Certain things are better together. Wine and dark chocolate. Rosé at Sunset. And road trips with girlfriends. When my best friend decided to come visit me, all of these were in order. With two days free, we headed towards Italy’s eastern neighbor, Croatia, for one epic road trip.
With months of catching up to do, our road trip began in Treviso, Italy. A couple hours of driving later, Trieste seemed like the SPOT for dinner. TBH when we had arrived much was closed for the holidays. Although a bit disappointed, we managed to find an open restaurant and, at least, did not leave hungry. A seaside town with Medieval and neoclassical influences, Trieste has influences from both Italy and Slovenia. With full stomachs, we were off to Zagred, Croatia. The airbnb I had choosen for our stay was located in the main square of Zagreb. Our hosts were awesome. They stayed up for our late arrival, mapped out all the best spots, and kept the kitchen stocked for some late night munchies. Major key.
Tips: If you are driving from Italy to Croatia, you will pass through Slovenia. This requires you to buy a “vignette,” which is basically a sticker you put in your front windshield. You MUST pick these up before crossing the boarder, and you can easily grab one at any gas station close buy. There will also be signs directing you where to buy one before you cross. If you get pulled over without one you will pay a huge fine (sorry for not warning you dad!).
We left early the next day (if 9am can be considered early) and it was time to “hit the town.” We wandered to the Cathedral, stopping to admire the painted eggs that covered the town for Easter, a Zagreb tradition. Mary and I made our way to the middle of the famous marketplace in the Jelacic Square. From aged, salted, thick cuts of meat to crisp fruits and garden-fresh vegetables, vendors lined every corner. The streets were crammed with people looking to prep for their Easter feasts… and I shamelessly was trying to get an invite.
The morning was rainy and chilly; pretty typical this time of the year, but no way was that going to stop us! Plus, we sampled some Croatian liquor so we managed to find a way to keep warm.
If you make your way across the cobblestone street, you can pay a few euros to head up the Zagreb Eye. With 360 degree views and a cafe/bar with fresh cocktails, the Eye is a photographer’s dream (plus I’m a huge sucker for panoramic views). The cathedral juts out through the red-topped roofs and the thousands of streets/alleyways that wind through the town. On our walk back to the car, I spotted a small, colorful store that seemed super inviting. We took a peak inside and discovered the cutest health food restaurant, Zrno Bio Bistro. Natural food stores are my favorite; so, I couldn’t help but be so freaking excited to test it out. Plenty of vegan/vegeterian options and almond milk lattes!! Also the chef and owner were so kind. Definitely check it out if you have time.
Alright enough with the food, you get it I’m sure…If you’re like me and end up from time-to-time knee deep on the Instagram explore page checking out anything from your next recipe to tea detox’s (whatever we’ve all done it)…you might have scrolled past some pretty cool bucket list places. One of those Instagram inspirations is Plitvice National Park in Croatia.
From Zagreb, it supposedly takes two hours to get here. DO NOT FOLLOW APPLE MAPS ONCE YOU GET NEAR. 1,000,000,000 wrong turns and we found ourselves on the back side of the park, stuck in the mud, with only a few hours of sunlight remaining. Using my basic survival skills (cough, cough pretty much none) I helped push the car back onto the road. I know what you’re thinking… I must be pretty strong…Nope! I drive a smart car half my size. Long story short, we were back on the road, found a couple of signs and finally arrived at our destination.
YOU GUYS! Waterfalls upon waterfalls upon waterfalls. Weave through turquoise blue waters flowing from one platform to the next, so close you can feel the mist as you pass each fall. We skipped from one scenic overview to the next on the tiny makeshift, wooden bridge. It was as if we were in a natural waterpark and I had the biggest urge to jump in (definitely have to come back in the summertime!).
While I didn’t jump in, I did have to bring a change of clothes. The hike can get you pretty damp and muddy. Tired and hungry from the days expeditions, we spent dinner in Rijeka on our way to Pula. The only way to do dinner right in Rijeka is to pull over at one of the numerous cliffside restaurants. Sunset views and hand selected fish from the tank outside of the restaurant, Konoba Ribica. Not a bad way to spend the evening. Wherever you go in Croatia, give the roasted potatoes a try. From my experience, they just do it right here. And it’s warm, crispy, olive oily, done right potatoes. ALL THE NOMS.
Missing holidays in the states and being away from family never really gets easy. I can’t tell you how many times I have major FOMO seeing snaps of everyone with their loved ones. Thank goodness for my best friend and this beautiful city. Although, we spent Easter in a church just outside the Colosseum. While we definitely stood out (being 6 foot that’s pretty easy to do), the small, family filled church made us feel like locals and at home.
After church, we walked the coastline and explored the Arena. The amphitheater is one of the sixth largest remaining Roman arenas in the World. Now, the Arena is used to host concerts, hockey games and cinematic performances. We cruised through the town square and did some people watching…cappuccinos in hand. You can walk along the port and watch as planes land in the water runway, (which by the way you can take if you are heading to an island).
Rovinj, Porec and Umag completed our lists of cities to check off while we headed home. Each one providing it’s own unique characteristics. Factor in time to try some of the local fresh fruit and nut stands along the road.
Umag capped off our trip with bike riding and gelato eating. With warm weather and a scenic oceanview drive back to Italy, the Croatian coast made for two happy girls.
Here’s a list of a few more places to check out if you have time!
Korcula for seafood
Purger, Vinodol, Making Klet, Stari Fijaker: for traditional cuisine
Croatian National Theater
Dolac daily fresh market
Ferala bar and restaurant in Porec: offers a mix of mussels and fresh caught fish
SUMMER TIME CROATIA TIPS:
Croatia is hands down a beautiful country with beautiful people. But if you really want to see all that it has to offer, I recommend checking it out in the summer months! Full disclosure, I haven’t had the opportunity and I’m totally jealous. Brian had a couple days off while he was playing in Modena, Italy and took a boys trip over to Pula.
In typical guy-like fashion, they arrived with no plans and an airbnb booked just a few hours prior. Because he tends to be lucky wherever he goes, he just happened to be there on Pula’s birthday. Street parties, live music, drinks and epic food the details were almost too hard to listen to.
Here are some of his recommendations:
Alla Beccaccia Restaurant (Restoran konoba Alla Beccaccia)
- for cliff jumping!
- order the steak
Brijuni National Park
- northern islands outside of Pula
- you can hop on a fishermen’s boat or take a tour