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Motovun travel guide

Discover this hilltop settlement with our Motovun travel guide, with great things to do, restaurants, bars, hotels, shopping and more...

© Dave Jepson/Time Out

Motovun – Montona to the Romans – is one of the most beautiful and best preserved of Istria’s medieval hilltop settlements. These days it’s best known for its film festival, which transforms this otherwise sleepy town into a cultural and party hub for one week every summer. It’s on the summit of a277-metre (910-foot) hill in the middle of the Mirna Valley, surrounded by truffle-rich forest.

When the prehistoric settlement was founded, it would have been surrounded by water. The estuary stretched right up to the ‘Gates of Buzet’ at the head of the valley. It was down this inlet that Jason and his Argonauts are supposed to have fled after capturing the Golden Fleece.

From its strategic position, Motovun controlled the merchant routes across the valley floor on the way to the coast. Although depopulated after the Italian exodus in 1945, a new wave of inhabitants, including artists and writers, set up home here. The result is the Motovun Film Festival, started in 1999.

RECOMMENDED: More great travel destinations in Croatia.

Motovun overview
Things to do

Motovun overview

Motovun – Montona to the Romans – is one of the most beautiful and best preserved of Istria’s medieval hilltop settlements. These days it’s best known for its Film Festival, which transforms this otherwise sleepy town into a cultural and party hub for one week every summer. Motovun is on the summit of a 277-metre hill in the middle of the Mirna Valley, surrounded by truffle-rich forest. When the prehistoric settlement was founded, it would have been surrounded by water. The estuary stretched right up to the ‘Gates of Buzet’ at the head of the valley. It was down this ancient inlet that Jason and his Argonauts are supposed to have fled after capturing the Golden Fleece. From its strategic position, Motovun controlled the merchant routes across the valley floor on the way to the coast. Although depopulated after the Italian exodus in 1945, a new wave of inhabitants – including artists and writers – has set up home here. The result is the Motovun Film Festival, started in 1999. Motovun’s two sets of fortified walls divide the town into three sections – the higher you climb, the older it gets. In the summer non-residents are banned from driving the town’s narrow cobbled streets – there’s a car park at the bottom of the hill. As you wend your way upwards, past rather dilapidated, 16th- and 17th-century Venetian-style houses, you pass several shops, offering wine, truffles and grappa. As the road levels it passes through the main city gate dating from the 15th century. Its wall

Motovun transport guide
Things to do

Motovun transport guide

Motovun sits on the line from Poreč to Rijeka (about one hour from Rijeka). The twice-daily Pula-Buzet line drops off at Motovun, as does the Zagreb-Buzet service.  

Where to eat in Motovun...

Motovun restaurant guide
Restaurants

Motovun restaurant guide

The Motovun forest is packed with truffles, early each morning in season the men and their dogs go searching. The black variety is found in Spring, whilst the even more highly-prized white is Autumnal. Local restaurants are one of the best, and most affordable, ways of getting your truffle fix. Konoba Dolina is a great locals’ place whereas Zigante is white-glove formal – both are at the bottom of Motovun hill in Livade. In the hilltop town Pod Voltom does great meat. 

Zigante
Restaurants

Zigante

A short drive from Motovun, this renowned and formal restaurant is the base for an entire industry centred around a world-record event ten years ago. It was then that Giancarlo Zigante (and his dog Diana) were said to have discovered the biggest white truffle in history, weighing 1.31kg. Fame spread, this restaurant was opened in 2002 and extended three years later. Zigante also runs numerous truffle factories and shops. And the restaurant? Set in a beautiful house with outdoor seating, it offers very expensive if impressive dishes (some truffle-free) to an exclusive clientele.

Where to stay in Motovun...

Motovun hotel and accommodation guide
Hotels

Motovun hotel and accommodation guide

Motovun has just the one hotel but there’s an increasing number of private villas, houses and rooms to rent, from the basic and clean bookable by the night to the impressive and high-end – most notably the Hilltop Retreat (www.motovunvilla.com).

The Hilltop Retreat
Hotels

The Hilltop Retreat

Motovun is the perfect base for exploring Istria and this is the perfect house to stay in while you’re doing so. Beautifully restored over the last five years by a London-based photographer this four-floor, this 18th-century home is now available to rent by the week. Arranged across 200 square metres, it’s ideal for groups of up to six, with a huge master bedroom, two further large double bedrooms, three toilets, two showers, one bath tub, two living rooms/reception rooms, two terraces and a mature herb and fruit garden overlooking the truffle-packed forest below. The traditional character – original stone walls, an olive grinder – is complemented by the work of local craftsmen and modern technology (flatscreen TV, cable, WiFi, range cooker, dishwasher). Children are very welcome and a cot and baby-feeding chair are provided; pets can be accommodated too. One living room/library has a large open fireplace; the garden comes with a barbecue; there is a dining table and chairs for up to ten, and you can park just ten metres away.

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