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Oprtalj: Discovering a Small Town in the Heart of Istria

by Leo Bazjak
Nestled among the hills of Istria, the charming town of Oprtalj, with its rich history and picturesque landscapes, is gradually but steadily capturing the attention of tourists. In this interview, we have the opportunity to delve into the thoughts of Leo Bazjak, the director of the Oprtalj Tourist Board.
Which landmarks would you recommend visiting in Oprtalj?
I suggest walking the streets of Oprtalj to reach St. George’s Square (Trg sv. Jurja in Croatian) with the homonymous church and bell tower. A peek into the ancient Loggia is a must because of the splendid views it offers. You will find it at the very entrance to the town, across the Town Gate. The cypress alley leading to Oprtalj from the side of Sv. Lucija is also very picturesque.
What are the most visited locations in and around Oprtalj and why?
Beside the town of Oprtalj, the favourite places are Livade and Zrenj. Oprtalj is extremely popular due to its rich history, charming hilltop setting, and architectural heritage. The village of Livade has become synonymous with truffles, which has earned it the title of the world centre of truffles. It is also home to the Parenzana Museum. Zrenj offers beautiful scenery and clean air. Also, according to some sources, it is the birthplace of St. Jerome. Oprtalj, Zrenj, and Livade all boast typical Istrian konobas and farmhouse restaurants where you can indulge in local delicacies. Not to mention the many producers of wine, olive oil, honey, and pasta who will gladly open their doors should you want to taste or buy their homemade produce.
Which events take place in Oprtalj every year?
In the centre of Oprtalj, a Fire Festival is held every June, celebrating the tradition of lighting bonfires. It’s a magical experience for people who appreciate the ancient rituals. In late August, Zrenj welcomes you with accordion melodies at the International Meeting of Accordionists. In October, we go back to Oprtalj tempted by the fragrant Chestnut Festival, followed by TuberFoodFest in Livade.
Oprtalj is famous for its gorgeous surroundings, which attract cyclists and hikers alike. Can you recommend the best local hiking and cycling tours?
A walk along Oprtalj’s trails and pathways is a must for all its visitors. Its streets will invite you to discover the numerous artistic corners appreciated by lovers of art. Because of the splendid panoramas, a great idea is to stroll along the road leading from Oprtalj to Sveta Elena. Not to be missed is Parenzana, the most attractive hiking and cycling route in the area, packed with magical panoramas. Interestingly, it used to be a railway.
What are the best photo locations in Oprtalj? Could you suggest some of the most Instagrammable attractions and streets?
The most popular spots, to name a few, are the Big Loggia and the Little Loggia, St. George’s Square (Trg sv. Jurja), Sv. Elena Belvedere, and the cypress alley. However, if you have a keen eye, you’ll find endless corners, vivid facades, and sculptures to capture with your camera.
What is the best time to visit Oprtalj? Are there any special periods when the town is particularly attractive?
Oprtalj is wonderful in spring when nature is in bloom, filling the streets with rich scents. In summer, it turns into a delightful oasis, where you can escape the crowds flocking to the coast of Istria. The autumn season creates a striking colour show and a relaxing vibe. Even winter in Oprtalj can be charming, if you don’t mind the quietness and enjoy spending time in the healing natural surroundings.
What’s your favourite place in Oprtalj and why?
My personal favourite is the Loggia because it has always gathered people. Local inhabitants used to meet here to learn the news and what was going on in and around Oprtalj, to pay homage to the most deserving individuals, to celebrate happy moments or share sad ones. It’s a timeless place…


Leo Bazjak

Municipal Mayor of Oprtalj

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