A bit weary in the head after moving my body until 6 AM, the morning sun already casts light upon the historic facades of Rovinj. I finally head “home”. It is my second year at the gigantic dance festival that engulfs this Croatian town into Sea, Sun & Salsa for nine days in a row.

Located on the western edge of the Istria peninsula, Rovinj town was once an island. But when they ruled here the Veneti filled up the water separating the settlement from the mainland. The island feeling and the Italian language have stayed over time and contribute to the special atmosphere even today.

I am actually wondering about the ambiance of Rovinj after some relaxing on the small stretch of sand of Paradise beach. True, keeping both the Croatian and Italian languages gives Rovinj some extra flavour, which resonates into great food and fantastic local wines. But I am not so sure how this gigantic new Grand Park Hotel with rooms for at least 250 euros a night fits into my utopian picture of Rovinj. Then again, the waters in front of the new beast are majestically turquoise in colour and swimming in them makes me feel heavenly.

So, how beautiful is Rovinj actually? During the Croatian Summer Salsa Festival (www.crosalsafestival.com) people dance practically anywhere all the time: on dusty openings in the bushes, on parking lots, in swimming pools, on sidewalks, on boats and on top of old bunkers. Being a dancer myself it gives a terrific thrill, but all those gorgeous women in bikinis and handsome bare-chested men moving on the rhythm of the night, blurs the vision of what Rovinj actually has to offer. What happens when the music stops?

To look for the true Rovinj I stroll into the smaller streets of the old town, where cars are banned and only the occasional local on a scooter or crazy tourist on a rental bike messes up the pedestrians-only principle. Some streets are not even made for them, I realise catching my breath navigating the steps leading to the Crkva svete Eufemije, or Church of St. Euphemia. The sundown from the rocks right in front of this house of God is magical and the views from the top of the bell tower are magnificent.

Down on street level some of the local shops provide impressive handcrafted jewelry, handmade Italian designed shoes and inspiring art work. Ignore the corny name, but the Mediterraneo Cocktail Bar is just a little paradise on the water front. The best place to relax and get a Summer Kiss, which is a tasty alcohol-free cocktail that freshens up your hot day and comes with the waiter’s wink of the eye, if you’re lucky.

Rovinj is no place to have an empty stomach. Get a quick bite in Giosue Carduccia street, at either the Pekara Panificio or Pekara Dan i Noc. The latter has some of the best boreks of the Adriatic coast. Wander south onto the boulevard that goes around the marina and let yourself be seriously impressed by the fun staff and amazing tuna steak of Snack Bar Rio – again, don’t let the low-level name of this classy place deceive you. Further south Maestral offers great views of the old town and a tasty basic Italian pasta.

All this eating has made me hungry. Not for food, but for more. Because when the sun has gracefully disappeared behind the Rovinj Old Town I don’t want to head home. I want to indulge myself in more sea, more sun and more salsa. I want to dance until the morning light or just take it easy when the music stops. I want to stay, because Rovinj is ravishing. |