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Image1 Pula Croatia is situated at the southern part of Istria. Pula has been in existence since 3 thousand years. It represents a very fine combination of the old and modern city where many famous writers and composers have found inspiration for their masterpieces. Many cultural and historical monuments dominate its panorama and represents today the unique setting of various cultural and artistic events. Tourist facilities are located outside the town in woods close to the sea. Beaches stretch along, 100 km of beautiful and indented coast. The city is best known for its many surviving ancient Roman buildings, the most famous of which is its first century amphitheatre, sixth largest in the world, locally called Arena. Arena is one of the best preserved amphitheaters from antiquity and is still in use today during summer film festivals. Two other notable and well preserved ancient Roman structures are the first century triumphal arch, the Arch of Sergius, and temple to Apollo built in the 1st century AD Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. You can still walk through the city's old quarter of narrow streets, lined with Medieval and Renaissance buildings, on ancient Roman paving stones.

The natural beauty of Pula's surrounding countryside and turquoise blue water of the Adriatic have made the city an internationally popular summer vacation destination. The pearl nearby is Brijuni national park visited by numerous world leaders since it was the summer residence of the late statesman Josip Broz. Roman villas and temples still lie buried among farm fields and along the shoreline of the dozens of surrounding fishing and farming villages. The coastal waters offer beaches, fishing, wreck dives to ancient Roman galleys and World War I warships, cliff diving, and Sailing to unspoiled coves and islands large and small.

Pula is the end point of the Euro Velo 9 cycle route which runs from Gdansk on the Baltic Sea through Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia.

You can track dinosaur footprints on the nearby sea shores; certain more important finds have been made at an undisclosed location near Bale.

Pula has a local airport, but like the nearby Rijeka airport it is not a major international destination. Nearby international airports include Trieste in Italy and Zagreb, Croatia's capital.

Distances from Pula

  • Rijeka - 102 km
  • Zagreb - 288 km
  • Dubrovnik - 696 km
  • Trieste - 126 km
  • Vienna - 593 km
  • Frankfurt - 1030 km
  • Amsterdam - 1490 km
  • London - 1750 km
  • Munich – 607 km
  • Milan – 535 km
  • Rome – 756 km
  • Graz – 398 km

    History of Pula
    The city's earliest recorded permanent habitation dates back to the 5th century BC. It was founded by the Illyrian tribe of the Histri, the most ancient population living in Istria.

    Significant Roman settlement (Colonia Pietas Iulia Pula) began in the first century AD. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city was ruled by Ostrogoths, Franks, and the Venetians, as each succeeded the other in ruling the region. The first arrival of the Slavs dates to the 7th century. The history of the city continued to reflect its location and significance, like that of the region, in the redrawing of borders between European powers.

    Pula is quoted by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri in the "Divina Commedia": "come a Pula, presso del Carnaro ch'Italia chiude e i suoi termini bagna" ("as Pula, along the Quarnero, that marks the end of Italy and bathes its boundaries"). Though at Dante's time Italy political unification was merely a dream, this quote is important because it is the first time that the question of the eastern border arises, and supports later justification for Italian claims on the region.

    In 1848, Pula and Istria came under the rule of Austria and became a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire assigned to the "Küstenland". During this period, Pula's large natural harbor became the site of Austria's main naval base and a major shipbuilding center. The island of Mali Lošinj to the south of Pula became the summer vacation resort of Austria's Habsburg royal family.

    Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Pola along with all of Istria became a part of Italy. Italian rule lasted until the end of World War II. For a number of years following that war Pula was administered by the United Nations, including U.S. military forces, as Istria was partitioned into occupation zones until the region became largely united with the rest of Croatia within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY).

    It is stated that 90% of the inhabitants were of Italian ethnicity when the city was ceded to Yugoslavia; almost all of them left. Subsequently the official name was changed to Pula. Since the collapse of the SFRY, Pula and Istria have become part of modern Croatia.

