Calling all art lovers! Every week, we’ll be introducing a fine example chosen from the rich trove of museums and galleries on the coast, and we kick off with a perfect sailing-related destination: the Eco-museum Batana in Rovinj.
First of all, it’s not exactly fair to say this fantastic concept comes down to a run-of-the-mill museum, as the project includes both an attractive gallery space and many accompanying events and activities. Dedicated to a traditional wooden boat known as batana, the eco-museum is a vibrant, lively community set on preserving this valuable part of local heritage.
To highlight the long tradition of batana as a fragment of indigenous history, it was decided to place the permanent exhibition in the heart of the Old town, a typical 17-century house in the centre of Rovinj. The story of batana is laid out in three gallery spaces on two floors and presented through an array of photographs, drawings, short documentary videos and slide projections; the exhibition guides the visitors through the process of traditional shipbuilding using the example of the two-month construction of a batana boat called Oûn Rìgno (Kingdom). There’s an audio guide available in three languages (Croatian, Italian and the Rovinj dialect), and the basic information is provided on leaflets in English and German as well. The exhibition part is accompanied by guided tours in multiple languages given by the members of the local community whose lives were marked by batana boats in some way.
As one of the museum’s goals is to merge the institution with the people and the town itself, multiple parts of Rovinj have been included in the project to further immerse the visitors in the overall experience. Mali Škver, also called Peîcio squèro (Little Shipyard) hosts delightful events such as fishing net repairing demonstrations given by the local fisherman Giordano Banich. With a bit of help by the experts, visitors can try their hand at multiple traditional skills like weaving wicker bottle holders and making fishing traps; the activities are followed by gastro nights filled with culinary wonders, and all the earnings go towards further development of the project.
(Signor Giordano at work)
In order to preserve batana boats as local heritage, the Eco-museum collaborated with the Town of Rovinj on a project of building five new boats starting in 2004: Oûn Rìgno in 2004, Fiamita in 2005, Calsanta in 2006, Arupina in 2007, and Liliana in 2008. Building and repairing is observed by hundreds of visitors daily, and all the batanas are left to the expert care of local fishermen.
The Eco-museum really pushes the limits of a traditional museum notion, as it goes so far as to feed you and gift you with a heartwarming, entertaining evening filled with laughter and song. This is where Spacio Matika comes in – spacio is a sort of a tavern combined with a wine cellar, Roman Matika is the owner of one such establishment in Švalba Street, put the two together, and you get an incredible Rovinj experience. You can book a tour starting with a visit to the House of Batana, then taking you on a trip around the Rovinj peninsula on an actual batana boat, finishing at Spacio Matika with a dinner and a concert of bitinàda, traditional Rovinj fishing songs. You can find out more about different dinner options here.
In December 2016, the Batana Eco-museum was incorporated into the UNESCO Register for Good Safeguarding Practices of Intangible Cultural Heritage, highlighting the importance of this initiative for revitalisation of a unique traditional craft. The project website is a work of art in itself: you can read all about the history of batana, find a useful glossary, plan your visit, and even play a couple of entertaining educational games. Take a look, and we’re sure you’ll fall in love with the whole idea; if you’re planning a vacation in Istria in general, visiting Rovinj to enjoy this immensely important project is more than worth a trip.
Image sources: Wikipedia, Ekomuzej batana Facebook