Vizinada

Vizinada is a place in the region of inner Istria.

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History of Vizinada

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Vizinada
Real Istria
by
Barry Napier

Vizinada is one of those locations rarely found in an age of instant tourism. This lovely village is 17 miles northeast of Poreč (the ‘c’ is pronounced like the ‘s’ in ‘measure’). Set on the side of a hill, visitors could easily miss the real heart of this once important place.
The main road running north-south from Trieste, through Buje to Pula, deceives the casual eye. As you start to go downhill (from the Buje side) to the edge of the village, there is a villa on the left with green shutters. (1) The road continues around the bend opposite, past several uninhabited buildings, (2) to what appears to be the village square, maybe no more than 150-200 years old. A few shops are found here. (3) Not much to see, so drive on, out again towards Poreč. That is a mistake!
Retrace your steps to that villa (where I stayed with my family). Now, instead of carrying on along the main road toward what you thought was the main square, see that very narrow winding lane leading downwards, immediately on your left? That is the genuine ‘old’ road to a delightful trip into the past. (4)
From the villa, the view over the Mirna valley is nothing less than stunning. (5) Overused in many travel articles, the word is inadequate for this place. Every day the view changes. Sometimes it can change more frequently, because of mists rolling in from the sea. Between the hill Vizinada stands on and the mountains in the background, is the ancient hill-top village of Motovun. Yes, ‘stunning’ is the right word! (6)
When the mists swirl around the base of the hills the scene is magical; Motovun seems to rise up like a fairytale castle. (7) That’s why, every morning, I got up before 6 am, transfixed by the constantly moving picture.
At 6.30 am the bells ring from the Baroque cistern tower in the village, visible from the right of our villa. It rises like a New York tower block above the village itself, as does the huge 19th century church next to it, built on top of a 11th century church foundation. This ties in with the papal grant of a privilege to the bishop of Poreč in 1177.
Between our villa and the church stands a large white-painted house, owned by Count Otto Graf von Bismarck. (8) The ancient narrow road passes it on one side. Opposite the house the Count keeps his luxury 4.2 litre Audi Quattro under a rickety rush-roof carport. He can do it because the people are honest. Walk down that same narrow road and you’ll enter a scene that hasn’t changed much in 500 years.
The village is natural, not carefully repainted to look new or superficially attractive. Its attraction is in its lost-in-time character. Change that and the village will be pretty, but not genuine. As it is now, a visitor feels like no-one else has been there for centuries.
When I strolled into the old square, the only odd building was the newish school, typically communistic in design, even if it wasn’t built by communism. (9) It just doesn’t fit! But even this incongruity does not stop me enjoying my wonderful experience.
To the left is the massive church tower next to the impressive church. (10) It isn’t the only church – it is one of three – but the others are very small. The paint is peeling off, but it doesn’t matter, because history was talking to me from every building. Maybe only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun – it was hot and very sunny, and that added to the enjoyment.
Carrying on past the church I come to a lane that seems to fade off into the grassy slopes. Then, an ancient roof above an open-air space supported by old columns. Was this used for market days at one time? (11)
Down the narrow road and another church is on the left, but shut. It is also very old, very small, probably medieval, and has been patched up many times. Its windows are typically Istrian – high-up and the shape of halved lemon slices. (12)
As my companions and I look at the rustic, solid door, an old lady living opposite beckoned to us. We walked to her door as she went into her house. Out she came again, smiling, with an iron key, and pointed to the church door, speaking briefly in her own tongue. We thanked her in ours, and unlocked the building.
With a trust not seen in the UK, she wanted us to go in and enjoy the church! This kind of trusting nature is everywhere in Istria, and it is very touching to those of us made cynical by those countrymen of our own who are out to do us harm.
As we opened the large door, we were unprepared for what we saw. The church was almost empty. But, around the flaking walls, were the most amazing medieval frescoes illustrating scenes from the New Testament. (13) Then, leaning loosely against the walls were paintings from about the same period. (14) If they were in the National Gallery they would be locked in a vault! We just could not believe we had been handed the keys to these wonderful treasures in such a trusting and genuine way.
We locked up again and handed the key back. The old lady smiled; she was visibly pleased we had enjoyed what we saw, and waved as we carried on down the road. Either side were old buildings and on the right we found what now looked out of place in this gentle place – a zealot had scraped ‘ww’ on the wall of a house, with the name ‘Tito’ largely portrayed underneath, reminding us of a far less gentle time not so long ago. (15)
On down the hill and we came to a dead-end with a farmhouse. There were two very small holiday homes there, and one under construction, but like all other Istrian developments they were made of recycled old materials. So, they fitted their environment well.
We walked back up again, passing a derelict building without a roof or floors. I could see thickish tree branches sticking out of each window. Curious, I took a closer look and could see that the branches were long enough to traverse the whole depth of the building, front to back. The branch-ends poked out from opposite windows. Shorter branches were tied to the ends, and I could then see it was an ingenious way of tying the house together, to stop the walls falling down!
Back to the square, and the space seems too big for the size of the buildings…maybe something had been demolished in the distant past. To our left is a raised plinth of stone. On it are two ornate wells. (16) Behind this is a house cobbled together with so many stones, it is impossible to assess the real age. It looks like a combination of medieval and 18th century styles and leans this way and that.
In the middle of the facing wall surrounded by a cluster of varied stones is the figure of a lion, (17) seen everywhere in Istria, evidence of previous Venetian rule. Below it are tablets of stone set into the wall, containing a legend from the 1700’s concerning a former Italian governor.
Carry on again to the left and the road starts to wind back up again, past more historical buildings, ancient alleyways and arches, (18) and, finally, on the left, a very large home standing impressively against the brilliant blue sky. Does it belong to the Scottish countess who owns a renovated Vizinada palace? The road came out in the newer part of the village, by the shops.
This tranquil place made its mark on my senses. I loved it. Remember to turn left on the edge of the village and don’t just drive through. Go down that very narrow old road and take in the ancient atmosphere. Then go to the newer part and have a cool drink.
You will find scant reference to Vizinada in the guide-books, so make a point of discovering it for yourself. It is well worth it. And there are many more similar hidden places, not found in the usual sources…just keep your eyes open and enjoy the real Istria!
Go at the right time and enjoy the traditional festival of poetry, Versi na Stemi, when poets do verbal battle to win the annual poetry competition. There are also the folk-feasts of Krostulijada, St Mary and St Valentine.
And, when you drive back out of Vizinada toward Pula wanting something to eat or drink, try Konoba Da Quinto run by the Ritoša family. (19) They don’t speak English, but their welcome is so friendly, you won’t want to miss working out what’s for food…and whatever it is, it will be good! It’s on the main road when you leave Vizinada, on the left, painted yellow with seats outside. Ask for Klaudio.

