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Imagine a mini Rovinj of sorts, not quite so well preserved, it's true, and without the hill. This is Novigrad—a pretty little peninsula town that was the seat of a bishopric for more than 1,300 years, from 520 to 1831, and, like Rovinj, was at one time an island (before being connected with the mainland in the 18th century). With its medieval structure still impressively intact, along with its Old Town wall, it merits a substantial visit and perhaps a one-night stay as you make your way up and down the coast or before heading inland toward the hill towns of Groznjan and Motovun. At first glance, as you enter town on an uninspiring main road bordered by communist-era, concrete-box apartment buildings, you might wonder if it was worth coming this far. Drive on (or let the bus take you), for you then arrive at a little gem: to your right is a pint-sized, protected harbor, the Old Town is in front of you, and to your left is a peaceful park that even has a water fountain (good news for those tired of constantly buying bottles of spring water to stave off the summer heat). The bustling, harborside square has one of Istria's few Middle Eastern sandwich eateries—a great place for a bite if you're on a budget. A nearby ice-cream stand is manned by enterprising, acrobatic young men who wow the crowds repeatedly by hurling scoops 50 or more feet into the air to open-mouthed colleagues who then discreetly spit them into napkins, garnering much applause (and generating long lines).
The 13th-century Crkva svetog Pelagija (Church of St. Pelagius), built on a 6th-century foundation and containing some elaborate baroque artwork, stands near the tip of the peninsula with its towering late-19th-century campanile. As in Rovinj, the main church faces the sea, and the statue atop the campanile doubled as a weather vane for the benefit of sailors.
On nearby Veliki trg is Novigrad's pale-red city hall, topped by a watchtower and contrasting sharply with the yellow building beside it. Here and there, Gothic elements are in evidence on the medieval architecture about town (e.g., two windows on a 15th-century building at Velika ulica 33).
Novigrad at a Glance
Elsewhere in Istria
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