You know what would be nice, I told my husband on an idle Tuesday morning: to have breakfast in Croatia and lunch in Italy. We can take a ferry from Croatia to Italy and spend a romantic day exploring Venice. Turns out, doing a trip from Porec to Venice is easier than we expected.
All we had to do, is figure out where to stay in Istria and how to take the ferry from Croatia to Italy. Although we did a road trip to Croatia before, we didn't think to add Istria to our itinerary. And that's because we had no idea how incredible Istria really is.
Join us on a superb adventure from Croatia to Italy and create an unforgettable itinerary full of food, historical sites, incredible vista points and immersive culture. But for that, we need to go back to the beginning...
Because we loved our trip so much, we partnered up with Venezia Lines to offer you a discount when you take the ferry from Croatia to Italy. Just use the coupon code YCT20 and you'll get 25% off on an ALL the travels with Venezia Lines across 2020.
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Getting to Istria
They say it's all about the journey and not the destination, but when it comes to Istria, you can absolutely enjoy both. We drove from Germany to Istria with a shortstop in-between. The roads are perfect for road trip enthusiasts so this is definitely our preferred way of travel.
There are, however, several airports around Istria (Pula, for example, or even Zagreb which is just 3 hours away from Porec). There are many low-cost flights to all these destinations from Berlin or London for as little as £30 per person. That's a steal!
Although we prefer driving, we recognise that flying is faster, cheaper (if you consider all road tolls, parking and potential accommodation en route) and more convenient. For those of you who wish to fly to Istria, we recommend organising a private transfer from the airport to your accommodation. Because we wanted to enjoy Istrian wines, we also had a private driver to take us around various locations in Istria.
For those of you who know me, I'm very much afraid of letting others drive because I like safe, considerate driving at all times. So it's usually with a heavy heart that I book a driver. However, for the first time ever, we found an incredible driver who not only drove perfectly safe but was also careful, stayed within legal limits at all times, was on time and paid attention to the little details. As such, we absolutely recommend Slavko and his transfer company Istra Transfer.
Where to stay in Istria
Istria is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea so as you can imagine, you have several options for accommodation. For the purpose of our trip, we wanted to be close to the Western coast and stay in either Porec or Rovinj, in order to be able to take the ferry from Croatia to Italy.
After several recommendations from our German and English friends, we decided to base ourselves in Porec, Croatia. We heard Porec is an incredible town anyway, so what better way to start the holiday?
We stayed at Valamar Isabella Island Resort. I know what you are thinking: did we really stay on an island? And isn't that difficult to navigate to and from Porec itself? Yes, we actually stayed on an island, which made the experience a bit more exclusive and fun. And no, it's not inconvenient at all, because there is a regular ferry service which takes 5 minutes from the Isabella island to Porec.
What we loved about our hotel was that we could see the sea and the town of Porec from our balcony. The rooms were very nice, spacious and the bathrooms came with all amenities included.
We had access to a large breakfast buffet area in the morning. Those who stay on a half or full board basis have access to a restaurant on site.
The island has its own beach with umbrellas and comfortable beach chairs. So all in all, pretty exclusive experience just 5 minutes off-shore from Porec town centre. There are ferries until midnight anyway, so you can absolutely enjoy the nightlife in Porec, before withdrawing to the comfort and quiet of your own island. Pretty cool, right?
For those of you interested in staying in Rovinj or Pula, there are several top-notch hotels you can consider. Check prices here for places to stay in Istria.
A day in Porec
Porec is a popular summer destination, known primarily for its historic old town and the 6th-century Euphrasian Basilica complex. For travellers interested in beaches and water sports, Porec is definitely the place to be.
A walk around the centre is a must. This is the time for some shopping where you can get local crafts and produce. Istria is known for its delicious olive oil so we recommend it as a perfect souvenir for family and friends. You can find an array of pre-packed presents full of local produce. We always say it's best to buy those instead of magnets, to support the local communities.
But Istria is not just known for its olive oil, it is famous for its wine too. Anywhere you go, you'll have an extensive wine menu at your disposal with a variety of options to satisfy each taste. Smooth wines, dry wines, red or white - they are all delicious!
For those who love to taste the culture, we recommend booking a wine tasting in one of the many vineyards located not far from Porec. A nice walk around the vineyard with in-depth explanations from passionate winemakers can create a romantic afternoon in Porec. Wine tasting, in our opinion, is also the best and easiest way to determine what wine to order for your upcoming dinner.
En-route to your wine tasting experience, stop at Lim, a peculiar geographic feature which looks a bit like a lush fjord. For those of you who have drones, this place is worth a visit.
As already mentioned, Porec will enchant you with its food. We recommend two restaurants which were absolutely amazing: Restaurant Sv Nikola and Restaurant Cardo.
