Pula is the largest city in Istria. Wine, fishing, tourism, shipbuilding, and the Roman arena are the features of the city as we know it, but there is much more to Pula.
Pula is a thrill. It is a place of good energy that immerse you into its vibrant culture of walking through the lively streets to have a taste of Italian, Central European, Austrian, and Slavic cuisine in addition to sipping the unmatched Istrian wine. In the city centre, you’ll be able to a walk through a surprise concert or take part in a unique event like simulated gladiator fights.
Pula’s most notable era in history had started in the 2nd century B.C. with the arrival of Romans. By this period Romans had conquered most of the Istrian peninsula laying down a series of construction projects such as amphitheatres, public institutions, communal buildings, and entire city settlements. Pula’s amphitheatre, undergoing most of its development during the 1st century, eventually became one of the best preserved and the sixth largest amphitheatre in the world. Once a stadium seating 20.000 fans of murderous gladiator games, the Arena nowadays hosts the famous Pula Film Festival and various concerts by the contemporary music artists such as Elton John, Sting, Tom Jones and many others.
The Venetian Republic, the Habsburg Monarchy and Austro-Hungarian Empire all had ruled Pula at certain points from the 14th until the early 19th century. The city had gone through a difficult phase in the late Baroque period, marked by the black plague, malaria, typhus, and smallpox epidemics. However, in the second half of the 19th century it had flourished again. After the collapse of the Venetian Republic in the early 18th century, the entire Istria, including Pula, became parts of the Austrian Littoral, a newly established crown land encompassing Istria, Gorizia, Gradisca and Trieste regions. Parallel to the formation of the Arsenal in 1856, the main base of the Austrian Navy, Pula has witnessed the beginnings of its modern development. Pula Harbour soon became the main and most fortified Austrian war port, as well as the center of shipbuilding. From a city of faded ancient splendor, Pula was soon transformed into a developed industrial city. After the construction of the railway that connected Pula with Vienna in 1876, the city and the Brijuni Islands became frequent hosts to the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph and his royal family.
Pula’s gastronomy reflects Istrian history and tradition, embodied in the local roots and undergoing the centuries’ old influences of italian, austrian and hungarian cuisine. Fish specialties such as anglerfish, sea bass or local shrimp prepared in tomato sauce locally called „buzara“ is just a small fraction of the rich culinary tradition. Desserts made of Frittata, traditional omelettes with wild asparagus, Maneštra, the traditional potato and bean soup and the famous Istrian prosciutto are simply irresitable. The influence of Italian cuisine is visible through a whole range of delicious pastas such as Fuži, Gnocchi, Ravioli, Macaroni and Pljukanci.
In recent years, Istria has established itself as the regional leader in the production of quality Croatian wines such as Malvasia and Teran. Today, in Pula’s wine shops you can taste Borgonja, Hrvatica, but also the high-quality and globally renown varieties such as Chardonnay, Gray and White Pinot, Merlot, Cabernet and Sauvignon.
Pula annually hosts Outlook and Dimensions, the two largest and award-winning electronic music festivals held in the ruins of the magnificent Austro-Hungarian fortress of Punta Cristo. Thanks to their unique location, intimate atmosphere and refined musical taste, the festivals have earned the title as the world’s most prominent events celebrating the sound system culture.
There is a whole range of other cultural and entertainment events such as Spectacvla Antiqva, a simulation of gladiator tournaments in the Pula Arena designed to evoke the spirit and mentality of ancient times, as well as the art exhibitions, classical music concerts and theatre performances. A visit to the Archaeological Museum of Istria is the ideal venue for getting an exploratory overview of local history where many collections of artifacts from the prehistoric, ancient and medieval period are being displayed.
Pula had started out more than 3.000 years ago as the fortress Histria, a first hillfort settlement on the hill Kaštel Dom
Colonia Pietas Iulia Pola was the first official ancient name of the city
Pula Arena was built from the local limestone
In 1900, the first car drove through the streets of Pula
During the period of the Venetian Republic, Pula was the most important transit port on the route from Venice towards the eastern Mediterranean.
Pula’s ancient monuments only became popular during the Renaissance period: many artists and builders then stayed in Pula to draw and portray Roman buildings such as the Arena, the Arch of Sergius and the Temple of Augustus, eventually establishing them as one of the models of Renaissance and Classicist architecture
During the Middle Ages, Pula Arena almost experienced a complete collapse due to the locals who were dismantling it for the purpose of building their own homes; such practice was typical of many ancient buildings throughout Europe at the time