Motovun Istria the city of Big Joe


Motovun is a medieval town situated in the middle of the Istrian peninsula, in earlier times the town was referred to as Kastelijer. Do to it position on a hill top (277 meter above sea level) the city offers a magnificent view on large parts of Istria. A Fortifications build in the 11th century manifested the cities position in the area, and made it an important military position for the different rulers.

The legend says that Veli Jože (Big Joe) the giant protector of Istria was from here, many locals through out Croatia still connect the name Veli Jože with Motovun, or even refer to the city as Veli Jože.

Motovun Today

Today Motovun is a popular tourist destination, especially the Motovun Film festival which takes place every year in August have created lots of awareness about the city. The 500 inhibitors in the city, mainly live from tourism, wine growing and truffles.

Especially the truffles, which they find in the woods below the hill, (The world largest white truffle was found in the woods around Motovun) play an Important role in Motovun today. Everything in the city is related to truffles, the restaurant serve delicious truffle dishes, in the souvenir shop you can find a wide variety of truffle products like.

  • Olive oil with truffles
  • Pasteurised truffles
  • Grappa with truffles
  • Spread with truffles
  • Honey with truffles

What to See (and do) in Motovun

The city it selves is the absolute highlight, a walk on the fortification is a must do, the tour takes about 30-45 minutes. – In the morning you have a magnificent view on the valleys surrounding the city. I took the below picture 7 AM in the morning by our last visit in Motovun.

As mentioned the Motovun Film festival is the top event of the year, the film festival is held on the main square (picture below) where movies are shown from when it gets dark till 2-3 AM. During the day, movies are shown in small cinema on the main square. As the festival is visited by more guest then the city can house, lots of people stay in tents on the fields below the hill.

During summer, the touristic board of the city also organizes various concerts.

The truffles hunters have there own “secret” truffle tracks. To avoid that competition finds out about their tracks, they only walk the tracks during the night together with there truffle dogs. For tourist some of the truffle hunters offer tours during the night, on the regular tour there is of course no guarantee that truffles are found, but for special occasion it is also possible to arrange a trip where truffles are found.

The wine in the area is excellent; one of my favorite places is the Vina Tomaz, which is situated in the valley below Motovon, in addition to excellent wines, the winery Tomaz also have two other products which I can highly recommend. “Medica”, a Rakija made with honey (has a sweet and warm taste), the other product is called “Biska” which is a Rakija made with mistletoe, also this one has a round and warm taste.

Bike riding in the area is very popular e.g on the Parenzana track. (In the early 20th the Trieste – Porec, railway past by Motovun) the track is today used for hiking and bike riding.

Where to eat in Motovun

In Motovun there is 5 or 6 restaurant all serving dishes with truffles, I can personally recommend the restaurant at Hotel Kastel, which serves excellent home made dished, like e.g. home made pasta with truffles.

As the city can get very crowded during the summer it can generally be recommend reserving a table.

Parking in Motovun

Visiting Motovun means exercise! Below the city walls there is a very limited number of parking lots which are mainly reserve for guest staying overnight in the city.

For early arrives it is possible to park a long the road leading up to old town, other alternative is to park at the parking place at the bottom of the hill, from here there is a shuttle bus about 500 meter before the old town centre.

The price for the parking is 10 kuna / hour, shuttle bus is also 10 kuna, for people staying overnight in Motovun special prices apply.

Transport to and From Motovun

There are daily buses from cities like Rijeka, Buzet and Umag, the bus stops at the road below the hill or at that main road to Umag.

  • Distance from Motovun to Umag 35 km
  • Distance from Motovun to Porec 27 km
  • Distance from Motovun to Rijeka 68 km

Accommodation Motovun

Motovun has a very limited number of private accommodations, from personal experience we can recommend the newly renovated Hotel Kastel, the hotels has a very nice wellness area, with Swimming pool, massages and beauty treatments, outside the hotel there is nice garden / terrace area with astonishing view on the valley below.

At the Hotel there is an excellent restaurant, in the summer guest can sit on the terrace while enjoying excellent truffles dishes and home cooked specialities.

Hotel Kaštel

Trg Andrea Antico 7
52424 Motovun
tel. 00385/(0)52/681-607 or  00385/(0)52/681-607 , 681-735
fax. 00385/(0)52/681-652

Camping in Motovun

Motovun has no campsite, but as the farmers around the city are used to having tents on their premises(when the film festival is running), it might be possible, that they also (for a smaller fee) would accept a tent or a mobile home, outside this period.

Final words

Motovun is one of the real unique places in Croatia, do to it geographical position in the middle of Istria, it is of course not a place to go for a beach holiday with kids, but I surely would recommend the place for people looking for peace, culture and nature. Motovun can be visited trough out the year, in the summer it can get quite crowded, so for those who really look for a peaceful holiday e.g. in combination with the wellness offer at the Hotel Kastel, I would recommend spring and fall.

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  1. Motovun

    My name is david and live not far from Motovun, tonight we are going to a free concert in Groznjan, mike sponze quartet.Summer nights here are great,filled with atmosphere and friendly faces.

    A charming place like Motovun is the perfect venue for the yearly
    film festival and the other events that are held here.The Croatian people really do put there heart into every event.

    If you are thinking of visiting croatia, i’m Glad you found this guide, it really is a bit special and the Istrain region is spectacular, especially viewed from Motovun being a hilltop village, the views from the peak are breath taking,you can drive almost to the top where you will find a car park to leave your vehicle.

    The rest of the journey must be done on foot and takes about ten to fifteen minutes on the narrow cobbled road,somthing to bear in mind if you are elderly or disabled.

    I run my own Croatian web site and we love to see new visitors enjoying Croatia.

  2. Hi,

    The price for the parking lot in Motovun for the car is 20 kuna per day, shuttle bus is 20 kuna per person return ticket , for people staying overnight most of the apartments offer free public parking up on the hill.

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