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From the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian Seas in 5 weeks (Italy & Croatia)

From the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian Seas in 5 weeks (Italy & Croatia)

Old Nov 13th, 2021, 10:53 AM
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From the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian Seas in 5 weeks (Italy & Croatia)

From the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian in 5 weeks,
or,
Steps and Stairs in Croatia and Italy


A strange new travel world
After 11/2 years of no travel, much uncertainty and anxiety, we finally made our first overseas trip! Having cancelled 3 long trips, I was itching to travel again. And when Croatia opened up, M & I decided it was time! I booked a trip for 5 weeks, flying into Zagreb and out of Dubrovnik, with no specific itinerary in mind.

As you all know by now, travel today is not what it was BC (before Covid). There are the ever-changing Covid restrictions, determining what is open and to whom. It’s a challenge figuring out the rules to travel and, even if you made sense of it today, it may change by tomorrow or the next day. And each destination has its own rules so even though you’ve figured it out for one, location, it won’t be the same for another! Get used to the bumpy ride!

Several months after I booked the tickets to Croatia, Italy opened up its borders for travel. We had been there 2 years before and we’d been eager to return, seeing a few new places and returning to a couple of familiar places. And I was able to change my flights and reschedule them, thanks to United’s new, no-fee policy for changing reservations!

And, added bonus, since we were already in the EU (minimum of 2 weeks), we were not under covid restrictions for US travellers, but for those within the EU. There was no need to take a Covid test since we will have been in Croatia for more than 2 weeks prior to our travel to Italy!

The itinerary
We traveled for 5 weeks, first flying to Croatia where we traveled for just under 3 weeks, then a ferry to Italy for 2 weeks, visiting Puglia & Matera, making a return visit to the small town of Atrani (Amalfi Coast) finally finishing in Naples. We left NYC on September 14 and returned on October 20. It was quite a remarkable trip!

Itinerary:
Croatia
Zagreb - 3
Rovinj – 4
Plitvice National Park – 1
Zadar - 2
Split – 4
Korcula – 2
Dubrovnik – 3

Transition - Croatia to Italy
Dubrovnik – Bari overnight ferry – 1

Italy
Polignano a Mare – 4
Lecce – 3
Matera – 2
Atrani – 3
Naples – 3

Practicalities and other general travel thoughts:

I’ve begun booking business class for the last few trips because we are late 60s/early 70s, and traveling in comfort has made a huge difference in our ability to travel. To moderate what, to me, is an indulgence (and I’m only speaking for me!), I try to balance out the trip with a variety of accommodations, staying in AirBnbs, guesthouses, and hotels. On this trip, I’d say we averaged less than $150/night, with several places under that and a few somewhat higher.

We rented a car through Auto Europe twice: first, traveling from Zagreb to Split. Oryx was the only one auto rental company available for that route. In Italy, we picked up a car in Bari and dropped it off in Salerno; Europcar was the only rental agency that Auto Europe had a contract with for this route.

Let me also say that the Google navigation app was great – except when it wasn’t, and there were 2 major fails during the trip! Stories to come later!

Another big change in international travel, of course, is the amount of paperwork now needed for each country At first, it seemed overwhelming, although in retrospect, it’s not hard, just plain tedious. We needed a form to enter Croatia; a form for transiting Brussels; and then another form for travel into Italy. Yes, I wanted to pull my hair out when I had to upload the documents to the airline when we left the US, but once done, it went relatively smoothly. DO print out every form, though – for reasons that make no sense to me, we were asked for printouts of our boarding passes to enter the Lounge at Newark; and again, when we boarded the plane in Brussels. I have no idea why the documents on the phone weren’t good enough, but having the backup is easy enough.

And, one of the biggest changes is having to take Covid tests and/or showing vaccination cards for travel. For travel to Croatia, all we needed to enter were our CDC vaccination cards so did not need to take a Covid test. And because we had been in Croatia, an EU country, for more than 2 weeks, we didn’t need to take a test to enter Italy. The CDC cards was enough.

