From Rijeka, we follow the coast road down trough Opatija and Lovran, enjoying the old Austro-Hungarian buildings and gardens, and the views over the Kvarner gulf and the islands floating out there. Although it’s around midday, the clouds are still dark and heavy after the storm, but we can see it clearing as we head south.
Arriving in Bale, we take a little time to find the La Grisa hotel, so well does it fit into the old town. Composed of a series of renovated stone houses clustered around a courtyard, it’s stylish and very much of its place. Our room is on the third floor, almost a tower, with lots of space, and a jacuzzi in our room! On the first floor is an indoor pool, which is a very peaceful place to hang out, with a sauna and a selection of hot drinks to enjoy as you sit on the recliners. It’s a great place to relax after a day sightseeing! The gourmet restaurant is certainly a cut above your average hotel restaurant, with some great choices for a veggie! The waiter, Bogdan, is very friendly and introduces us to some fine local Istrian wines to pair with the food. Chef Nikola Vuković comes out to chat and have a photo taken with us!
Bale turns out to be a lovely little town with an ancient double-walled citadel that has grown into a medieval town. Castello Soardo-Bembo is a fine 16th century building, originally built by the Soardo family. later owned by the Bembos. The young Giacomo Chevalier De Seignalt Casanova stayed here several times back in the 1740s, apparently visiting a lady of the Soardo family.
Sadly, the castello wasn’t open for visiting at this time in this season, but it was fascinating to wander around the circular streets of the old town. There are clearly artists here, and even in October there are flowers everywhere, tubs and window boxes. In the main square there’s even an old truck used as a floral display! Under the porch of the town hall, there’s a stylish cat house for the resident mouser, with a log to run up and his name – Gatto Pardo – above the door.
We circumnavigate the old town. inside and out, enjoying the gardens and views of the Bale skyline. The olive oil places are rather busy in October, so we don’t get a tasting at short notice. We’ll arrange that another day. Around the town are vineyards and olive groves, and this is a good place to try Istrian olive oil.
Here’s my sketch of the Bale skyline…