Restaurant Sv. Nikola is well known locally for having amazing Carpaccio. Worry not, it also has an array of seafood dishes for all tastes. Seafood in Porec is fresh and prepared to perfection. It's probably the generations of seafood lovers who passed down the art and science of cooking well. Matched with stunning views of the sea, a summer breeze, great service, good wines and fantastic company, Sv. Nikola was a dream. We can't recommend it enough.
Restaurant Gourmet and Cardo is located near the town centre and it too is based on seafood gastronomy. There are fresh fish on display at the entrance so you can pick the catch of the day and have it done the way you like it. Alternatively, you can order from the a la carte menu, but don't forget to ask for their delicious Semifreddo. Same as with all great restaurants in Porec, there is an extensive wine menu available as well as speciality cocktails.
A day in Rovinj
Although we based ourselves in Porec, we wanted to visit two other locations in Istria. Thus we made our way to Rovinj and Motovun. Rovinj is less than an hour away from Porec, so getting there was a breeze. The roads are well marked, but since we wanted to drink during lunch, we asked again our private driver to take us there. Such a huge help!
We spent half a day exploring the old town of Rovinj and its famed market. The town itself is incredibly romantic. Think narrow lanes with clean cobblestone and colourful doors and windows. Small accommodations and cute independent shops are located on almost every street.
Although small and compact, the streets feel surprisingly airy and comfortable. At every turn, there is a small street leading down to the water which reveals stunning views of the sea. And what gorgeous hues of blue the Adriatic sea has? Incredible place!
We hiked (read: walked up to the hill) to the Church of St. Euphemia from where we could admire the gorgeous surroundings of Rovinj. It was then we decided to descent closer to the sea and fly our drone for some aerial vista of one of the most beautiful places we've seen in Croatia. Seriously, Croatia, how can you be so beautiful?
For lunch, we recommend making a reservation at the restaurant Puntulina. Located right by the sea, this restaurant is known to deliver delicious seafood cuisine. Try the seafood platter with a little bit of everything so you can truly experience the taste of the Adriatic. Order a local wine to go with it and relax in the sunshine, enjoying life by the sea. Suddenly, everything feels better and life becomes worry-free. That's the magic of Istria, it just makes you feel relaxed and happy.
After lunch, you can continue with your quest around Rovinj centre and maybe a bit of shopping at the local market or drive to Motovun in search of epic views and luxury truffles. Well, we went for truffles, who can say no to them?
Motovun is like a fortress town in the hills. You can walk around the city walls and marvel at surrounding scenery from above. There are cafes at the top too, where you can sit down and get energised from both caffeine and the stunning views.
For foodies and gourmet enthusiasts, check one of the many local shops which sell truffles. These truffles are locally procured and are much cheaper than when you buy them at a local supermarket. You can taste them and sample the many truffle-based products. We bought some truffle oil and a large jar of truffles. A word of warning though, ensure these are stored properly as they can go off really quickly.
So Motovun was also a success, which added to our love for Istria. We started to seriously consider if we should just move to Croatia instead, given the weather, the sea and the food. What's not to love?
Croatia to Italy
From the relaxed atmosphere in Croatia to the vibrant street of Italy: that was our plan all along. We wanted to take a ferry from Croatia to Italy and explore a city which has been on our bucket list for too long: Venice.
Getting from Croatia to Italy can be done via plane (from select few airports) or via car, but we believe the best way to arrive in Venice is indeed by boat, given Venice's maritime history. Also, remember you can do it the other way around and travel from Italy to Croatia as a day trip from Venice.
Your adventure doesn't have to stop in Venice. You can rent a car and explore the myriad Italian cities, then catch another ferry back to Croatia once you are ready. Venezia Lines ferries provide frequent services from Croatia to Italy. Visiting Italy can be very expensive and sometimes the city gets very crowded. Thus, being on the water and catching a glimpse of Venice for a day seemed the most appropriate arrangement for us.
There are a few things worth mentioning: Croatia to Italy means crossing a border. So ensure you have your passport with you and keep it safe at all times. When you arrive in Italy there will be border control as you are arriving from a non-Schengen area to a Schengen area.
Venezia Lines offers a few select premium tickets in their VIP lounge. These tickets are a little more expensive but come with the exclusive benefit of being able to go out on the deck about 30 minutes before docking in Venice and 30 minutes after departure from the port in Venice. This enables you to take incredible pictures and admire Venice from the ferry. The seats are also more comfortable, more private and you get a free beverage included in the price. All in all, well worth to upgrade.
Just as a quick reminder, you can book your Venezia Lines ferry ticket in advance and use the coupon code YCT20 to benefit from 25% off on an ALL the travels with Venezia Lines across 2020.
Porec to Venice
Our trip from Porec to Venice was everything we wanted and more. We expected to be quite tired after the trip, but it turns out we had the right amount of things to do and see without getting exhausted by the end. We took the ferry from Porec to Venice at 8 am with Venezia Lines on their high-speed catamaran. The check-in process was smooth and nice. We found our seats upstairs in the VIP area as we had return VIP tickets.
