Pula (Italian Pola) is the largest city in Istria, Croatia, at the southern tip of that peninsula. Like the rest of the region, it is known for its mild climate, tame sea and unspoiled nature. The city has a long tradition of wine making, fishing, shipbuilding, and tourism. Pula has also been Istria's administrative center since ancient Roman days.
The city is best known for its many surviving ancient Roman buildings, the most famous of which is its first century amphitheatre, sixth largest in the world, locally called Arena. Arena is one of the best preserved amphitheaters from antiquity and is still in use today during summer film festivals. Two other notable and well preserved ancient Roman structures are the first century triumphal arch, the Arch of Sergius, and temple to Apollo built in the 1st century AD Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. You can still walk through the city's old quarter of narrow streets, lined with Medieval and Renaissance buildings, on ancient Roman paving stones.
Pula's Ancient Roman Structures
The city's earliest recorded permanent habitation dates back to the 5th century BC. It was founded by the Illyrian tribe of the Histri, the most ancient population living in Istria.
Significant Roman settlement (Colonia Pietas Iulia Pola) began in the first century AD. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city was ruled by Ostrogoths, Franks, and the Venetians, as each succeeded the other in ruling the region. The first arrival of the Slavs dates to the 7th century. The history of the city continued to reflect its location and significance, like that of the region, in the redrawing of borders between European powers.
Pola is quoted by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri in the "Divina Commedia": "come a Pola, presso del Carnaro ch'Italia chiude e i suoi termini bagna" ("as Pola, along the Quarnero, that marks the end of Italy and bathes its boundaries"). Though at Dante's time Italy political unification was merely a dream, this quote is important because it is the first time that the question of the eastern border arises, and supports later justification for Italian claims on the region.
In 1848, Pola and Istria came under the rule of Austria and became a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire assigned to the "Küstenland". During this period, Pola's large natural harbor became the site of Austria's main naval base and a major shipbuilding center. The island of Mali Lošinj to the south of Pola became the summer vacation resort of Austria's Habsburg royal family.
Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Pola along with all of Istria became a part of Italy. Italian rule lasted until the end of World War II. For a number of years following that war Pola was administered by the United Nations, including U.S. military forces, as Istria was partitioned into occupation zones until the region became largely united with the rest of Croatia within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).
It is stated that 90% of the inhabitants were of Italian ethnicity when the city was ceded to Yugoslavia; almost all of them left. Subsequently the official name was changed to Pula. Since the collapse of the SFRY, Pula and Istria have become part of modern Croatia.
As a result of its rich political history, Pula is a city with a cultural mix of people and languages from the Mediterranean and Central Europe, ancient and contemporary. Pula's architecture reflects these layers of history. Residents are commonly fluent in foreign languages, especially Italian, often also German and English. In 1904 and 1905 Irish writer James Joyce lived, worked and wrote here. The physician Robert Koch worked on the Brijuni islands.
The natural beauty of Pula's surrounding countryside and turquoise blue water of the Adriatic have made the city an internationally popular summer vacation destination. The pearl nearby is Brijuni National Park visited by numerous world leaders since it was the summer residence of the late statesman Josip Broz. Roman villas and temples still lie buried among farm fields and along the shoreline of the dozens of surrounding fishing and farming villages. The coastal waters offer beaches, fishing, wreck dives to ancient Roman galleys and World War I warships, cliff diving, and sailing to unspoiled coves and islands large and small.
Pula is the end point of the EuroVelo 9 cycle route which runs from Gdansk on the Baltic Sea through Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia.
You can track dinosaur footprints on the nearby sea shores; certain more important finds have been made at an undisclosed location near Bale.
Pula has a local airport, but like the nearby Rijeka airport it is not a major international destination. Nearby international airports include Trieste in Italy and Zagreb, Croatia's capital.
Nearby towns and villages
- Pula (http://www.pulainfo.hr/en/)
- Roman Pula (http://www.cavazzi.com/roman-empire/tours/empire/pula.html)
- Archaeological Museum of Istria (http://www.mdc.hr/pula/)
- A Cravat around an Arena (http://www.academia-cravatica.hr/en/arena.html)
- Croatian national Parks (http://www.mzopu.hr/default.aspx?lang=en)
- Istria Dinosaurus on Stamps (http://www.posta.hr/marke_det_e.asp?serija=90&brmarke=91)