It’s that seaside resort town in the Istrian Peninsula. Rovinj. The Italians say “Rovigno” (ro-veen-yo) but in Istria, it is pronounced as ro-veen. Having settled that, may I say that Rovinj feels very, very Italian. The harbor, the fruit market, the laundry hanging outside the residential buildings, the cobblestoned lanes, the narrow alleys straight into the blue waters of the Adriatic Sea. The Italians — particularly the Venetians — do have a flair for romance and sentimentality, and that’s what we found here. Even the colourful laundry hanging on clothesline has a certain charm to it.

Dominating the skyline is the Church of Saint Euphemia, shimmering against the pale limestone buildings crowding this part of the Istrian Peninsula. The uphill zigzag climb proved to be a struggle and we lost energy midway. Must be the heat and glaring sun this time of the day. We can only look with envy at locals and guests donned in swimwear, ready to sail in the many yachts and speedboats at the marina. There are options to visit nearby islands but we skipped that, eager to reach our next destination: our hotel for the next 2 nights. You can say we felt sapped, so we traced back our steps through the maze and labyrinth of cobblestoned alleyways.

The fruit market was no different from the other Istrian food markets. But the cheese stands casually placed at doorways I found quite charming. The town square was also filled with souvenir shops and stalls selling lavender sachets and yes, more truffle goodies. They must be making brisk business as we spotted a cruise ship from where some 2,000-3,000 passengers must have been offloaded for a few hours to enjoy the Old Town. More peeps to add to the shine on cobblestones owing to centuries of footfalls.

Rovinj can easily be anyone’s favorite but I worry over tourist arrivals from cruise ships. I sure hope such groups don’t crowd out the town to a point where it’s no longer relaxing to visit. And then there is the ferry crowd from Venice. Takes only 3-4 hours or one can rent a car and drive for 3 hours, with option to drop by Trieste, another interesting town in Italy. Unlike Groznjan and Motovun, Rovinj is more crowded though still “manageable” and certainly not in the same league as touristy Venice or Dubrovnik which look bursting at the seams. More like Ljubljana which has a decent tourist crowd but NOT to a level where one feels unsafe and suffocated by the crowd. Like many touristy sites, Rovinj must be more pleasant in the evenings when the crowd of noisy tourists wielding selfie sticks have gone back to their boats or sailed back or driven back to wherever they’re staying for the night. Just saying.