5 Amazing Places To Visit In Pula
Istria’s historic main city of Pula is symbolised by its Roman amphitheatre, scene of a surprisingly wide range of outdoor events every summer. Festivals of film and electronic music, and concerts by everyone from Elton John to José Carreras, fill the 2,000-year-old arena, with its near intact walled ring. Roman remains also form Pula’s city centre, dominated by a hilltop Venetian fortress. With docks rather than beaches nearby, many head south for out-of-town seaside fun in Verudela and Medulin.
Pula’s most famous and imposing sight is this 1st-century oval amphitheatre, overlooking the harbour northeast of the old town. It's a huge and truly magnificent structure, slotted together entirely from local limestone and known locally as the Arena. Designed to host gladiatorial contests and seating up to 20,000 spectators, it still serves the mass-entertainment needs of the local populace in the shape of concerts and film-festival screenings.
Temple of Augustus
Fronted by a high porch supported by six Corinthian columns, this small but perfectly proportioned temple was built sometime between 2 BC and AD 14. It survived the Christian era by being converted into a church, only for it to be destroyed by a bomb in 1944. The subsequent stone-by-stone reconstruction has brought it back to something closely approaching its former glory, and it now houses a small archaeological display. It was once one of a pair of matching temples fronting the Forum – the civic heart of Roman and medieval Pula – but all that survives of its twin, the Temple of Diana, can be seen incorporated into the rear wall of the 13th-century city hall next door.
Not just any fish tank, this extraordinary aquarium occupies an entire 19th-century military fort – one of 55 built to defend the Austro-Hungarian Empire's main naval base. There are even sharks in an old artillery unit. The displays are well laid out and themed, with an emphasis on environmental issues. The aquarium does its bit, operating a sea-turtle rescue centre. Other attractions include rays, crabs, eels, starfish, anemones, seahorses, jellyfish, caimans, octopuses and a huge Indian python.
Istria Historical & Maritime Museum
Since ancient times the 34m hill at the centre of Pula's old town has been fortified. The current star-shaped fortress was built by the Venetians in the 1630s. It's now a moody backdrop to exhibitions on an eclectic range of historic themes (the antifascist struggle and a local boxing club at the time of research), but it's worth visiting for the views alone. Hidden around the back of the castle are the ruins of a small ancient Roman theatre.
Arch of the Sergii
Also known as the Golden Gate (Zlatna vrata), this majestic arch was erected around 27 BC to commemorate three brothers from the Sergius family who fought in the naval battle of Actium (where the future emperor Augustus defeated Marc Antony and Cleopatra). It stood at the entrance to the Roman town, the walls of which can still be partly seen nearby on Trg Portarata and along Carrarina.
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