When exploring this city, you can imagine the ancient arena full of people cheering and chanting as gladiator contests commenced. You can look out from the top of a defense fort and imagine watching your enemies approach. Pula is rich in sites that transport you back in time, even if just for a moment.
As you can see on the map above, it is in a prime location for transporting goods across the Adriatic Sea. Hence, Pula has been fought over frequently over the past 2,000+ years. In 1750, the town was so beaten down from war and disease, that the population dwindled to 3,000 people and the city was covered in weeds and ivy!
The good news is… Pula recovered, now having a population of 59,078 people.It has been part of the Republic of Croatia since 1991.
The city’s main industries are wine making, fishing, shipbuilding and tourism.
It’s the administrative center of Istria- and has been since ancient Roman times!
Following are some of the most interesting things to see around town. They will take you on an exploration into the past, if you let them.
The Triumphal Arch of Sergii (29-27 B.C.)
Pula was protected by 10 gates, some of which still remain.Of the most interesting is the Arch of Sergii, built sometime between 29-27 B.C.as a sign of victory in the Battle of Actium. The arch stood behind the naval gate of the Roman colony. While weathered, it has stood the test of time.
The Arena ( 27 B.C.- 68 A.D.)
Pula is home to a Roman amphitheater, known as the Arena, which was built between 27 B.C. and 68 AD. It is one of the best preserved amphitheaters from antiquity in the world! What is a Roman amphitheater doing in Croatia? The Istrian Peninsula was conquered in 177 BC by the Romans, and Pula became an important port, being given colonial rank.
During World War 2, the fascist administration in Italy actually wanted to move the Pula Arena to mainland Italy. In the end, they decided it would be too expensive. Can you imagine that feat?!
The Temple of Augustus (2 B.C.- A.D. 14)
Another ancient Roman building is the Temple of Augustus. This is estimated to have been constructed between 2 B.C. and AD 14 and like name suggests, it was dedicated to the first Roman Emperor Augustus. There was originally three temples that were built here, but this is the last one standing. As of 1296, the Communal Palace was built next door on the remains of one of the other old temples.
Interesting fact, the Temple of Augustus was bombed by the Allies during World War 2, just about destroying it, but it was repaired in 1947 to it’s current state. Now it is a lapidarium where Roman sculptures are displayed.
The Venetian Fortress (1630)
Pula has a Venetian Fortress built on the hill in the middle of town. It is situated with a clear view of the city, bay and port (great place for a look out and watching sunset). Built around the year 1630, it is made of stone and when viewed from above, is in the shape of a flower.
The Church of St. Anthony (1931-1934)
Lastly, next to the arena sits the Church of Saint Anthony which was built quite recently in 1931, with the bell tower being built 3 years later in 1934. You can see the bell tower from almost anywhere in town. While we were sadly disappointed you can’t climb the tower, you can walk inside and take a look in the church.
Other Stuff To Do…
There’s lots to do in Pula from visiting the aquarium (which is inside a historical site the Fort Verdula), to going to a movie, taking part in local events (currently ice skating) or touring the city. You will find many parks, statues, boats, interesting buildings and fountains.
The buildings are old, many are a bit grungy; they have old wooden shutters, laundry lines hanging from the windows, and electric wires criss-crossing down walkways. I found that if a building was patched up and had a fresh coat of paint, it really stood out because..well, there weren’t many. The outer layers of buildings peel off to show the underlying brick and limestone that they are constructed of. With all that said, there is a charm to their character.
We wound through narrow paths, some roads which have their Roman paving stones intact! It’s easy to walk for an hour on winding roads and end up where you started. There are many shops where you can get electronics, clothes, shoes, and whatever else you may want/need. There are also cafe/bars where you can stop in for a cappuccino, slice of cake or a beer, and many restaurants.
All in all, if you want an intriguing look into the past, with the modern conveniences of our present, Pula provides!