A visit to Istria’s Mirna River Valley is a must for two reasons: its truffle-rich forests and its memorable hilltop towns. One such town is Motovun. One of Croatia’s most picturesque stops, Motovun is better known, today, as the venue of the popular Motovun International Film Festival.
The Medieval Core:
According to legend, Motovun was created by giants who inhabited these lands; this old tale seems to make a lot of sense once you reach the town gate. Motovun is perched, or by the looks of it, delicately placed, atop a hill, sitting 277 meters above sea level; negotiating the narrow winding road that leads to the town is no mean task.
The walled town of Motovun dates back to the 13th century. Its strong Venetian fortification –a system of walls, towers and gates –has survived the years and stands intact even today, adding a further air of ancient mystery to the town.
Motovun, Croatia is a world away from the chaos of the 21st century. Here things move at a slower pace; the birds sing all day long and the air is tinged with the scent of wine and truffles. The tiny streets are dotted with ornate windows and doors that open up to wine bars, eateries and art studios, making the walk to the main square, the heart of Motovun, particularly enjoyable. The square itself holds the town’s most distinguished landmarks –the 17th century St. Stephen’s Church, the 13th century Gothic-Romanesque bell tower, the Renaissance Palace, and the Baroque Loggia. Each structure rises from the ground with great purpose and holds much history, and in the case of the church, art as well. In August, the square, like much of Motovun, becomes a screening arena, full of giant screens and movie buffs.
Vineyards and Forests:
The town walls are tacked with a walking trail, which offer a breathtaking experience; they expose a sweeping view of the valley below, made up of sparkling vineyards and dense forests. Not only do they create elaborate scenery, but it is in these vineyards that Motovun’s famous Malvazija and Teran wines originate, and it is in these forests that Istrian white and black truffles are gathered. Every kitchen in Motovun can offer a sampling of these much sought after delicacies.
Motovun is best known for its five day international film festival held every year in the month of August. The festival takes place in an informal, but electric setting. A number of independent films are screened across various locations; thousands – film-makers and fans alike, flock to the town during this time, with numbers rising to as many as 50,000 people. The other festival worth a mention is ‘the day of truffles,’ celebrated across the Mirna Valley in the month of October. Along with this, the town also hosts a ‘festival of balloons, wine and truffles’ during the first weekend of November.
Motovun makes for an excellent day-trip destination on a tour of Croatia’s Istria. It is within driving distance from bigger towns of Rovinj and Pula. If you choose to spend a few days here, try the local Hotel Kastel, or a small bed and breakfast.