Rescued Villages & Extended Seasons – Istrian Production Saves The Day

Lauren Simmonds

istrian production

February the 27th, 2024 – Istrian production, more specifically small local producers, have rescued many small villages from being lost to the cruel hands of time, and also ensured a longer season.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Roksandic writes, one of the most certain ways for a tourist destination to catch the eye of would-be guests is undoubtedly personalised experiences and the sale of truly authentic products. Although many of Croatia’s coastal towns can and do offer this, many don’t manage to make a living from tourism for longer than the duration of the typical summer season.

Not so up in Istria. On that beautiful peninsula, they managed to take it all one step further, becoming a regional destination that lives on tourism – an impressive 300 days a year.

Istrian production of wine, olive oil and truffles saves the day

A panel-discussion “How Istria boasts what many desire – a season outside of the season” was held, and the sustainability of Istria in the context of year-round tourism was discussed. In it, the results of the cooperation of all participants were presented, as were ways to improve the tourist offer. Gea Kariž from Mastercard, Denis Ivošević from the Istria County Tourist Board, Jadranka Gojtanić from Maistra and Mladen Draguzet from the Istra Adventure agency were all present.

The panel was organised on the occasion of the continuation of cooperation between Mastercard and the Istria County Tourist Board through a marketing campaign that will be launched at the beginning of March on the markets of Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

“Istria has perhaps the most sustainable tourism in the entire Mediterranean. Almost 30 years ago, Istria had 330 abandoned villages in its interior, and today, thanks to the various products we developed, including wines, oils, truffles and prosciutto, 200 villages have been saved from being lost. This is the result of our idea of sustainable development, which was based on the return of the population to the central part of this region,” said Ivošević.

Ivošević emphasised that people returned and started families in the central part of Istria. They also opened small family hotels, agricultural tourism businesses, wineries and of course – olive oil mills. This was a great return after the exodus from the peninsula that took place in the tumultuous years of WWII and its immediate aftermath.

Until this great return occurred, which happened about thirty years ago, in Istria, just like elsewhere along the coast, the tourist offer was based only on the coastline. Today, things have altered dramatically, and among the main investors in the interior of Istria are Leopold Botteri and Siniša Šare, who are behind the San Canzian project.

This is an authentic luxury hotel with 28 rooms and suites, located in the medieval village of Mužolini Donji, near Buje and Grožnjan, at the foot of an imposing fourteenth century Venetian fortress. “We came across an old neglected village, fell in love at first sight and entered into this project without a second thought,” the pair revealed.

Their and numerous other authentic Istrian offers are both unique and tempting for tourists, and the panel discussion wanted to see how to further position Istria as a region that successfully attracts tourists all year round.

Small local producers enjoy support

The Istrian model of access to tourism is largely based on the support of local, small Istrian production and entrepreneurs. This includes the mutual harmony of all participants, which leads to wildly successful tourism results. One of these local businessmen, Mladen Draguzet, the owner of an adventure tourism agency, says:

“Nowadays we work 300 days a year. Here in Istria, it is really the most beautiful in the pre- and post-season, and what’s special is that we offer arrangements in which tourists who have various interests can enjoy the whole year. It’s often the case that many guests initially come to us for team building, and soon return with their families for a holiday.”


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