Motovun - a taste to remember
Disclamier: Most of the experiences below were work trade arrangements. But there were no directions from any parties involved in my writings or opinions
Motovun is one of those places that you come across in your travels unassumingly, and after a brief encounter, fall head over heels in love with!
We knew little about this place until a week before our actual visit. Based on what we gathered from the internet, it was a cute little town perched on top of a hill, offers truffle hunting and wine tasting for activities and hosts film, and truffle/wine festivals once a year.
What we didn't know about was the town's medieval history, its venetian influences, its mythical giant stories (Veli Jože) and its role in sea trade (tip: on a clear morning, you could see Venice from the top of the tower)
The tale Veli Jože (Big Joseph) features a helpful and kind hearted giant named Jože, living in the area around the town of Motovun (Inner Istria). It is a tale written by the Croation poet and writer Vladimir Nazor.
Now, let me take you through our itinerary while we were there. We did a good amount but we definitely want to go back to do more!!
We arrived in the night to Casa Rossa, where its highly knowledgable and wonderful inn keeper Mate (yes, his actual name is Mate, as in friend ;)) welcomed us with helpful tips and fun ideas for the next couple of days.
We went Truffle hunting & on a wine tour!!
For those of you that don't know, Truffles are a kind of rare mushrooms that grow underground. There's black and white truffles, white is rarer. They are found using dogs.
Back in the days pigs helped in truffle hunting, but they were too big, too slow to dig with their noses and more importantly too reluctant to give up truffles when found; so they were replaced with dogs. Dogs are happy to make a deal with his master to trade truffles for some nice bread; Dog gets bread, man gets truffles and pigs stay home, everybody wins!
Because of their rarity, truffles cost a chunk more than normal mushrooms. But you could still find good quality fresh products here that are cheaper than you would in most parts of the world. Local restaurants serve truffle infused dishes that are decently priced. We visited Miro Tartufi for truffle hunting. It's run by a couple, Miro and Mirjana, they really make you feel home. After a few minutes of pleasantries, we jumped in a car, so did the dogs and we were off to hunt some truffles.
We spent about 2-3 hours when Miro shared his stories truffle hunting from early days, while his dogs hunted some truffles for us. They found about 3-4 black truffles that were about the size of an egg, each.
We then went back to their house where Mirjana had already prepared a delicious spread, complete with cheese, prosciutto and truffle paste. She also prepared scrambled eggs with truffles (using the ones we found that day). It was our first time tasting truffles and the earthy sweet smell and taste just caught us both by surprise on how much we loved it! With a glass of white wine, this is probably the best way to spend an afternoon in Istria Country.
After the meal, we set out to visit Fakin Winery, a young local wine producer that has already won many awards for their distinctive wines around the world. All their wines are home grown and home produced fresh off their vineyards.
They have a selection of white and red wines and also a rose which was perfect for the weather. The wine tasting tour involved learning about the history of wineries in the region and also personal stories on how they created their different wines.
While they all tasted pretty good, my personal favourite was their Muškat žuti (a sweet white wine), and my wife loved their Michele (named after their son) as well as their more affordable Teran B&M (short for Bety & Marko, the couple who designed this wine). (Tip: I'm not a wine drinker, so I'd probably go with my wife's recommendation if I were you).
We also got a tour of the production facilities and tasted some wines in their early stages which was one of a kind experience!!
After the winery, we headed to Konoba Fakin Restaurant up in the hill, in the old town. The restaurant sits just inside the town's gate on one of the two main streets and has a picturesque view of wineries and Motovun forest below the hill. Other hill top towns and villages are also visible from here. Food here was not the cheapest, but tasted pretty good. (tip: If you're on a budget we recommend visiting Alto Pizzeria, a few kilometres away from the town, fabulous food, ridiculous portions and priced really well)
After spending the whole day eating and drinking, a good sunset was in order and what a sunset it was!
It was the day of IX Teran (wine) and Truffle festival in the town of Motovun. It's a big deal here in Croatia (President of Croatia paid visit and spent quite a few hours at the festival).
We were scheduled to meet our own tour guide, Dean Prodan. We met him at about 11am and then took a shuttle bus up the hill. Dean gave a great overview of the town's Medieval, Roman, Austro-hungarian and Yugoslavian history.
We learnt about the very first Train line in Croatia in the early 1900s that ran about 123 Kms in total; the tracks are still there and now people could bike through some 25 Kms of it with wonderful views.
We learnt that most of the oak trees in Motovun, in Venetian rule, were used to build Venice. It is said that 80% of Venice was built on wood from Motovun!
We learnt about other activities such as Para-gliding, Off road biking, biking, roman thermal spas in nearby villages, cookery classes etc., There's also a festival for the gentle giant, Veli Jože in summer and it's a draw to families with kids from towns around and rest of the world. So there's something to do for everyone in any budget.
I was drawn towards Para gliding and biking but unfortunately this was our last day in Motovun so they have to wait for our next visit. We then spent an hour visiting the festival, listening to local music and tasting produces from around the area (wine, pasta, prosciutto, fruit and of course truffles!).
Hotel Kaštel which is a home run hotel at the top of the hill (the only red building up top) which used to be the private palace/villa for the richest inhabitants back in the days. They have an in house working museum that houses samples of local food, tradition and culture. (Tip: an art installation of gentle giant inside the hotel's courtyard was our personal favourite)
After some more festivities, food, music and good times we went to Alto Pizzeria (our second visit in the short three days we were there) and tried their home made pasta with truffles and asparagus. YUM!
A taste to remember!
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me in the comments.