    Places worth seeing

    Image3Amfitheatre | The most famous and important monument, the starting and ending point of every sightseeing tour is the Amphitheatre, popularly called the Arena of Pula, which was once the site of gladiator fights. It was built in the 1st century AD during the reign of Emperor Vespasian, at the same time as the magnificent Colosseum in Rome.

    The ground plan is elliptical, the longer axis measuring about 130 m and the shorter one about 100 m. Gladiator fights took place in the central flat area called the arena, while the spectators could sit on the stone tiers or stand in the gallery. It is believed that the Amphitheatre could seat about 20,000 spectators. Local limestone was used for its construction. In the Middle Ages it was the site of knights tournaments and fairs.

    Today it is the venue for summer performances - the Film Festival, Opera Season, Equestrian Festival, concerts, which can seat about 5,000 spectators. The underground passages, once used by the gladiators, nowadays host a regular exhibition of viticulture and olive growing in Istria in ancient times. The exhibits include reconstructions of machines once used for the production of olive oil and wine (mills, presses, vessels) and amphorae used for storing and transporting olive oil and wine.

    The Amphitheatre is situated outside the old city walls because of its size and geographical configuration. The road that leads to the centre was constructed during Emperor Vespasian, after whom it was named - Via Flavia. Even today it represents one of the main city roads.
    Opening hours | Summer 9-19, Winter 9-14

    Temple of Augustus | The Temple, situated in the Forum, is dedicated to goddess Roma and Emperor Augustus. It was constructed between the year 2 BC and AD 14 when the Emperor died. According to its shape it follows the typical pattern of temples.

    The function of the Temple changed through the years: with the ending of the pagan ancient era its original pagan function ceased and the temple was afterwards used as a church, granary, and in the beginning of the 19th century it was a museum for stone monuments.

    In 1944 it was hit by a bomb and completely destroyed. It was reconstructed between the years 1945 and 1947 and nowadays it houses a collection of ancient stone and bronze sculptures.

    The other twin temple, of which only the back wall is preserved, is believed to have been constructed at the same time and in the same style and was called the Temple of Diana

    Golden Gate | The “Golden Gate” was erected between the years 29 and 27 BC by the Sergi family, in honor of three members of the family who held important positions in Pula at that time. This triumphal arch leaned against the city gate Porta Aurea thus called because of its richly ornamented arch or gilded elements. The gate and wall were pulled down in the beginning of the 19th century as a result of the city expansion outside the city walls.

    The Arch was constructed in Corinthian style with strong Hellenistic and Asia Minor influences both in the method and ornaments. As the eastern side was not visible it has remained for the most part uncarved, while the western, town side is richly decorated. Today numerous cultural performances, theatrical and musical, are held on the square next to the Arch. The adjacent street is a shopping area.

    Communal Palace | At the time when Pula was a free municipality, a palace was erected in the Forum – the seat of the municipal self-government. During the Venetian rule it was the seat of the duke and provveditore, and until the present has remained the seat of the mayor. Additions over the centuries (from the 10th -16th centuries) led to a building that in an exceptional way combines architectural styles from the Romanesque until the Renaissance. The inscription built in the facade, which was restored in the 16th century, dates the construction of the Communal Palace to 1296. The year probably refers to the first greater reconstruction and addition, because this was surely the seat of the municipal government even earlier.

    Earlier phases of the development of the Communal Palace in terms of its construction can best be seen on the eastern wall where Romanesque and Gothic styles intertwine. Sculptures of Telamon and Siren in the corners closed by Renaissance columns, and Baroque windows are the latest alterations of the outer appearance of the Communal Palace: neglect and negligence have left considerable traces on the building that has recently been radically restored.

