Venetian Architecture in Croatia

During the centuries-long time of the Venetian republic, the Venetians made their mark with territories up and down the west coast of the Adriatic Sea from what is now Slovenia down to the southernmost point of Albania. The first time visitor to the Croatian coast, in between these two countries, is often surprised by the amount of Venetian architecture in many places.  On our tours to Croatia, you’ll find the Lion of St. Mark in both Rovinj and Hvar Town on Hvar Island, and sometimes in unexpected places.

One of the best places to find Venetian architecture in Croatia is in Rovinj, a breathtakingly beautiful town on an isthmus in the region of Istria.
rovinj7 (1024x768)Rovinj became part of the Venetian republic in 1283 and stayed that way until 1797 when Napoleon Bonaparte arrived and put an end to the millennium of Venetian power in the Adriatic and beyond. You can see the Venetian campanile from everywhere in town.

campanilerovinjThe campanile, modeled on the more famous version in St. Mark’s Square in Venice itself, is adjacent to the church of St. Euphemia.

BalbisArchRovinjEvery visitor to Rovinj will most likely walk under the Balbi Arch at least once.  The arch was at one point part of the city wall but now separates the harbor and main square from the medieval center.  Topped with the Venetian symbol of the Lion of St. Mark, and named after the Venetian family Balbi, it is a striking reminder of the wealth and power of the Venetian Republic in Rovinj.

There are signs of the Lion of St. Mark all over the region.  IstrialionWe even find one at the Agriturismo O’Grade, where we eat lunch one day.  Yes, this Lion of St. Mark is sitting on the patio of a farmhouse.

LionOGradeIstria (1)

Just as Venetian homes are stunningly croatia

beautiful in Venice, they are just as beautiful in Rovinj.

People see this and ask; is this Venice?





Then there is Hvar Town.  Even more than in Rovinj, you will find the stamp of the Venetians everywhere. An important naval base for five centuries, a lot of Hvar Town was destroyed in an Ottoman attack in 1571; despite this, there is still plenty left today.

One thing you do not see too much of in Venice are the old city walls, but in Hvar Town the fortress from the time of the Republic remains.  One can hike up there and imagine soldiers looking out to sea.

fortresshvartown Down below, the town square, lined with Venetian buildings.

trgsvetogstjepanaAnd the Lion of St. Mark on the town hall.

lionhvartownLooking around, you will see the occasional Venetian palazzo –


And of course, the Venetian well.  No traveler who has ever been to Venice does not know these wells.

HvarTownVenetianWellThese reminders of the Venetian Republic are everywhere in coastal Croatia. Look up, look through gates into gardens, look at the detail in the walls of churches and town halls, and you will see them.

We will be visiting Rovinj and Hvar Town on the GrapeHops tour of Croatia in May 2014.  Please join us on this epic adventure of wine, food and history.


Shannon Essa leads small-group tours focusing on wine, food, and local culture in Croatia, Slovenia, Northern Italy and Northern Spain & Portugal.

Discover the backstreets of Venice or the wine, craft beer, and slow food of Piedmont, Italy. In Spain, experience the rustic foods and low-key lifestyle in beautiful Galicia, the wineries along the Camino de Santiago in the Bierzo region, or the justifiably famous wine regions and local food traditions of Catalonia. See many of Croatia’s most beautiful sights and learn about the rebirth of one of Europe’s oldest wine areas. And see all this with Shannon, who loves unique and out of the way wine and food experiences.

When not in Europe, Shannon does her eating and drinking in San Diego, California.

Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France and other European countries.



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