Returning to the US is a different matter. Everyone entering has to take either a PCR or antigen test within 3 days of the flight. I had considered purchasing a Binax monitored kit but ultimately decided not to because I didn’t want to carry the package & have this anxiety-producing package in my luggage for 5 weeks! Seriously, that was the main reason. But it also turns out that in Italy, at least in Naples, it couldn’t have been easier to get a test. There were at least 3 pharmacies a short walk from our hotel that provided antigen tests and it cost us all of 15 euros each and we were in and out in less than 10 minutes with our printouts. We didn’t get an email, but this was not a problem for our return flight.

The trip, at last!
To keep me sane, I’m not going to do a day by day, but try to consolidate each stop, focusing on what we really liked and, perhaps, what we didn’t. I hope to throw a few of our disasters (see above comment about Google navigation app fails!) into the mix. Because my anxiety over this trip was sky-high up until we left, worrying about whether we would be able to go, and what it would be like to actually travel, I didn’t really plan nearly as much as I have in the past. But it all worked out!

One more note: sadly, I lost my little notebook, with all my travel notes, so I’ve had to revisit our trip through photos and other sources.

Zagreb
Markiz luxury apartments/Booking.com
What a fantastic apartment and the host, Maja, was lovely. The best amenities we found in all of our apartments! She was warm, welcoming and very helpful, providing a map with a list of recommendations for restaurants and sightseeing. She even sent on a few things I had left to a later destination without asking for anything. If you do go to Zagreb, this place is a gem.

Zagreb is often referred to as an underrated city, with a sophistication and non-touristy vibe. There is a lovely energy here and it was fun to wander the very hilly city (a theme of this trip!).

The city is divided into an Upper Town and a Lower Town, and the apartment is in the lower town, very convenient for walking and only a few blocks from the center, Jelacic Square, where the statue of the national hero, Josip Jelacic, can be found. The Upper hill is actually comprised of 2 hills, Kaptol & Gradec, and they were once 2 medieval towns that were merged in the 19th century.



Sadly, Zagreb suffered a serious earthquake just around the time the pandemic started, and many of the main tourist sights are closed because the damage was so severe.

Still, we enjoyed our visit and walked A LOT. I took both the Lonely Planetand Rick Steves guidebooks, and used the latter to plot our walks.

Our first walk took us from Jelacic Square to Gradec. One of the popular images from Zagreb is the Church of St. Mark, with its very distinctive tile roof. It’s roped off (it’s by the Parliament) so you can admire it from afar. Nearby is the wonderful Croatian Museum of Naïve Art. On the same street is the popular Museum of Broken Relationships (we didn’t go). Along the way, we took advantage of a very warm day to sit in the Art Café along Tkalciceva where I nursed my first glass of Croatian wine!

A favorite activity in any city is visiting a food market, and the Dolac market, both indoor and out, was a lot of fun. We picked up some pastries for the apartment. It’s nearby the Cathedral, which was sadly closed due to heavy damage from the recent earthquake. We could walk around the grounds but the interior is closed off. We also wandered the stretch, Strossmeyer Promenade, behind the funicular, which has a good view of Zagreb. There is also a small park which contains some medieval ruins of the city.

We also walked along the Green Horseshoe in the Lower Town, the area of parks surrounded by museums and other once-elegant buildings now in some disrepair because of the earthquake, visited the modest Botanical Garden, and discovered the wonderful Ethnographic museum – fascinating! Sadly, many of the museums in the lower town were closed because of damage.

Meals: We aren’t foodies so don’t go far out of our way for meals and mostly ate nearby. Restaurants included the traditional restaurant, Purger, the slightly trendy Bistro Fotic; and we got takeout (we really enjoyed this meal!) from Shawarma Arabia. These were within a few blocks of the apartment.




Last edited by progol; Nov 13th, 2021 at 11:42 AM.
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 11:11 AM
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Markiz Luxury Apartments/Zagreb - September 15-18 (3 nights)

Spacious living room


View from the apartment

Last edited by progol; Nov 13th, 2021 at 11:42 AM.
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 11:38 AM
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Ban Jelačič Square, the central square


St. Mark's Church


Dolac Market






Zagreb Cathedral, or, the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saintly Kings Stephen and Ladislav


Holy Mary Column in front of the cathedral


Enjoying the first glass of wine in Croatia!


