Subject: Brioni islands in Croatia

I spent the weekend on Brioni (Brijuni) Islands off the southermost coast of Istria (Istra) in Croatia. The archipelago has a large island plus several small ones, it was declared a natural park in 1983 and has some access restrictions. The places was inhabited since the beginning of history and many ruins tell its story: a huge roman villa with temples and thermae, overlooking a wonderful little bay, a byzantine castrum (fortified village) with well preserved walls and water tanks, old maritime forts from the Austrian Empire and turn-of-the-century villas and botanical gardens. After Second World War the main island became the summer residence of Yugoslav President Tito, who transformed the place as an exclusive resort of well kept grounds and woods, featuring a zoo of animals brought as gift by foreign dignitaries who visited him. Brioni became known worldwide in the Sixties and Seventies when it hosted many state meetings of Non-Aligned Countries Organization. Now part of the area has been open to the public for daily guided tours, while only guests of the two hotels can walk around and explore the main island. The trip starts at Fazana, a small town outside Pula, where cars must be parked (free but unguarded or closed garage available). Then you buy a tour ticket at the tourist office (unless you have a reservation for the hotels) and board a small ship for the fifteen minutes ride to the facing island. The two hotels (3-stars Neptune/Istra and 2-stars Karmen) are just off the pier; we were suggested to stay at the Neptune (47 euro per night per person, half board) as the hotels are a bit under standard and need refurbishing. The Neptune has good-looking halls and friendly multilingual staff, the rooms are large but needing some restoration. As there's no restaurant on the island outside the hotel, we chose the half board, consisting of a rich breakfast buffet and a more formal dinner with limited choice. For us downtown dwellers, it's wonderful to live in a place without cars. All roads are paved but the intersections aren't usually well marked, so you have to navigate with a map. The island is about 5 km long, so you can easily stroll it, but you can also rent bikes or electric golf carts (there's a golf course too). We first walked to the closer points of interest and then rented the bikes for a long tour along the coast, between quiet pine woods, wide fields with grazing deers, rocky beaches and a breathtaking scenery of emerald-green trees blossoming with white flowers. palms and subtropical plants. There's an olive tree from 4th century AD, a pine alley from 1902 and you meet a lot of semi-wild animals wandering. At night, after the day tourists were gone, shortly before sunset, the place was amazingly quiet, just a few of us strolling, the gentle washing of sea waves on the stones of the pier, a lone far cry of some animal from the deep woods, the old Liberty front of the hotel getting pink on the fading sun, shadows growing darker under the canopy of linden trees ..... well, I had left my camera at home, but we'll come back for sure, maybe on summer to test the clear waters around! Happy travels

Paolo Trieste, Italy