    Floor mosaic The Punishment of Dirce | After the bombing of World War II remains of Roman houses with mosaics were found under the block of houses around the Chapel of St. Maria Formosa. The most impressive one is surely the floor mosaic with the central field presenting the mythological scene of the “Punishment of Dirce”(Amphion and Zethus are tying Dirce to an enraged bull, since out of envy Dirce had been cruel to their mother Antiope.) This figural scene presents the central field of a large floor mosaic composition (12 m x 6 m). The entire mosaic composition is divided into two equal sections with altogether 40 decorated areas dominated by geometrical patterns with animal details (fish and bird). The mosaic covered the floor of a central room of a Roman house, probably from the 3rd century. It has been preserved at the site where it was found, so that the level of house floors in the Roman times, which is 2 m below today’s level, is clearly visible.

    Twin Gates and City Walls | ( Dvonja vrata). In ancient and medieval times the whole city was surrounded by walls and was entered through about ten gates. The walls had become old and unnecessary so they were pulled down at the beginning of the 19th century. Parts of the walls between the Twin Gates and the Giardini square have been preserved until today.
    The Twin Gates, thus called because of the two arches through which you enter the inner yard, which was once the entrance to the city, were constructed between the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The Twin Gates today lead to the Archeological Museum and the Castle.
    Remains, partly restored, of an octagonal sepulchral structure - Mausoleum from the 1st - 2nd centuries have been found opposite the Twin Gates.

    Gate of Hercules | ( Herkulova vrata ) It stands between two, most probably medieval towers, of simple construction built of uncarved stone blocks. At the top of the damaged arch, although hardly recognizable, is a carving of the head of Hercules and his club. Close to the club is a damaged inscription, most interesting in the historical context since it contains the names of two Roman officials, Lucius Calpurnius Piso and Gaius Cassius Longinus to whom the Roman Senate had entrusted the duty to found a Roman colony at the site of today’s Pula. Thus, between 47 and 44 BC Pula was founded as a settlement with urban features. Since the upper circular street passed though this gate, the axis of communication was obliquely placed with respect to the direction of the city walls.

    Forum | The main square of classical and medieval Pula is situated at the foot of the central hill, in the western part of the city close to the sea. The coast where the Forum was constructed in the 1st century BC had to be filled up to gain a larger area.
    The Forum was the nucleus of city life, its religious, administrative, legislative and commercial centre. On the northern part of the Forum stood two twin temples and a central one dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. Today only the Temple of Augustus has been fully preserved while of the second temple only the back wall, built into the Communal Palace in the 13th century, is visible.

    Ancient remains of the Forum have been found during the construction of new buildings, the latest ones being "Agrippina and her time" (1st century AD). The remains have been partly restored and are now exhibited in the bank built on the site.
    Even today the Forum is the administrative and legislative centre of the city. During the summer months it is the venue for numerous cultural events.

    Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary | (Capela Svete Marije Formoze ) Within the city, along the main street that from Flavia Street leads to the Forum, stands the Cathedral of Pula. It was built at the site where Christians gathered already in the time of their persecution (until the 4th century). With the ages it grew larger and assumed its present-day shape in the 5th century. It had an elongated oblong shape whose interior was divided by two rows of columns. The area around the altar was in the north, defined by a semi-circular podium with stalls for the clergy. In front of the altar area, behind it and around the very altar, still lie fragments of the floor mosaic from the 5th - 6th centuries, with memorial inscriptions of worshippers who paid for the decoration of the specific surface.

    The oldest preserved remains of the church wall from the beginning of the 4th century can be seen from outside: the lower part of the rear wall belongs to this period. Due to a fire in 1242 the church underwent reconstruction on several occasions. While the upper windows of the nave were built in the early Christian period, the windows of the aisles bear typical Gothic traits.

    In front of the church, a baptistery, cross-shaped by ground plan, was built in the 5th century. It was destroyed in 1885. In the beginning of the 16th century a new late Renaissance facade was built, and in front of the church, a belfry was erected in the second half of the 17th century (1671-1707). Stone blocks from the Amphitheater were used for its construction. At the site of the present-day park, east of the Cathedral, until 1657 stood the church dedicated to the patron saint of Pula - St. Thomas. This church too, was built in the 5th century and such twin ecclesiastical complexes were no novelty in Istria (Nesactium, Porec). After its destruction in the Middle Ages, St. Thomas’ Church was not reconstructed; its surface remains were last evident back in 1812.