Zagreb street


Street art, Gulliver mural in Opatovina Park (one of many wonderful images!)


Walkway between lower town toward upper town


View from Strossmeyer promenade




Purger restaurant


Part of the Green Horseshoe
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 12:14 PM
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I'm so glad you started this, and so glad there's a way to post pictures now! We did not stay in Zagreb, just landed, rented the car and drove off...something I would not do now anymore. Driving after the long flight is not a good idea, but we were young(er) and definitely foolish. Even with museums closed, Zagreb looks wonderful, thanks for the TR.
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 12:25 PM
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I'm glad you're enjoying this, xyz! I meant to keep this TR to the bare minimum, but it's growing on its own!
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 12:35 PM
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Walking down the hill from the Upper town


Lower Town along the Green Horseshoe


Green Horseshoe


Facade of the Croatian State Archives. I would've loved to go inside.


The Botanical Garden


The Botanical Garden


The Botanical Garden


The wonderful Ethnographic museum


The wonderful Ethnographic museum


The wonderful Ethnographic museum


The wonderful Ethnographic museum
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 01:07 PM
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Rovinj & Istria – September 18-22 (4 nights)
Apartments Villa Bianca

A quick and cheap Uber ride from our Zagreb apartment to Oryx, and we picked up our car along with a portable WiFi device – something that made travel so much easier! The car drove well but the exterior was pretty scratched. The agent went over it but M also took photos. I can’t stress enough how important this is!

Our next stop is Rovinj, and I feel as if we are finally off to see the Croatia I imagined we would! I’ll tell you now that we loved the town and the Istrian peninsula, and, for those who ask, yes, it’s worth the trip to go there.

The drive from Zagreb to Rovinj was a relatively easy drive, roughly 3 hours. We left a rather dismal-looking Zagreb and, by the time we arrived in Rovinj, we saw blue skies and sun. Gorgeous!

We park, according to our host’s directions, in one of the lots on the edge of town.

Our apartment, part of the Apartments Villa Bianca, is a small 1-BR, though more like a studio with a kitchenette. Finding it took a lot of wandering up and down streets, even using Google navigation, but at last, we find it. Up 2 narrow & steep flights to the apartment, it’s modestly-priced in a fairly expensive area. Bright & airy, clean, well-maintained, tiny bathroom, comfortable enough bed. There is a kitchenette, but the one thing I want is some type of coffee maker. I’m fine with a Moka maker, but it doesn’t even have that. The owner was pleasant and professional and available for questions through WhatsApp but wasn’t an engaged host. But I would recommend it with the understanding that it’s a good place if you’re looking for a central location on a budget.

And now we are on the Adriatic! Ahh, roving Rovinj (that’s pronounced “Ro-veen”) is a dream. It’s just beautifully-sited, sitting on a spit jutting out into the water, a lovely coastal town built on a hill, houses spilling down to the harbor, with rocks tumbling below. We walk along the waterfront, and enjoy the scene. Lots of swimmers and sunbathers sitting along the rocks. Restaurants along the water here have tables perched precariously on the rocks. It’s romantic, dramatic, and we just soak it up. We continue walking and walking, up to the church at the top of the hill, though didn’t walk up the bell tower.

The town is unbelievably beautiful! The views of the harbor, the meandering streets with their large stones, the beautiful architecture – just fantastic. Rovinj was part of the Venetian empire for 5 centuries, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and during the early part of the 20th C, was part of the Kingdom of Italy, and it retains the feeling of all that history, though at times, we really could just believe that we were in Italy.

One of our favorite activities while in Rovinj was to take an hour-long boat ride around one of the small islands just off the harbor and seeing the town from different angles.

Rovinj is ideal for strolling, sitting at cafes, sitting on rocks and looking at the water. Walking up and down lots and lots of steps!! Our first day in the town, that’s pretty much what we did!

Dinners in Rovinj:

Maestral – Wondeful experience! The food was very good, service was very friendly, and the view was gorgeous. It’s just south of the old town so the view is looking back. We were lucky to get a seat when we just walked in – reservations were definitely needed in most places.

Restaurant Giannino – Excellent food, topnotch service.

