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Konoba and Boutique Hotels, in Istria, Croatia: 
Different Styles, Same Aims



by Barry Napier
May 14, 2009

There are two major types of small hotels in Istria, Croatia: Konoba-style and boutique. Large hotels tend to be international in style and food.

Konobas are traditional, maintaining Istrian style throughout, from rooms to food. Boutique hotels tend to mix tradition with international. Both styles are vital in Istria’s bid to become a top tourist destination.

DVA Baladura
Konoba Hotel with More to Offer

Already doing well, the DVA Baladura in Istria, Croatia, is about to expand on its features, so as to appeal to a wider clientele.

The owner of the hotel owns a large piece of land, and will be developing it to include country walks, children’s areas, animals, and a golf-driving centre, which will also have a golfing school under the eye of a qualified instructor. The ideas are very much like the owner himself who, as with many Istrian businessmen, has more than one job to keep heart and soul together. Mario Bertetic is a jovial, pleasant hard worker, with a construction company, bakery, and other businesses.

Mario started in catering college. After that, with his own restaurant, he cooked for people like Buzz Aldrin the astronaut, and for the President of Croatia, which tells us a lot about his expertise.

The Hotel is in the village of Pilkovici, not far from Rovinj – about half way up the Istrian map, in a rural location, and yet close to the major road joining north to south. Mario rebuilt his family home until it became what it is today. 

Rooms are air conditioned and spacious; capacity is 24+8 beds… some in apartments and others in rooms. One apartment I saw had a traditional stone balcony reached both from the exterior by outside stone stairs and from the apartment. It has a traditional Istrian well and a view over the countryside. Apparently, the name of the Hotel is based on this exterior well-with-balcony arrangement.

The pool is set in spacious inner grounds, also with a country view. The main building is well finished inside and out, along traditional Croatian lines. Whilst bathrooms are very modern, bedrooms are traditional and have plenty of space. 

In common with many Istrian hotels, even smaller ones, there is a wellness-centre, a bio-sauna, solarium; and massages, manicures, pedicures, etc. To date there are 3 kms of walkway through the land. From the walkway you can see the old town of Dvigrad on one side, and the Lim Valley on the other.


DVA Baladura
Pilkovici 26/27, 52352 Kanfanar
Istria, Croatia
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The restaurant has a friendly traditional design, covering 40 diners inside and a further 40 outside during summer. When I ate there, it was encouraging to see a local Istrian family having their lunch, too. Food is cooked to typical Istrian recipes and local fine wines accompany the meals. 

Like all konoba establishments in Istria, foods are freshly cooked using seasonal ingredients. It is worth bearing in mind that these fresh foods and wines contain nothing chemical, but are all natural, free of additives, colorants and preservatives. Breads are fresh-baked, and also contain nothing but natural ingredients. This is why anyone with a wheat or food allergy can usually eat in Istria with no ill-effects. The only effect I had after eating a meal at DVA Baladura, was to feel full!

Hotel Villa Cittar
Istria’s Newest Boutique Hotel

Sergio Cittar strolled into the Cittar wearing his yachting jacket. Relaxed, he met me with warmth and pride in his newest hotel. I had met him before, in his older Cittar hotel, just a few streets away, and he was just as relaxed then. He believes that “people make the colours” of any hotel, so why turn up with a suit and tie? After all, he was enjoying life!

The older three-star Cittar uses the ancient town wall as its front door. It is next to the harbour and the back overlooks a quiet green area with trees. This newest hotel is in an ordinary road, not far away, in the middle of Novigrad. It is an old fishing village turned into a small town. Like many ancient seaside villages it was once fully walled for defence. The walls were removed about a century ago, but the harbour is still working.

As Sergio showed me around his new four-star hotel, two things were obvious – firstly, it is definitely in the category of ‘boutique’ and, secondly, it is an excellent refurbishment of an old Croatian building. It turned out that the first ‘obvious’ observation was correct. But, I was mistaken about the second! Sergio had bought an old town building, demolished it, and built a brand new building. The resulting outer shell fooled me completely, being a beautiful reproduction of an old traditional building. (Istria plans to specialise in boutique hotels – this is an excellent example).

Because the new building is purpose-built, the stylish interior is designed to perfection, utilising every part to best effect in the available space. And it works really well. The exterior front faces the street and the pleasant building opposite, and there is a long terrace above street level. I like to sit with a coffee or wine outside these places, watching people go by. In the winter and spring, you can watch the locals going about their daily business – many will happily wave to you and answer a call of ‘dobridan’ (hello, or good day). 

Inside this modern establishment are areas with a specific purpose. To the left is the dining room with a semi-circular glass panel made of stain-glass pictures of yachts. This is also the back wall of the front desk, using space to best advantage. One side looks out onto the front terrace. Opposite the dining room is a bar area that also opens onto the terrace, extending the social space on warm days.


Hotel Villa Cittar
52466 Novigrad, Cittanova
Istria, Croatia
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There are 12 double bedrooms, rich in texture and fittings, with en-suites and balconies. Each room has a queen-bed with luxurious head, mini bar, safe, satellite TV, internet connection, hair dryer, and a very modern bathroom to the highest standard. Top two floors make use of every space with open communal balconies, one with a whirlpool tub. The top area has a sun deck with a view over the bay and town. The architect managed to put a great number of features into a normal-size town house! The décor is top quality and modern. Below stairs is a wellness area, with a large bubbling pool and rooms used for a variety of wellness activities, including sauna.

And there’s more! A short stroll around the harbour and past the Nautica Hotel with its yachting berths, is the Cittar’s own tennis complex, with four courts, a pizzeria, bar, ice-cream shop and beach with sunbeds. In this way a boutique hotel can offer facilities not usually possible on a smallish site.

© Barry Napier
 

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Contact:

Barry Napier
Hotel/Travel Journalist &
Tourism Consultant
barry.napier@ntlworld.com

DVA Baladura
Dva.baladura@pu.t-com.hr
www.dvabaladura.hr
Address:
Pilkovici 26/27, 52352 Kanfanar, Istria, Croatia

Hotel Villa Cittar
villa@cittar.hr
http://www.cittar.hr
Address:
52466 Novigrad, Cittanova, Istria, Croatia

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Also See: Konoba-style Hotels and Agri-tourism Important Component of National Tourist Plan for Istria, Croatia; A Visit with Ipsa Olive Oil, Istria / April 2009
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