Pula is a city with a cultural mixture of people and languages from the Mediterranean and Central Europe, ancient and contemporary. Pula/Pola’s architecture reflects these layers of history. Residents are commonly fluent in both Croatian and Italian language but also to foreign languages like German and English. From 30 October 1904 to March 1905 Irish writer James Joyce taught English at the Berlitz School; his students were mainly Austro-Hungarian naval officers who were stationed at the Naval Shipyard. While he was in Pola he organized the local printing of his broadsheet The Holy Office, which satirized both William Butler Yeats and George William Russell.
- The Arena – 1st-century amphitheater, which is among the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the world. This is one of the best preserved amphitheaters from antiquity and is still in use today during summer film festivals. During the World War II Italian fascist administration, there were attempts to dismantle the arena and move it to mainland Italy, which were quickly abandoned due to the costs involved.
- The 1st-century AD triumphal arch, the Arch of the Sergii.
- Temple of Rome and Augustus, built in the 1st century AD built on the forum during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus.
- The Twin Gates (Porta Gemina) is one of the few remaining gates after the city walls were pulled down at the beginning of the 19th century. It dates from the mid-2nd century, replacing an earlier gate. It consists of two arches, columns, a plain architrave and a decorated frieze. Close by are a few remains of the old city wall.
- The Gate of Hercules dates from the 1st century. At the top of the single arch one can see the bearded head of Hercules, carved in high-relief, and his club on the adjoining voussoir. A damaged inscription, close to the club, contains the names of Lucius Calpurnius Piso[disambiguation needed] and Gaius Cassius Longinus who were entrusted by the Roman senate to found a colony at the site of Pula. Thus it can be deduced that Pula was founded between 47 and 44 BC.
- The Augustan Forum was constructed in the 1st century BC, close to the sea. In Roman times it was surrounded by temples of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. This Roman commercial and administrative centre of the city remained the main square of classical and medieval Pula – Pola. It still is the main administrative and legislative centre of the city. The temple of Roma and Augustus is still preserved today. A part of the back wall of the temple of Juno was integrated into the Communal Palace in the 13th century.
- Two Roman theaters have withstood the ravages of time: the smaller one (diameter c. 50 m; 2nd century AD) near the centre, the larger one (diameter c. 100 m; 1st century AD) on the southern edge of the city.
- The city’s old quarter of narrow streets, lined with Medieval and Renaissance buildings, are still surfaced with ancient Roman paving stones.
- The Byzantine chapel of St. Mary Formosa was built in the 6th century (before 546) in the form of a Greek cross, resembling the churches in Ravenna. It was built by deacon Maximilian, who became later Archbishop of Ravenna. It was, together with another chapel, part of a Benedictine abbey that was demolished in the 16th century. The floors and the walls are decorated with 6th-century mosaics. The decoration bears some resemblance to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia at Ravenna. The wall over the door contains a Byzantine carved stone panel. The 15th-century wall paintings may be restorations of Early Christian paintings. When the Venetians raided Pula in 1605, they removed many treasures from this chapel to Venice, including the four columns of oriental alabaster that stand behind the high altar of St Mark’s Basilica.
- The Church of St. Francis dates from the end of the 13th century. It was built in 1314 in late Romanesque style with Gothic additions such as the rose window. The church consists of a single nave with three apses. An unusual feature of this church is the double pulpit, with one part projecting into the street. A 15th-century wooden polyptych from an Emilian artist adorns the altar. The west portal is decorated with shell motifs and a rose window. The adjoining monastery dates from the 14th century. The cloisters display some antique Roman artifacts.
- The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built in the 6th century, when Pula – Pola became the seat of a bishopry, over the remains over the original site where the Christians used to gather and pray in Roman times. It was enlarged in the 10th century. After its destruction by Genoese and Venetian raids, it was almost completely rebuilt in the 15th century. It got its present form when a late Renaissance façade was added in the early 16th century. The church still retains several Romanesque and Byzantine characters, such as some parts of the walls (dating from the 4th century), a few of the original column capitals and the upper windows of the nave. In the altar area and in the room to the south one can still see fragments of 5th- or 6th-century floor mosaics with memorial inscriptions from worshippers who paid for the mosaics. The windows of the aisles underwent reconstruction in Gothic style after a fire in 1242. The belfry in front the church was built between 1671 and 1707 with stones form the amphitheatre. There also used to stand a baptistery from the 5th century in front of the church, but it was demolished in 1885.
- The Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas with its Ravenna-style polygonal apse, originally dates from the 6th century, but was partially rebuilt in the 10th century. In 1583 it was assigned to the Orthodox community of Pula – Pola, mainly immigrants from Cyprus and Nauplion. The church owns several icons from the 15th and the 16th century and an iconostasis from the Greek artists Tomios Batos from the 18th century. The star-shaped castle with four bastions is situated on top of the central hill of the old city. It was built, over the remains of the Roman capitolium, by the Venetians in the 17th century, following the plans of the French military architect Antoine de Ville. Since 1961 it now houses the Historical Museum of Istria. Close by, on the north-eastern slopes, one can see the remains of a 2nd-century theatre.
- The Archaeological Museum of Istria is situated in the park on a lower level than the Roman theatre and close to the Twin Gates. Its collection was started by Marshall Marmont in August 1802 when he collected the stone monuments from the temple of Roma and Augustus. The present-day museum was opened in 1949. It displays treasures from Pula/Pola and surroundings from prehistory until the Middle Ages. The building was constructed under Austro-Hungarian rule and was the former k.u.k. ‘Staatsgymnasium’, the Austrian high school.
- The Aquarium Pula is the biggest aquarium in Croatia, located in the Austro-Hungarian fortress Verudela, which was built in 1886 on the peninsula 3 km (2 mi) from the centre of the city of Pula/Pola. Transforming the fortress into the aquarium has been in progress since 2002. The installation encompasses about 60 tanks on the ground floor, the moat, and the first floor of the fortress. In an area of approximately 2,000 square meters (21,528 square feet), visitors can view inhabitants of the Northern and Southern Adriatic Sea, tropical marine and freshwater fish and with representatives of European rivers and lakes. From the roof of the fort, visitors may view the entire city of Pula. It is also possible to see the first marine turtle rescue centre in Croatia.
- Fort Bourguignon is one of many fortresses in Pula – Pola that the Austrian empire erected to protect the port for its navy.
Restaurant Farabuto (our review) – https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g295373-d2038288-Reviews-Farabuto-Pula_Istria.html
Restaurant Orca a bit outside Rovinj (our review) – https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g303833-d1822764-Reviews-Restaurant_Orca-Rovinj_Istria.html
Istria Driving Tours
1 Full Day
Labin – The most charming hilltop fortress-towns. Go in the morning and spend a couple of hours before driving to Trget for lunch.
Trget – fishing village – restaurant Martin Pescador – eat seafood lunch!
Driving map from Labin
1 Full Day
Poreč + Vrsar – Beautiful seaside towns / fortresses.
Driving map from Rovinj
1 Full Day
Motovun + Grožnjan – Beautiful hill towns, eat truffles in Motovun.
1 Full Day
Brijuni Islands – National Park – drive to Fazana to get to a ferry.