Snack Bar Rio – a funny name for a wonderful place, sitting along the waterfront. Fantastic dinner and best glass of wine! And the owner/waiter was as gracious as could be.
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 01:19 PM
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Oh, those water views!




























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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 02:26 PM
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progol, please don’t “keep this to the bare minimum” - love your trip reports!
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 03:47 PM
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Count me in also. It's interesting to consider how the different regimes left their influence. We did a day trip to Trieste from Venice and were disappointed not to find gelato!
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 04:04 PM
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Following along! Croatia is on the (very) long list to visit!
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 05:34 PM
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Welcome aboard, Aidelaidean, TDudette, and valgalchi!

My plan for “bare minimum” seems to have flown out the window already and I will do my best to keep this up!

Here’s yet another water shot - lots more photos to come, though!
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 06:11 PM
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Ahhh, Rovinj, thank you for the memories! We came from Plitvice, and got there in the afternoon, early evening. We checked in, probably rested a little and decided to go out for a walk before dinner. This is what we saw, and I can not think of Roving without remembering the awe we felt.

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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 06:18 PM
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Lovely, xyz! It captures a feeling beautifully.
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 07:33 PM
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Oh, how wonderful! Thank you, Progol, for the gorgeous photos and fascinating TR! We thought Zagreb was wonderful and so different from the other parts of Croatia we visited. I have a photo of Gulliver, too, and we have a similar photo of the Dolac market. We loved the Museum of Naive Art; the art work is fascinating and some are so bizarre. That was the only museum we visited in Zagreb. We were there for only 2 nights, and the weather was beautiful, so we spent a lot of time walking around the city. The Ethnographic Museum looks fascinating; too bad we missed it, but we did visit the wonderful Ethnographic Museum in Split.

We didn't visit the Istrian peninsula so I appreciate your thoughts and the beautiful photos! Maybe some day we can combine it with a trip to Italy.
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Old Nov 13th, 2021, 10:24 PM
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Off to a great start, progol, looking forward to more!
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Old Nov 14th, 2021, 03:47 AM
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Great photos and report! Your apartment in Zagreb was on the same block as one I stayed in for almost three months last year. Three days turned into almost three months, and I was there for the earthquake. Imagine running down your street to the park with stones from the buildings all over, cars crushed, and police screaming to stay off the sidewalks in case of falling debris. And there were THREE earthquakes, not one. I have a commemorative t-shirt from friends in Zagreb, it contains a swear word, but if you are not squeamish I will post a picture.

I fell in love with the people of Zagreb as I watched them try to build their city back up. They are justifiably proud of their beautiful city.

Giannino and Rio are owned by the same guy. I think that was not the owner that served you at Rio as he is usually at Giannino. You probably were served at Giannino by one or both of the delightful sisters.. they used to own a great wine bar in town, I love them. Was your waiter at Rio short and sort of balding, by chance? There is another guy that works at both restaurants who is a great guy and maybe he gave an impression of being the owner.

Looking forward to more.

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Old Nov 14th, 2021, 04:03 AM
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Progirl, what a great start! Fabulous pictures! I'll be following along with your every installment!
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Old Nov 14th, 2021, 04:43 AM
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Giannino and Rio are owned by the same guy. I think that was not the owner that served you at Rio as he is usually at Giannino. You probably were served at Giannino by one or both of the delightful sisters.. they used to own a great wine bar in town, I love them. Was your waiter at Rio short and sort of balding, by chance? There is another guy that works at both restaurants who is a great guy and maybe he gave an impression of being the owner.”

rialtogirl, if memory serves me correctly, we were told by our apartment host that the 2 restaurants are run by brothers, and that Rio had originally been started by their father as a local place for the fishermen. I don’t remember the details but I’m pretty sure that it was Rio’s owner who served us. I found a photo of him receiving an award for the restaurant so I imagine that he s the owner! Here’s the photo of the guy (the left) who served us. And we talked with him for a while so I remember him pretty well. My absolute favorite wine of the trip was there, too!




oh, I’m not squeamish but maybe others are!
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Old Nov 14th, 2021, 04:44 AM
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Thanks everyone, more to come. Today is a family day so I might not get to it right away but as soon as I can, I promise more.
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