Back to the ancestral homeland!
A bit of a posting break as I've had a few days in Istria (the Croatian part) in a farmhouse belonging to a family member. I didn't have any internet access.
Before heading off to the countryside, I spent a bit of time in the largest nearby town. I've been coming here since babyhood but haven't been in the old town for a few years so had a look around.
The old town of Porec (pronounced Por-ech, there's an accent on the c, haven't worked out how to include it using blogger) is built on a peninsula so it could be defended from land attacks, there used to be a wall across the peninsula where it goes out onto the mainland. The wall has long disappeared, all that's left is one of the towers. It amused me to see what this ancient tower is being used for now.
I refer to the town by its Croatian name of Porec as that's what I've always called it since I've from the era of when it was part of Yugoslavia and now Croatia. It's also known by its Italian name of Parenzo and the signs now have both names.
This hotel represents the beginning of the tourism industry in Porec. It was built in 1910 during the time that Porec was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and it was for wealthy Austrians to come and holiday in style. It was built on reclaimed land so it sits on a large flat rectangle on the tip of the peninsula. I have many childhood memories of seeing this hotel, it's always been such a landmark, it was completely renovated a few years ago and a new structure has been built on the open space infront of the hotel which I think spoils the frontage somewhat. Originally called the Riviera Hotel, it's now the Grand Palazzo.
Just across from the hotel on what would have been the tip of the peninsula before the land was reclaimed for the hotel is this villa. It's called Villa Polisini, after the noble family it belonged to. The villa was built in 1885 for the Marquis Giorgio Polisini and his wife Baroness Desiree Mylius. (There was a sign, helpfully in English too!) He was a member of the Istrian Regional Parliament from 1901. The villa is now for hire for special functions. (Another sign!)
Looking out to sea, there's the island of St. Nicholas, which has been quite heavily developed now for tourists from the looks of it. There's another villa on the island that had belonged to the Polisini family, which now can be seen. Years ago when the hotel was first built the island was far more heavily wooded, there are gaps now between the trees. I went across to the island on a little boat and wandered around the forest and followed a path that led to the villa. The villa couldn't be seen from the mainland at all, so it was quite a surprise to stumble upon it. At that time it had been divided into small apartments for people to live in and was very run down. Not sure now whether it's part of the hotel or open to the public.
Along the 'riva' looking from the Palazzo hotel along the marina area where the boats, yachts and even the catamaran to Venice are found.
In the 13th century, Porec became part of the Venetian Empire (research!) and there are still buildings that reflect this period. Spotted the Venetian window surrounds, there's an apartment for sale in this building, that's what the sign says.