Poreč is one of the most Northerly towns on the Istrian peninsula and this is where we kicked off our road-trip along the long narrow strip that makes up the coast of Croatia. The town is almost 2000 years old and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, so it's a beautiful stroll along cobble stone pathways and ancient buildings. Not much as far as food personality or atmosphere, so we didn't mind that our time there was relatively short ;)
We bought wine in plastic bottles from this wine vendor next to the road
- not half bad, and quite the alternative to a water stop!
It may sound cliche, but the water really is crystal clear.
Winding alleys and cobble streets in Poreč town.
After an un-inspired search for a non-touristy restaurant, we settled on buying fresh ingredientsand cooking for ourselves.
We continued our road-trip from Venice up north to Trieste.
The view from our room in Trieste. The “Arco di Riccardo” is an Augustan gate built as part of the Roman walls in 33 A.D.
The Triestian historic sites. Its artistic and cultural heritage is linked to its “border town” location. You can find some old Roman architecture, Austrian empire architecture across the city centre and Mediterranean styles.
How is this for an italian picnic; mozzarella balls, artichokes, tomatoes and of course, in Trieste, with the central european influence, ham. No picnic is complete without some Vino.
Another Spritz stop ;)
Meandering around old-town Trieste.
Trieste is situated on the crossroads of several commercial and cultural flows: German middle Europe to the north, Slavic masses and the Balkans to the east, Italy and then Latin countries to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. So, it is natural to have sausage with sauerkraut and melanzane with polenta at a typical Triestine restaruarant.
Venice is a visual treat! It's over-the-top, colourful, textured and winding. I took a million photos and still can't decide which are my favourites. Here are a few to summarise our experience in one of the world's oldest theme parks:
Venician masks - imagine going to a ball in one of those!
Gondolas navigating the waterways.
Winding alleys filled with water.
Piazza San Marco.
Amazingly delicious Nutella ice cream
Glass blower demonstrations on the tiny island of Murano.
'Street Food' on the banks of the river.
I got up really early to visit the fish market - what an experience! I could have spent the whole day there, and then the whole night cooking with the amazing produce they sell there.
One of the many fresh fish stalls.
The building that houses some of the fish market has gargoyles that look like fish!
Our first dinner in Mestre was an amazing seafood feast at Restaurant da Bepi. We weren't sure what to order, so our (very) friendly host took the liberty of ordering enough food to feed an army! We started with mussels and clams in a tomato sauce served with pasta (this would have been enough to satisfy the both of us for the evening!). That was followed by a grilled seafood platter, and that was followed by a fried seafood platter, both served with polenta. Needless to say we couldn't finish everything, but were then treated to free tiramisu and prosecco - we waddled back to our hotel. Great atmosphere, friendly hosts and delicious food.
Mussels and clams served with spaghetti.
Our second supper was had at an unassuming restaurant off the main piazza called Osteria Cuccagna. The restaurant sources all its ingredients within a 100km radius and put creative twists on classic dishes. Fresh, high quality ingredients and the perfect flavour combinations made for one of the most memorable meals we have ever had.
Carpaccio with smoked ricotta and black truffle butter.
Piemontese - steak tartare (Raw Italian beef with tiny cubed vegetables)
As we were sitting in Piazza Ferretto in Mestre I noticed that every second person was sipping on a brightly coloured orange drink. In (very) broken Italian I pointed to it and asked the waiter what it was. 'Spitz' he said, and I ordered one. It was the beginning of a sun-set coloured love affair.
Update: Since being back in South Africa the Spritz (not Spitz as we initially thought) has become a regular favourite in not only our, but our familie's homes.
Here is the traditional recipe:
A few ice cubes
3 parts prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 part soda
Plain salted crisps for serving
Add the ice cubes to a glass (we like using large wine glasses).
Pour over prosecco, then Aperol then soda water.
Add 1 (or more) green olives and top with a slice of ornage.
As we continued our road trip out of Slovenia and into Italy we figured we'd drive through the Italian countryside... Much of it was rather flat and boring, but we did happen upon a little town called Palmanova.
It is called a 'Star Fort' because of its shape - a concentric fortress surrounded by imposing stone walls in the shape of a nine-pointed star. The first construction started as early as 1593!
We stopped over in Treviso for lunch, but most of the shops and restaurants were closed, so we settled for 'Bar Snacks' at a hole-in-the-wall pub. Delish! Definitely the most glamorous bar-snacks we've ever had ;)
Because we were travelling by car, we couldn't stay in Venice, but rather opted for Mestre, the city just outside Venice where it seemed like all the local Venecians actually lived. What a fantastic place!
Piazza Ferretto is a typically Italian Piazza, with a modern water feature at the center and lots of different cafe’s with outside seating. This is where I had my first Spritz, a local favorite. It is a bitter orange liquor (Aperol) topped of with sparkling wine (Prosecco). Another obsession began...
Situated in the gaping mouth of a cavern halfway up a 123m cliff just 9km northwest of Postojna, Predjama Castle has one of the most dramatic settings. Walking through the medieval castle, it is almost impossible to forget that you’re also in a cave. The walls are built right up against the cave, which offer great defense but also mean living here must have been cold, damp, moldy, and seriously drafty.
The drive up to the castle was dramatic and winding through dense forests.
What a site! The entire castle is built into the mountain over a cave.
They use to joust on the lawns in front of the castle.
Creepy white walls adorned with hunting trophy's,
complete with a torture chamber.
The view from the top of the building through the cave opening.
This may have been the moment our obsession with Espresso started..
We loved the bustle and atmosphere in Ljubljana. Restaurants and walkways frame a river that runs through the heart of the city, and it seems that one and all are out and about sipping on beers, snacking on salty crisps or licking (albeit a bit early in the season) delectable ice creams.
A quick meal at dvor in Ljubljana. Dvor is little restaurant on the banks of the river looking up to the castle. Modern-day Slovenia incorporates the influences of cultures and civilisations from the Alpine, Mediterranean and Pannonian regions. The italian influence is clear in its cuisine.