Motovun is a picture perfect hilltown, nestled in the Tuscany-looking landscape of northern Istria. While the whole region took us by surprise with its many picturesque hilltowns adorning the beautiful, undulating hills, the hilltop village of Motovun is no stranger to fame. Many consider Motovun the most beautiful of the Istria hill towns, and we’re inclined to agree with them. Here’s why:
Town in the Hills
It was the Celts that with little imagination had named the settlement “Montona” – Town in the Hills – when it was first mentioned in a manuscript from 804 AD. The name survived both Illyrian and Roman translations during those settlements and managed to keep its brand during the Middle Ages, for the 100 years it was under German rule, and lastly during the 519 year long Venetian rule that ended in 1797. Although its name has now been translated into the Croatian Motovun, many street signs – very much like the rest of northern Istria – still bear the Italian name, that is the mother tongue of 10% of its citizens.
The picturesque medieval town originates from a prehistoric hill-fort and was built on top of a cone-shaped hill with a flat plateau. The first city walls around the oldest part of the city were built from the 13th century, and the second city walls, a little lower, date back to the 15th century. There are no less than 26 protected cultural monuments in the historic town of Motovun, which is why it’s on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list, and everywhere you look, Venetian coat of arms adorn their architecture.
Home of folklore and film festival
Motovun is also steeped in tales and legends. According to ancient mythology, Jason and the Argonauts sailed along the Mirna River, at the foot of the Motovun hill. And Croatian writer Vladimir Nazor wrote a tale about a good-hearted giant with the name of Veli Jože – Big Joe – who belonged to the people of Motovun. If you’re lucky enough to drive towards the hilltop town, as the fog dwells like a heavy duvet beneath its cone-shape, cladding it in an allegorical ambiance, you may be on the brink of believing those stories.
There are many events held in Motovun, the most famous being Motovun Film Festival that takes place for 5 days at the end of July. The festival shows films made in small and independent productions, and celebrates ideas, innovation and expanding the boundaries of cinematic expression.
Top5 Things to do in Motovun
- Stay in the Boutique Hotel Kaštel
so you can enjoy the sunset and sunrise
- Walk the city walls
that offer commanding views of the countryside
- Try some truffle
that has been foraged in the local Motovun forest
- Hike or bike through the Motovun Parenzana tunnel
that’s part of an old railway turned 130 km bike/hike trail
- Sample the local Teran wine
that grow on the slopes of Motovun