    Historical Museum of Istria | At the highest hill in Pula, at an altitude of 32.4 m, between the sea and the hills Arena, Zaro and Sv. Mihovil, the adapted Venetian fortification, houses since 1961 the Historical Museum of Istria, founded as the Museum of the Revolution on December 31, 1955. The Historical Museum of Istria – Museo Storico dell'Istria carries out its activities as a public institution. Presently, it is a County institution that keeps part of the national and universal heritage, from the High Middle Ages until the recent history directly or indirectly presenting it to the public by means of permanent or temporary exhibitions or publications.

    The Museum has several departments – Department of the history of Pula, Department of medieval Istrian history and the Department of modern Istrian history with adjoining collections (Cultural-historic collection of urban life, Collection of old postcards and photographs, Collection of maritime history and shipbuilding, Collection of economic development, Cultural-historical collection of suburban life, Collection of insignia, diplomas, seals and coats-of-arms, Coin collection, Collection of arms, uniforms and military equipment, Collection of film and video recordings, Collection of memoirs and phonographic recordings, Collection of significant persons and the recently established Collection of old maps. In the rich museum holdings (over 40,000 artifacts), particularly important is the collection of old postcards, maps and the collection of arms, uniforms, military and maritime equipment.

    Small Roman Theatre | On the north eastern slopes of the central hill of the city, below the Castle are the remains of a Roman theatre: in addition to the Amphitheatre, Pula had two other theatres during the Roman period. The larger one, which has not been preserved, was situated outside the city, on the slopes of Zaro hill (Monte Zaro), south of the city walls. The other theatre known as the Small Roman Theatre was situated within the city walls. The remains of scene, semicircular orchestra and tired section for the audience have partly been reconstructed. Below the theatre is the building of the one-time German Royal Gymnasium, which in 1930 became the Archaeological Museum of Istria. Today the museum displays a rich collection of prehistoric, classical and early medieval monuments found in Istria.

    Archaeological Museum of Istria | By collecting stone monuments in the Temple of Augustus in 1802, marshal Marmont began the founding of the museum collection in Pula. However, the discovery of stone, ceramic and metal objects in Nesactium was the basis for founding the Museo Civico (City Museum) in Pula in 1902. After the seat of the “Societa istriana di archeologia e storia patria” had been moved and with the transfer of the archaeological inventory from Poreè to Pula, the Museo Civico was integrated with the National collection (stone monuments) and the Poreè Regional Museum (Museo Provinciale) into one regional institution. Therefore, in 1925 the Museum of Istria (Il Regio Museo dell'Istria) was founded in the present-day museum building. In 1930 the museum opened its doors to visitors, and a guidebook in Italian was published. This exhibition, along with minor changes, was open for the public until the end of World War II, when many objects were transferred to Italy during the Anglo-American administration.

    After some modifications in the collection of stone monuments and having displayed the remaining exhibits, in 1949 the museum reopened as the specialized Archaeological Museum of Istria. By systematic work and with great efforts, after having restituted part of the archaeological objects from Italy in 1961, the museum building was gradually renovated and the museum exhibits displayed in a representative didactical-visual concept. The reconstructed collection of stone monuments on the ground floor and museum halls reopened in 1968. In 1973 the prehistoric room on the 1st and the classical, late Roman and medieval exhibits on the 2nd floor of the museum opened.

    The museum halls of the Archaeological Museum of Istria are constantly being extended; supplemented with new finds from archaeological sites in Istria (prehistoric caves, hill forts and necropolises, Roman economic complexes, buildings and cemeteries, as well as sacral edifices from the early Christian and Byzantine period, the barbaric invasion and the settlement of the Slavs in Istria).

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