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Perched on a hill high above the Mirna river valley, Groznjan is a 14th-century Venetian fortress reborn as the most important arts colony in Istria. Once it was slipping into oblivion, but now Groznjan is ground zero for Istrian artists and musicians.
Poor Groznjan was nearly deserted when, in 1965, the first painters and sculptors moved into its crumbling stone buildings and started restoring them. A few years later the International Cultural Centre of Jeunesses Musicales Croatia set up a summer training program for musicians in Groznjan and the town's renaissance began. Classes taught by renowned European and Japanese musicians, such as Roger Bobo, attract young musicians from around the world to study jazz and classical music. Painters, potters, and carvers followed the musicians, installing studios and galleries along the crooked cobblestone lanes. As you gallery-hop, the melodic strains of musicians rehearsing may inspire you to stay for the free open-air concerts given nightly by students from July to early September.
Like many towns in Istria, Groznjan's architecture reflects a strong Venetian influence. It's not surprising as Groznjan was the seat of the northern part of Venetian territory in Istria. Parts of the defensive walls have been preserved, as well as the main town gate and a part of the ramparts. Next to the gate, on the inner side is a Renaissance loggia dating from 1587. Visit the baroque parish church built in 1770. Highlights of the church include baroque choir stalls, a 17th-century painting and marble altars. For modern art, take a look at the interior of the chapel of Sts Cosmas and Damian which was painted by the notable Croatian painter, Ivan Lovrencic.
There are no hotels in Groznjan but there is a smattering of very comfortable private accommodation. The Villa San Vito offers comfortable apartments in a 17th-century villa on the edge of Groznjan. Many authentic features have been preserved and each apartment has a balcony. Find out more.
Groznjan is 16 miles or 26 kilometres northeast of Porec on the road to Buje but difficult to reach by public transportation. Buses that run from Buzet to Buje pass Bijele Zemlje. Ask to be dropped off and you'll have a scenic 3km walk to Groznjan.
The Groznjan tourist office (052-776 131) is in the centre of town at Umberta Gorjana 3.
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