 May. Barry Napier
barry.napier@ntlworld.com

Numbers in brackets refer to photos of Vizinada

Contacts:
Vizinada Tourist Office (A very small cubicle at the side of the road, only open for an hour or two each weekday): Vizinada bb / Tel. 446 102 / 07-15.
Poreč Tourist Office: Zagrebačka 9 / Tel. 451 458 / 08-22
Villa rental in or near Vizinada: Caroline Hopkins, info@istriapropertymanagement.com Tel. + 385 (0) 98 957 5345
Or, direct: James Waddell, www.vilaolivia.com
Konoba Da Quinto: +385 (0) 52 446 052

Vizinada (photo list)

jpg numbers with reference numbers (shown as red in article)

Reference Number jpg number
1 8763 villa with green shutters
2 8704 Top road above village
3 8756 Shops in newer part of village
4 8705 Narrow lane leading to old village
5 8958 From villa toward Mirna valley
6 8740 Mirna valley
6 8778 Mirna valley at dawn
7 8997 Motovun in mist
8 8708 Bismarck’s house
9 8712 School
10 8720 Old church and tower
11 8719 Old Market place?
12 8733 Lemon-slice windows of small church
12 9722 Small church
13 8726 Frescoes
14 8728 Old paintings
14 8730 Old painting
15 8736 Tito
16 8746 Original Village square
17 8748 Venetian lion in house wall
18 8749 Old arch and alleyway
18 8750 Old arch
19 1336 Klaudio and Radmila, of Konoba Da Quinto
8781 Mirna valley toward motovun
9019 Mirna valley

Excursions in the region of Vizinada

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Beaches in Vizinada

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Where to eat in Vizinada

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Where to stay in Vizinada

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Nightlife and entertainment in Vizinada

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