My interest in Pula came to life a few years ago when a friend visited on a month long trip through Croatia. He sent rave reviews -photos of tiny fish being cooked over the fire and served with a simple salad – the flavour divine. His stories of arriving in Pula by ferry and enjoying the laid back vibe of the town squares, hit a chord in my brain. It was summer and hot, so he swam at pebble beaches and rocky coves at the nearby Verudela Peninsula and then left to island hop down the coast. It sounded like the perfect holiday to me.
Our travel story years later was different, arriving by car as part of our Ten Weeks in Europe 2015, excited by the promise of Pula Arena, a still-standing Roman Amphitheatre. We were thrilled to discover the Arena was close to the marina and carpark and only minutes on foot from the centre of town, making it easy to see a lot in the short time available.
It is great to reflect upon how many different travel experiences the one destination can offer. Experiencing destinations in our own way means Lovin’ our Life. Of course this doesn’t rule out borrowing ideas from all over the place! We only had hours in Pula but we loved those hours.
What is an Amphitheatre?
In ancient greek Amphi means on both sides and theatron place for viewing. Two theatres placed back to back give the circular or oval shape of the Roman Amphitheatre. Pula’s is elliptical 130m by 100m.
Why is this particular Amphitheatre so good?
It is the sixth largest remaining in the world today.
The Romans built 230 Arenas! Pula’s was constructed in the 1st Century AD by Emperor Vespasian, who also directed the building of Rome’s Colosseum. Built to accommodate 25,000 it seats 5,000 today. Although Rome’s Colosseum held twice as many people, I didn’t think it twice as impressive. Rome’s is immaculate with an intricate exposed Hypogeum (underground) and interesting supporting exhibits, but tackling the crowds can be exhausting.
Pula’s Arena – Just me and you.
Our photos of Pula are taken in early Spring approximately one month later in the season than our visit to Rome’s Colloseum yet with far fewer crowds.
Pula’s Arena is rated the fourth most famous of those remaining. Ahead of it are:
3. Verona, Italy 2. El Djem, Tunisia 1. Rome, Italy.
Rome’s Amphitheatre for comparison purposes
Although the crowds in Rome do not seem excessive in this photo, they were by comparison, large.
OK Rome’s Coliseum is pretty amazing and now I am seriously tempted to add El Djem and Verona’s amphitheatres to my wish list.
Pula’s Amphitheatre has port/marina views.
If your budget doesn’t run to the entry fee, the arena can be viewed up close from the outside, a trick which tourist operators have embraced, giving their spiel on a rise with a view down into the arena.
A caffe/bar with a small seating area overlooks the arena.
Pula’s amphitheatre remained in use till the 5th Century when gladiatorial matches were banned. From then until the 13th Century locals used it’s stone as a easy source of building material. Again in 1709 and for the last time, stone was removed and used for the foundations for the belfry of Pula Cathedral.
General Marmont, the same General whom Split named their wide pedestrianised shopping street (Marmontova) after, started the restoration of the Arena of Pula. In 1932 the Arena became a theatre production venue and has hosted concerts from a wide range of artists from Sting to Pavarotti.
Adult entry is a very reasonable 20 kuna or $3.60AUD.
Pula Arena is very close to a 200 place car park on the waterfront.
*The arena can be viewed easily and F.O.C from the outside.
Underground gladiator passages (not visible from above) contain an exhibition of viticulture and olive growing in Istria in ancient times.
Pula is on the southern end of the Croatian Istrian Peninsula. Time permitting, choose a town to base yourself in and explore the many interesting Istrian towns from there. We stayed with relatives in Umag in the north and made exploratory trips each day. Pula was on the top of our list and being furthest from Umag we chose it for our first day, returning home through the towns of Rovinj and Vrsar. Why not choose Pula as a base and explore the Istrian Peninsula from there? The options are endless!
Thanks for reading and commenting – we really appreciate it. If you have a blog we would love you to add your travel post to the link below for Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday which we co-host with Ruth from Tanama Tales and Rachel from Rachel’s Ruminations.