On Sir Richard Francis Burton`s Trail - Istrian Hillforts
Arrival at the hotel in the afternoon hours and meeting with the expert guide, finding out about the destination, welcome cocktail, dinner, overnight stay.
After breakfast we'll head out for a tour of Rabac. Back in 1876 Sir Richard Francis Burton was among the first tourists to visit the place. The guests will be shown the hotel at which he stayed and the guide will explain what Rabac looked like at that time. After his stay in Rabac and visits to other places along the Istrian coast, Burton wrote a book called "The Istrian Coast", in which he described the beauty and charm of the picturesque town of Rabac. It is precisely thanks to R.F. Burton that the year of 1876 is considered as the beginning of tourism in Rabac. The guide will begin with a story about the tumultuous life of Sir Burton and the great significance of his explorations, both in the world and in this area. We'll continue the tour by hopping on the tour bus, which takes us to the old part of the hilltop town of Labin. After a stroll through its picturesque streets, we'll stop in front of the Scampicchio family palace, once upon a time the residency of Antonio Scampicchio, a local nobleman who was of great assistance to Burton in his researches. He let Burton make sketches of weapons and tools found in and around the hillforts (called "castellieri") in the area, at the time displayed in the museum housed in his family home. Doctor Scampicchio also translated into Italian Burton's first work on this subject, "Notes on the Castellieri". We continue the tour with a visit to the People's Museum of Labin, where we will be greeted by its curator, Mr. Vedran Kos, who also took part in the explorations of hillforts in the Labin area. He'll introduce us to the museum's archaeology department and inform us about the exhibits found at these sites.
Lunch in the old town (traditional Istrian thick soup called "maneštra"; traditional local homemade pasta called "fuži" or gnocchi with chicken stew, traditional local sweet ravioli called "krafi").
After lunch we'll visit Kunci, one of the best preserved castellieri, about 2 km northeast of the old town of Labin, located near the village of Breg-Ripenda. The hillfort is situated on a plateau whose northwestern and northern sides are dominated by four hills, whose peaks allowed for control over much of the local area. The museum's curator will show the guests the remains of the ramparts, streets and the ground plan of the castellieri, first sketched on paper by Burton himself. The Kunci hillfort is important because it is the best preserved castellieri in all of Istria. The location was once called Gračišće, but Burton was the first to call it Kunci and the name was subsequently accepted by other authors, so today it still goes by that same name.
After the visit to Kunci we'll return to the hotel to spend the night.
After breakfast our bus will take us on a search for the Kožljak hillfort, located near the road leading from the village of Vozilići to Plomin. Along the way we'll also visit the Kožljak castle. After that we'll set out for an adventure and continue on foot, in search of four hillfort ruins on the elevations between Plomin (Fianona, ancient Roman port and fort, after which Sinus Flanaticus - today Kvarner Bay - got it's name) and Zagorje.
Lunch break in the old town of Plomin (black risotto with cuttlefish and wild asparagus, fritule - Istrian take on doughnuts).
After lunch we'll visit Pićan and Gračišće, two medieval villages built on the sites of prehistoric castellieri. Seen from below, these two hilltop villages look as if they've been planted on top of inapproachable stone walls and they have a distinctive and dramatic air about them. Here the guide will tell the guests about local tales and legends, such as those about the "devil of Pićan", "the krsniks (vampire hunters)" and witches, which Burton collected during his sojourn in Istria.
Return to the hotel, dinner, overnight stay.
After breakfast we'll head for the village of Šumber.
We'll visit the local medieval castle, built on the site of a prehistoric fort in the Stari Grad hamlet. In 1260, the castle came into the possession of the Schonbergs, an Austrian noble family, whereby Šumber got its name. It is important to note that the site was first mentioned as early as 872, when the first Croatian families settled in the area. The castle is a polygonal ground plan fortification with two round half towers and the main gate. Within the fortification there are remains of a long and narrow one-storey palace. A settlement developed in the vicinity of the castle, comprising the parish church of St. John and Paul. Among the scattered houses lies the most important church in Šumber, the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Dogwood Tree, who is in turn connected with the biggest local festival of Our Lady of the Snows, the so called Petangošt (August the Fifth). According to one legend, a shepherdess saw an apparition of Our Lady among the branches of the dogwood tree, and the church got it's name after this event. The church housed the oldest and most valuable book of the Labin area, a lectionary of religious poems from the beginning of the 18th century, known among the people as the "Šćavet" - featuring a popular Croatian Christmas carol "Va se vrime godišća", meaning "This Time of the Year". According to another legend, the inhabitants of the neighbouring town of Pićan on one occasion stole the statue of the saint and tried to take it back to their town in an ox-wagon. When the oxen reached the bridge on the nearby Raša River, they stopped in their tracks and refused to make another step, so the unsuccessful thieves from Pićan took the statue back to it's church.
After Šumber we'll head to the village of Sveti Martin (St. Martin), where a tasting of estate-made artisan food products (prosciutto, pancetta, cheese), wine and grappa awaits us at the Pineta agritourism estate, located in the castle of the last great landowner in the Labin area - baron Lazzarini.
After lunch it's free afternoon, dinner, overnight stay.
After breakfast we'll head to Pula, where we'll take a tour of the city and visit the local Archaeological Museum, featuring exhibits such as ancient earthenware, tools and weapons found in the castellieri. After the tour of the museum we'll take a quick lunch break in the nearby seaside village of Fažana (salted anchovies; traditional codfish spread with homemade pasta). We'll then hop on a boat to the Brijuni (also known as Brioni) archipelago, where we can see the surprisingly well-preserved defense walls of the bronze-age settlements of the Histri tribe, topping the hills in the middle of the Veli and Mali Brijun islands. One of them is the Gradina, a bronze-age settlement with preserved ramparts and a necropolis, located north of the Verige Bay, on the eponymous hill. The settlement consists of a central plateau walled in by three concentric ramparts. The ramparts, consisting of large stone blocks, were built using the drywall technique and they follow the shape of the hill and the terrain configuration. Each rampart was built with two faces made of masonry, filled in with small stones in the middle.
The construction of the gates into Gradina carried great importance and they were upgraded several times. An example of this is the western, so-called Gnirs Gate, whose initial width of three metres was reduced to one metre, in order to prevent the penetration of the enemy into the fort. In addition, the gates were laid out so as to form a labyrinth, which also hindered and slowed down the enemy. On the walls the archaeologists found beach pebbles, used in defending the fort, while rare finds made of bronze featured a spearhead and dagger, found among grave goods.
The necropolis we mentioned earlier is located next to the ramparts of the settlement. Apart from individual burials, enclosed family tombs were also found. The inhabitants of the fortress buried their dead in sarcophagi made of stone slabs, laid under mounds of rocks. Such graves with skeletal burials in the fetal position date back to the 14th century BC.
Return to Rabac, dinner, overnight stay.
Leisure time for individual sightseeing, swimming or walking.
Dinner, overnight stay.
Breakfast and return home.