I was recently reading an article on the web that ranked Venice as the most romantic city in the world. Not exactly shocking as the image of a man with a striped shirt and red scarf paddling a gondola through the tight canals has been emblazoned on the cover of countless “vacation in Europe” travel guides. What Venice is missing – I know many would claim blasphemy – is charm. It seems that nearly everything in Venice is overpriced, overrated, dirty, and transformed from its original purpose into a tourist trap. Perhaps it has become too renowned for its own good. And so it is with reluctance that I write this article about Rovinj, as I would love to keep this place a total secret for fear of it one day becoming the opposite of what I believe it currently to be… the most underrated, unheard of, and overall romantic city I have visited in Europe.
Rovinj has many architectural similarities to Venice, which is understandable as it is a historic Venetian settlement. However, it is smaller, cleaner, more reasonably priced, and an all around paradise. The old town center is built upon a hillside in the middle of a tiny peninsula, littered with art shops, restaurants, bars, lounges, and homes that all follow narrow cobblestone walkways to the peak where a bell tower stands and dominates the town’s skyline. It’s surreal how beautiful this town is.
Clothes are clipped to dry on hangers above the streets, children play soccer in in any opening large enough to set up goal posts, and unlike Venice the atmosphere is totally relaxing. The tiny harbor is packed with sailors who are dead set on enticing you to join them on a “glass bottom cruise”. Ten Euros is all it takes to grab a seat on board for the 2 hour boat ride. Jamie and I managed to bargain the guy in to buying us a few slices of pizza for lunch, as well as stopping the boat halfway through the tour so that we could jump off the back and go for a swim. Let me reiterate, this is 10 Euros. That works out to around $13.00 CAD (or $13.40 USD). Boat ride with a fantastic view of the city center, tour of the surrounding islands, lunch, and a swim in the Adriatic halfway through. Not a bad deal.
As amazing as the boatride was, it was not our highlight. Valentino Bar is a tiny little establishment whose best feature is hidden from plain sight from the cobblestone path. Below the patio are various tables, chairs, and cushions set up along the rocks, literally on the seaside. On a sunny day you can go for a swim, order your drinks from the water, and when they arrive you can climb out and enjoy them comfortably along the rocks. Jamie and I must have come here around 6 different times throughout the day for a drink and a swim while we walked around. Although, it’s a bit depressing to look back on now, because I know I will never find a bar half as cool as this one.
At nightfall, the servers set candles on each table, which made for a setting and experience that I will never forget. Watching the sun go down with a glass of wine by candlelight, listening to the waves lap against the rocks, all while yachts float by on what looks to be thin air in the darkness, I would challenge anyone to find a more romantic spot anywhere.
Original Photography From: Couple of Yuppies
Do yourself a favor and visit Rovinj (and the rest of Croatia for that matter) as soon as possible. When we visited, the country was preparing for their inevitable inclusion in the European Union. If the EU still exists in 5 years time, and Croatia is a part of it, I foresee a massive spike in both prices and tourists. Make sure you visit ASAP.
Authored By: Kyle Foot
See what Jamie thought: Her Take
Valentino Bar Location: Santa Croce 28, Rovinj 52210 Rovinj, Croatia
Phone: +385 52 830 683
Note: This article has been selected by the February 2013 Carnival of Europe hosted by Aleah Taboclaon of Solitary Wanderer with the theme “Most Romantic Places in Europe.”