Bale and the Surrounding Area
Our nine-day tour with Mt. Travel Sobek began this morning at 9am. We met our wonderful guides, Stasa who speaks five languages and loves to travel and Domen who holds an MA in Ethnology and Cultural anthropology and is also an adventurer.
Our group included two sets of friends (including me and Page), four couples and representative from Mt. Travel Sobek’s California office. Four of the group were meeting us later due to flight delays and other plans. As such, nine of us loaded into our two vans with our guides who drove us three hours in the rain past agricultural fields and through mountains to Bale in Istria, Croatia. Istria, located in the northwest corner of Croatia is known for its olive oil, wine and truffles. We are looking forward to our hiking and culinary tour!
Where to Stay
Upon arrival in the small town Bale, we checked into the four star Hotel La Grisa. The hotel, approximately six years old, is a collection of many houses that have been renovated which earned it the Heritage Hotel award. It features 25 air-conditioned room, three suites and an excellent restaurant, bar and spa.
Bale is a charming town entirely made of stone which dates back to the Roman time. Its quaint atmosphere, delightful alley ways and picturesque viewpoints make it a wonderful place to stay for a break from the chaos in nearby tourist cities.
Things to Do in Bale
Take a Day Trip to Rovinj
Bale is only 13 km and a short drive away from the popular coastal town Rovinj which is busy with tourists and locals. Part of the Republic of Venice from the 13th to 18th centuries, its architecture, culture, and language are strongly Venetian. In fact, there is a Croatian name and Italian name on all the street signs.
Rovinj’s market, twisty streets lined with stores and restaurants, and fishing harbor provide a nice day of sightseeing. More on Rovinj here.
Taste Wine at Stancija Meneghetti
Meneghetti was once an abandoned house surrounded by pastures. Miroslav Plišo and his wife, over many years turned it into a hotel, restaurant, winery, and olive grove. We enjoyed a lovely lunch complemented with a wine tasting. Croatia is known for its Malvasia wine and Meneghetti’s Malvasia did not disappoint for a refreshing dry white wine. It is most well-known for its Chardonnay, however. Unfortunately, the small vineyards in Croatia that hand pick their grapes rarely export, so we had to savor the moment.
After our excellent lunch which included meats and cheeses, tomato and mozzarella, fish, and dessert, we went on a tour of the estate. The roses in front on the grape vines are not only decorative, but suffer from any diseases prior to the grape vine, so they act as warning to damaging threats.
Go to an Olive Oil Tasting
Grubić is a family olive oil operation that has been in business since 1927. It operates a mill that other olive oil providers pay to use. We got to see the newest pressing process and were then led into the tasting room which was decorated with old olive pressing machines.
Grubić makes three variety of oils from its 1,600 hundred trees some of which are 400 years old. Its handpicked olives yield 6-9% oil. Just as the wine producers, the olive oil producers in Croatia tend to be small and produce a small number of bottles which are not exported.
Grubić’s olive oil is fantastic and as been honored with many awards.
Take a Day Trip to the Brijuni Islands
The Brijuni Islands also known as Brioni Islands in Italian or Tito’s Islands, are an archipelago of 14 islands. Once the summer residence for communist Yugoslavia’s leader Marshal Tito, they are now a national park. The islands are only accessible by one of the national park’s boat which depart from Fažana on a regular basis.
The islands may only be visited through a guided tour, so I guess we were lucky that our guides were able to lead us on a five mile walk beneath the shade trees, along the shore and past remnants of the Byzantines and Romans as most tours are spent on a tourist train.
After our enjoyable walk, we had some free time to visit the museum. The bottom floor featured many exotic animals which were once gifts to Tito from foreign dignitaries, and the upper floor displayed many photos of Tito and the Heads of State he entertained.
Stroll the Streets of Bale
While Bale is small and it doesn’t take long to explore the whole town, it’s fun turn down all the alley ways to explore the nooks and crannies and look for “Casanova’s home”. Flower boxes adorned homes’ windows, bicycles were tucked in corners and a sign on a stone wall indicated where Casanova, the famous seducer of the 18th century liked to spend his time courting a lady from the Soardo family.
Relax at Hotel La Grisa
We spent two nights in the Hotel La Grisa. Its restaurant and new spa were excellent. Pick from a facial, massage, or foot reflexology or just relax by the pool or on a terrace. ETB
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