The business area had magazines available for reading but we also recommend getting a book with you for the journey. Surprisingly, time flew during our time on the ferry. As a quick tip, if you suffer from motion sickness, we do recommend getting a pill in advance. We were lucky with the weather as the sea was very calm but just in case, it's best to be prepared.
The staff on the ferry was incredible and attentive. They made fun jokes and generally looked after all passengers. Before reaching Venice, the staff told us the history of the city in a nutshell. It was very informative and fun. The presentation was made by someone who clearly loves the city and enjoys telling people about its quirks. This, in fact, was a highlight for us, as we really wanted to learn more about Venice before seeing the city itself.
Before arrival, on board, passengers can purchase tickets from Venezia Lines partners, which we strongly recommend that you do. The company spent time creating long-lasting partnerships with providers from Venice in order to offer travellers an array of well-priced services without the queues and the hassle.
We know that spending a day in Venice is short, but in order to make the most out of the day, Venezia Lines created a fun itinerary for all its passengers to enjoy.
For example, we started with a boat ride from the ferry port towards the main Piazza San Marco. We then explored on our own a bit, which gave us enough time to snap some pictures and fall in love with the city.
We had an Italian espresso and a panini (I love you, Italy!) and made our way to the famed Rialto bridge. We also bought some limoncello, some nougat and macaroons. Of course, given my fascinations for Venetian masks, I couldn't leave Venice without purchasing an original mask. Oh, it's just so beautiful, I'm so happy with it.
Ok, back to our trip from Porec to Venice. We also enjoyed a romantic gondola ride around the narrower canals - it was quiet and gave you a new perspective of the city. The trip was also organised by Venezia Lines which meant no long queues and just 4-6 people in one gondola. We expected the canals to be full and crazy, but the gondola ride was relaxing and serene. It really was spectacular. You know us, we wouldn't recommend it unless it was such a fab experience.
Lunchtime came, and all day trippers from the ferry headed to a specific Italian restaurant reserved by Venezia Lines for a quick and speedy meal. Well, again, these guys really exceeded our expectations. Our food was gorgeous: three types of Italian dishes on one plate, with unlimited wine and dessert, included. For 20EUR... in Venice. WOW! That's a steal and a deal.
After lunch, we had some free time before making our way back to the ferry port. We wanted to do one more activity organised by Venezia Lines (and as we later noticed, pretty much everyone else wanted it too) and that's to take a water taxi from St. Marco to our ferry port.
Why a water taxi? Because it takes the longer route via the Grand Canal where you can't go without a boat. We wanted to see the myriad palaces and sexy hotels there. I think we understand why James Bond took the cool seat at the back, to enjoy the experience of a lifetime. Well, we are no Bond (ok, maybe my husband is a little) but we loved every single moment of our trip.
The check-in for the ferry was a breeze and we got to enjoy a drink on the deck while waving goodbye to Venice. Does it seem like a rushed itinerary? Maybe, but in reality, we were incredibly relaxed at all times. We didn't feel like we needed to run. Everything was so well organised, we couldn't find any faults.
So if you consider going from Porec to Venice, do it! We can't express how fun this trip was. Have breakfast in the sexy Valamar hotel, then enjoy lunch in Venice before taking a water taxi, James Bond style, back to your ferry. And if you love Venice as much as we did, stay there for a night or two, before taking the ferry back to Croatia.
This was, without a doubt, one of our favourite trips this year. We loved our trip from Porec to Venice, we loved our time on the ferry from Croatia to Italy, we loved visiting Porec, Rovinj and Motovun.
The Valamar hotel was so exclusive, the food in both Croatia and Italy was as outstanding as always and the weather was brilliant. We loved the cultural side of both, Istria and Venice. It's hard not to fall in love with Venice, especially when you arrive in the city by boat. It deserves all its hype to be fair. Porec was such sweet town and Rovinj was this extraordinary quaint location.
We loved our trip with Venezia Lines and not only we recommend them but we strongly advise that you book your day trip from Porec to Venice with them. Worth every penny.
Venezia Line Discount code for our readers
Since we loved our trip from Porec to Venice so much, we decided to partner up with Venezia Lines to offer you a special discount. Simply select your tickets for the Venezia Lines ferry from Croatia to Italy and apply the coupon code "YCT20". You'll get a 25% discount on an all the travels with Venezia Lines across 2020.
I hope you will enjoy your trip just as much as we did. Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
This post was sponsored by Venezia Lines. Thank you for partnering with us, Venezia Lines. Our experience was outstanding and from what we heard from other passengers, they were head over heels too. You managed to transform what could have been a dull crossing journey from Porec to Venice, into an exclusive all-day experience in Venice. We were so excited to write our honest review about you and your services. As you can tell, we LOVED every second of our time on board and with your staff.