For as long as I can remember, we have been vacationing in coastal towns of Croatian Istria. I guess that's mainly because Istria is a really close to Slovenia. Now this peninsula is a part of Croatia, but when I was still a boy, Slovenia and Croatia were both parts of Yugoslavia.
I drove through the Istrian peninsula many times but I can't say I have spent much time exploring the central part of it. Lately it is marketed as “the new Tuscany” and I must say there definitely is a resemblance. Unfortunately until recently I was always speeding past those charming old hill towns, just to get to a seaside destination of choice as quickly as possible.
A couple of weeks ago I had a different plan. Together with M. we decided to taste the land of truffles. It was a two day trip and we are not sorry we did it. We saw some great stuff and enjoyed delicious local food.
We started with a visit of Motovun - a town where once a year a film festival takes place. The town sits on a highest hill in the neighbourhood and is surrounded with lots of smaller hills. I guess that is the strategic advantage its founders many centuries ago were looking for.
That's also the reason we spotted it from far away. We parked our car on the slope of the hill and walked into town (only residents are allowed to drive into town). Charming, narrow streets are literally impregnated with the smell of truffles.
If you don't know that specific (almost unique) truffle smell, it is really hard to explain it. The closest description I have heard so far is: "a combination of musk, nuts, and ozone". If you think you have a better description, please share it with me.
We took a chance to compare black truffles to famous white ones. Almost every shop offers free samples of truffle paste and wine. I couldn't say the two kinds of truffle paste tasted all that different. However I am not an expert on this, so I might have overlooked an important detail or two. For the truffle ignorant people out there, let me just point to the financial side of this delicacy.
A kilogram of black truffles costs a couple of hundred Euros (usually around 400 EUR), which is nothing compared to it's white relative. Since it is considered to be superior in smell and taste to the black truffle, a kilogram of white truffles can cost a couple of thousands of Euros (usually around 2.000 EUR).
The financial part aside, dishes seasoned with truffles are definitely not one of those things everyone would like the first time. Well... we found out M. was one of those people. Let's just say she didn't like the smell of Motovun. At all.
That was one of the reasons we decided to move on without enjoying a proper meal. We headed for the town of Groznjan (or Grožnjan) and after that we also visited supposedly the smallest town on the planet - Hum (more about that in the next post). The nearby town of Livade was left for our next visit.
Before we left it, we also stopped at the town cemetery, which offers a great view of the town.
If you have a chance to visit these parts, this time of year might be the best time to do it. There are many things going on at the moment in central Istria. For more information check out this official list of truffle events.