The very charming Motovun (Montona in Italian) in the countryside of Istria is one of the prettiest hilltop towns in the region. Located about 25km inland from Porec, this small town (its population is just over 900 people) is situated at a height of 277m above sea level. The walled Motovun is one of the most interesting inland towns to visit in Istria. It is a great place to sample local cuisine and wine and is also famous for its annual film festival.
Motovun (then part of Italy) is the birthplace of the celebrated Italian-American racing car driver Mario Andretti, who won the F1 Drivers’ Championship in 1978.
Getting to Motovun
Buses to Motovun are a bit few and far between – if you’re in Porec or Rovinj, ask locally for timetables. If you’re travelling from further afield in Istria (or even from these towns as well), consider travelling via the inland town of Pazin. A bus from Pazin to Motovun takes just under 30 minutes.
Realistically, it would be best to visit Motovun with your own car. It’s an easy drive from many places in Istria; a car also gives you plenty of scope for exploring the local area.
Things to see and do in and around Motovun
Walk up the hill in Motovun to reach the top, more historic area is an excellent way of exploring and getting a feel for this lovely town.
The main square contains the Church of St Stephen which was constructed in the 17th century to a design by Venetian architect Andrea Palladio (with additions in the 18th century). Next to the church is the belltower from the 13th century (originally a lookout post) which stands at 27m tall.
Town Walls and Gates
The earliest parts of these walls stem from the 11th and 12th centuries, with later additions in the 15th and 16th centuries, including the town gates. There are magnificent views to the surrounding countryside as well as inwards to some hidden gems of Motovun itself.
Parenzana (also referred to as Istrijanka) is a defunct railway that used to run from Trieste in Italy to Porec on the Istrian coast in the early 20th century. (It was closed in 1935). Its tracks have long since been removed; sections of it (including those in Italy and Slovenia) are now popular with mountain bikers, cyclists and hikers. In this region, the hike along the Parenzana trail to the village of Vizinada is popular, a route of about 12km.
If you’re after even more impressive views of the town, consider a tandem paragliding flight high up in the air! Contact Paragliding Istria for more details.
Eating and Drinking in Motovun
Pod Voltom offers the chance to sample some truffle specialities and meat dishes – all with a view – in the heart of the town.
Konoba Mondo has had high praise from around the world – acclaimed chef and writer Anthony Bourdain was a fan. Come to here to try traditional Istrian cuisine, including pasta and meat dishes.
Zigante (in nearby Livade) is another top, top choice if you’re after sampling more truffles. Zigante was the first restaurant to specialise in truffle dishes; there are numerous pasta, meat and fish dishes with black or white truffles. Not forgetting truffle ice cream for dessert, of course.
B5 Wine Bar is the place for a glass of something cold or a coffee to perk you up.
Accommodation in Motovun
There are two hotels in town. The funky, four star Hotel Roxanich towards the base of Motovun has an outdoor pool, restaurant and spa and wellness centre. The three star Boutique Hotel Kastel is at the top of the town and offers an indoor pool and spa.
There are also a good number of private apartments and villas for rent in the area. See Accommodation in Motovun.
Events in Motovun
As mentioned, one of the best known events is the annual Motovun Film Festival which showcases independent films. Held every July, the open-air night-time screenings offer up a wonderful atmosphere.
The legend of Veli Joze is celebrated with a festival every September. As the story goes (written by prominent Croatia writer Vladimir Nazor in the early 20th century), Veli Joze was a gentle giant who lived in this area and who represented the Croatian people of Istria and their struggle for equality. The festival celebrates him as well as other fantasy tales, and there’s general entertainment and merriment for all ages.
The Teran Wine and Truffle Festival is normally held in mid-October. The festival celebrates that Istrian speciality – truffle – as well as offering tastings of the local Teran wine.
Montona Tours is a local agency that offers tours and can help with vehicle hire (bikes, cars), local tours and truffle hunts.