It hosts around 6,000 people and its picturesque, winding streets, Italian architecture and colourful street art make it very suitable for a day trip, whether you’re in Northern Italy, Croatia or even Slovenia!
Why do we also mention the Italian name Vodjnan? Italians are a minority group in Istria, with several tens of thousands of Istrian Italians living in the Croatian county. Istria itself was originally inhabited by the Roman Histri tribe and was also long controlled by the Venetian Empire. It was also part of Italy for parts of the 20th century (during the World Wars). About 15% of the population of Vodnjan has Italian as a first language.
Transfer to Vodnjan
It is easier to get to Vodnjan by car especially if you are in the tourist region of Pula (Croatia). The city is within easy driving distance from Pula, Rovinj or other destinations in Istria.
Otherwise, there are several regular buses to the city. Arriva Autotrans offers services from Pula (travel time is 15 minutes) and Rovinj (30 minutes).
There are also local buses, operated by Pula Promet, from Pula to Vodnjan. Line 22 runs a few times a day on weekdays (“radni dan”) and Saturdays (“Subota”); the timetable can be found on the Pula Promet website.
VODNJAN TOP ATTRACTIONS
Vodnjan as a religious destination
There are a large number of churches in and around Vodnjan, the most important is the church of St Blaise. This church is not only the largest church in Istria, but it also has the tallest bell tower in the county – 62 metres high. Inside there are many valuable works of art and many well-preserved bodies of saints from the Orthodox and Catholic churches! There you can see and venerate the skeleton of St. Barbaros as well as the indestructible foot of St. Paraskevi! There are also some tombs of Popes of the Roman Catholic Church wearing the clothes that were buried and placed in glass coffins. The entire back of the altar is filled with relics of saints amphitheatrically arranged! The relics were smuggled there from neighboring Italy and especially from the Venice area to protect them from irreligious invaders during the Middle Ages and after!
Vodnjan for us was a day trip from Trieste, Italy. Our visit there was not accidental. It was the fulfillment of a vow to the Grace of my patron saint, St. Barbaros! His church in Corfu is located in the suburb of Potamos right next to my house!
Saint Barbaros was born in 800 AD in Pentapolis, Egypt, from where he took the nickname Pentapolitan. He lived during the reign of Michael Traylos II (820-829 AD), who was a Byzantine official from Amario in Phrygia.
At that time, our Church was being tested by the heresy of iconoclasm.
Barbaros was found to be a member of an Arab pirate gang, with which he arrived in Acarnania, slaughtering, plundering and deserting almost the entire area of Xiromeros.
This gang threatened even Byzantium. But it managed to pass through Egypt, Palestine, Sicily, Crete and reached Epirus. From Epirus they came to Aktio and, through the Amvrakikos Gulf, reached the villages of Xeromeros.
The first battle with the pirates was fierce and bloody, it took place in the village of Dragamesto – today’s Karaiskaki – Astakos.
The Akarnans fought bravely and defeated the pirates, of whom only one survived, Barbaros, who hid in the bushes or, as tradition has it, in a vineyard.
For several years he lived in places inaccessible, away from people, almost like a wild animal, his food was fruits and tree roots, he drank water from the thermal springs of the Akarnan Mountains, which were near the village of Tryfu of Xiromeros.
The pirate Barbaros became the fear and terror in the surrounding villages, the inhabitants tried many times to capture him, but they did not succeed.
One day, Barbaros saw by far the priest of the village entering the Holy Church of St. George Tryphos, which is located west of Amphilochia, and, without wasting time, he proceeded with wild intentions towards Fr. John. But he found himself before a great miracle.
Two young men holding Fr. John shone brighter than the sun. “Barbaros remembered his whole life, his sinful past, he cries as if he was a little child”, His Eminence Metropolitan Kosmas of Aetolia and Acarnania tells us in his homily.
Barbaros, awed by this miracle, was moved, his mind was enlightened and his wild instincts gave way..
He was born again and immediately received the sacrament of baptism. He became a monk and lived a life of fasting and prayer, and had a cave as his home. Many villagers, after this miracle, told him to go and stay in the village.
But Barbaros remained in the cave leading an ascetic life.
He lived in chains all his life, deprived of everything and for 18 years he crawled in the ground. “The ransom is my golden ornament, with it I have bound the flesh and subjected it to the spirit,” he said, thus punishing himself.
In 1571, a Venetian officer named Sklavounos, after he worshipped at the saint’s tomb and drank from the holy water, was cured of his illness. Thus, wanting to honor Saint Barbaros, he took his remains to Italy, to the village of San Barbaro. After many years, his holy relics were found in the town of Vodnjan, Croatia and on June 9, 2013, a part of the Holy Casket of St. Barbaros was given to the Holy Church of the saint in the village of Potamos, Corfu, presided over by His Eminence Nektarios of Corfu, Paxos and the Diapontine Islands during the sacred services held on the island.
Tradition says that the chain that the saint carried on his body for exercise in 1688, when the Turks dominated the area, was lost. Also, in 1776, Saint Kosmas the Aetolian visited and worshipped the tomb of Saint Barbaros and drank from the holy water, which cures the passions of souls and bodies.
Every year the Holy Metropolis of Aetolia and Acarnania organizes in the area of the monastery worship events honoring the memory of Saint Barbaros.
Vodnjan, Croatia… a holy place to visit!
VODNJAN Central square
The town’s main square – People’s Square ( Narodni trg ) is an inviting place to walk and hosting a number of cafés, the Town Hall and the Bradamante Palace.This impressive building with its red façade gives off an Italian feel…and it is perhaps not surprising to learn that it is currently used as the centre of the Italian community of Vodnjan. Over the years it has had many different uses – among them as a loggia, a theatre, a residential building and even a prison.
Museums and galleries
Apoteka is a contemporary art space housed in a former pharmacy (Croatian: apoteka ). It hosts regular exhibitions as well as focusing on research and art making.
Food & Drink in Vodnjan
Vodnjanka offers traditional Istrian dishes – think dishes including cheese, salami, pasta, olive oil – in a warm indoor setting. (An outdoor terrace is also available!)
Stancija Bursic is a producer of prosciutto and olive oil right on the outskirts of Vodnjan. Although you can enjoy prosciutto and oil tasting here, there is also a restaurant that is open daily in the summer. Offering pasta dishes and meat stews, their menu also gives you plenty of opportunities to try their prosciutto.
Pizza and BBQ Buffalo is for those times when you’re in a fast-food mood, with a heavy emphasis (no surprise) on meat and pizza dishes! Try their cevapcici (grilled ground beef sausages)!
Babos Winery offers wine tastings of their white, red and sparkling wines as well as their olive oil.
There are no hotels in Vodnjan or in the nearby area. If you prefer to stay in a hotel, we would recommend you to do it in Pula or maybe in Medulin . However, there are many private apartments and villas to stay in Vodnjan.
More Information you could find at Vodnjan Tourist Office