During my trip to Croatia, I had the opportunity to explore the beautiful region of Istria and stumbled upon a hidden gem called Bale. Tucked away from the bustling tourist crowds, Bale offered a serene and authentic experience that I will cherish forever.
As I arrived in Bale, I was immediately captivated by the town’s charm. The narrow, cobbled streets lined with centuries-old stone houses exuded a sense of history and tradition. It felt like stepping back in time to a simpler era. The peaceful atmosphere and the absence of tourist crowds made me feel like I had discovered a well-kept secret.
I decided to spend my days leisurely wandering through the town, exploring its rich history and unique architecture. Bale’s medieval core was impeccably preserved, and every corner revealed something new to admire. I marvelled at the intricate details of the Gothic and Renaissance facades, the arched doorways, and the ornate balconies adorned with vibrant flowers.
One of the highlights of my visit was the beautiful Church of St. Elizabeth, situated at the heart of Bale. The church’s bell tower stood tall, offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. I climbed the tower and was rewarded with a breathtaking vista of rolling hills, vineyards, and olive groves stretching as far as the eye could see. It was a moment of tranquillity and pure bliss.
Bale is also known for its strong agricultural traditions, and I had the chance to immerse myself in the local culture. I visited a family-owned olive grove where I learned about the process of olive oil production. The passionate owner shared stories of their family’s connection to the land and the dedication required to produce high-quality olive oil. I tasted the rich flavours of the freshly pressed oil and couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle to take home as a souvenir.
Food lovers will find Bale to be a culinary haven. I indulged in delicious Istrian cuisine at local taverns and restaurants. The menus featured an abundance of seafood, truffles, and other regional specialities. I savoured the flavours of freshly caught fish, truffle-infused pasta, and the renowned Istrian prosciutto. Each dish was a celebration of the region’s rich culinary heritage.
In the evenings, I often found myself sitting at a café in the town square, sipping a glass of local wine and watching the world go by. The gentle buzz of conversation and the warm hospitality of the locals made me feel right at home. It was a perfect way to unwind after a day of exploration.
My time in Bale was a genuinely enriching experience. The town’s untouched beauty, rich history, and welcoming atmosphere left an indelible mark on my heart. It reminded me of the importance of slowing down, embracing simplicity, and appreciating the hidden gems that exist off the beaten path. Bale is a place I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone seeking an authentic and unforgettable Croatian adventure.
Introduction to Bale
Nestled amidst the rolling hills of Istria, Bale is a quaint hilltop settlement that exudes an irresistible charm. Its cobblestone streets, lined with centuries-old houses, wind their way around the hill, creating an urbanscape of arresting allure. The occasional art galleries, shops, and taverns lend the town a relaxed, artsy feel, making it a must-visit destination for those looking to experience the authentic Istrian vibe.
Situated just 15km southeast of Rovinj and elevated at 140m above sea level, Bale is an easy day trip from the coastal city. Despite its inland location, the town is just a stone’s throw away from the sea, with the picturesque Colone Cove beaches lying merely 8km away.
Bale’s history dates back to the prehistoric era. At Colone Cove, a rich collection of dinosaur fossils was discovered, indicating the presence of these ancient creatures in the region. Similarly, traces of neolithic habitation were found one km east of the town, suggesting a thriving community in that era.
In the early Bronze Age, a new settlement emerged on the site where Bale stands today. Fragments of pottery found from this period are currently showcased in the Museum of Rovinj.
The Romans constructed a fort in Bale to safeguard the critical trade route between Pula and the interiors. The fort, known as Castrum Vallis or “valley fort,” was mentioned as early as the 10th century.
In the Middle Ages, the influential Soardo family erected a formidable citadel in Bale, which later became a residence in the 14th century. The Soardo-Bembo Citadel, with its stunning gothic-renaissance façade, is now a major highlight of Bale.
Post-World War II
Post-1945, many of its Italian inhabitants left the town. However, the influx of discerning tourists in recent years is rejuvenating interest in its development.
Strolling through the arched entrance of the old town, you’ll come across the Soardo-Bembo Palace. With its narrow, arched alleys and centuries-old structures, the Citadel offers a trip back in time.
St Elizabeth’s Church
St Elizabeth’s Church stands in the central square, an elegant neo-baroque structure built in the 19th century by then-Mayor Bembo. The church houses fragments of much older churches, marking it as the fifth church built on the site.
Church of the Holy Spirit
A humbler construction, the 15th-century Church of the Holy Spirit, houses vibrant frescoes depicting scenes from Christ’s life. Despite its modest exterior, the church surprises visitors with its richly decorated interior.
Don’t miss the handsome town hall, a testament to 14th-century Venetian architecture when Bale was under Venetian rule.
Head to Bembo for the Istrian steak and homemade sausages that the place is famous for.
Near the bus stop and town entrance lies Istra, a local tavern known for its fuzi (a type of pasta) and truffles.
Just outside the old town, Kod Kancelira specialises in homemade pasta, venison with beef, and homegrown chicken.
Bale offers a range of boutique-style accommodations. The four-star Hotel Meneghetti, set amidst the rolling Istrian countryside, is a top choice. Within the town, you’ll find charming, homey B & Bs.
From Rovinj bus station, buses to Bale run every hour or so, and the journey takes about 15 minutes. For the schedule and online booking, see Bookaway. Alternatively, it’s a quick drive with easy parking right outside the old town.
Bale is a delightful destination that offers a unique blend of historic charm, natural beauty, and cultural richness. Whether it’s exploring the medieval streets, savouring the local cuisine, or soaking in the artsy vibe, there’s something for everyone in this enchanting hilltop village. So, pack your bags and set off for a memorable trip to Bale, Croatia.