cooking of a giant omelet made with 2018 eggs and 20 pounds of truffles) and the Teran & Truffle Festival in Motovun on 20 October 2018. Teran is an old Istrian red grape variety which was first mentioned 600 years ago and is still grown to make the strong and robust local Teran wine.
If fresh seafood is your thing…
Being a peninsula, it is no wonder that several food festivals in Istria are dedicated to seafood. On the Fridays of 24 August and 7 September, the harbor of the small fishing town of Funtana comes alive with a Fisherman’s Festival. Get there to enjoy freshly caught and prepared seafood and other culinary delights as the sun sets over the Adriatic. Visitors and locals from over Istria gather at the seaside promenade to eat, drink, and dance the night away under the sounds of live blues, rock, and other music performed by local bands.
Further up the coast, on 7 September the town of Novigrad will host the Gnam-Gnam Fest dedicated to pilchard (sardine) – the healthy, nutritious, and tasty fish which has been an essential part of the region’s way of life and diet for centuries. Restaurants and food vendors will be offering traditional but also modern interpretations on dishes with sardines and other seafood. A local proverb says that fish has to swim three times – first in the sea, then in olive oil (when cooked), and finally in wine (when consumed), so there will be plenty of opportunities to sample local olive oil and wine as well.
Travel to the capital of Istrian prosciutto
For a taste of ‘the other’ Istria, head away from the coast and to Tinjan where an International Prosciutto Fair will be held on 20 – 21 October. This is one of the most popular food festivals in Istria and tens of thousands of visitors are expected to descend on the small town over the weekend to sample the mouth-watering prosciutto (or ‘prsut’ as the dry-cured ham is known here) offered by producers from the region, the rest of the country, and abroad. Two other products Istria is famous for (and which are perfectly paired with prsut) – cheese and wine, will also be readily available and accompanied by sports, cultural, and entertainment programs.
Curious fact: People from Istria would lovingly call a leg of prosciutto ‘vijulin’ – a violin, because of its shape and the way it should be sliced – carefully and gently like playing the violin.
Let’s not forget Istria’s fine wine and grappa!
On 27 October, some of the top Croatian vintners are scheduled to gather in Svetvincenat in central Istria for the annual New Wine Festival, now in its 40th edition. The name of the town (which was in the past called San Vincenti), comes from its patron St. Vincent. In the middle ages, Benedictine monks from Ravenna founded an abbey dedicated to the saint here, around which a settlement gradually developed.
A day later – on 28 October, in Hum (with 20 or so permanent residents it is arguably the smallest town in the world) located about an hour’s drive north of Svetvincenat, brandy producers from Northern and Central Istria get together to show their masterpieces. The local brandy (called ‘rakija’) is traditionally made from grape marc and then infused with aromatic and medicinal herbs or fruit like rue, mistletoe, St. John’s wort, sour cherries, mint, and walnuts.
Of all regional Croatian cuisines, the Istrian is perhaps the most exquisite. In September – October, the food festivals in Istria attract foodies from all over with the chance to experience the region’s diverse history and culture spiced up with gastronomic delights.
Interested? Get in touch and let us help you plan the perfect Istrian foodie experience!