Bale is one of the most delightful hilltop villages in Istria and well worth a stop if not a prolonged stay. Medieval streets lined with 14th and 15th century houses wind in a circle around the hill, creating an urbanscape of arresting beauty. Most appealing are the occasional galleries, shops and taverns that give the town a relaxed, artsy vibe.
It was at the aforesaid Colone Cove that a rich trove of dinosaur fossils were found. Intrigued? Stop by the Ulika gallery in Bale's town hall to view the old bones.
One km east of Bale town traces of neolithic habitation were found. In the early Bronze age, a new settlement sprang up on the site of current Bale town that may or may not have existed at the same time as the older settlement. Fragments of pottery were found from the middle Bronze age that are currently on display in the museum of Rovinj. Most traces of this settlement were erased in the Middle Ages.
The Romans constructed a fort here with the aim of protecting the vital trade link between Pula and the interior. As early as the 10th century Castrum Vallis or "valley fort" was mentioned and over the succeeding centuries a walled settlement developed.
At some point the powerful Soardo family built a powerful citadel that became a residence in the 14th century. The Soardo-Bembo Citadel is now the highlight of Bale with a striking gothic-renaissance facade.
The town was mostly deserted by its Italian inhabitants after 1945 but a steady trickle of savvy tourists is reviving interest in its development.
Entrance to the old town is via an arch next to the Soardo-Bembo Citadel. Stroll along the narrow, arched alleys until you come to St Elizabeth's church in the central square. Although built by then-mayor Bembo in the 19th century, this elegant neo-baroque structure houses fragments of a much-earlier church inside. In fact, it is the fifth church built upon this site! Also inside is a wooden statue believed to have once brought rain to the town.
A more modest contruction is the 15th-century church of Holy Spirit was built in the 15th century. The humble exterior masks an explosion of colorful frescoes inside depicting scenes from the life of Christ.
As a civic building, take note of the handsome town hall built in the 14th century when Bale was under Venetian rule.
There are some excellent local dining spots in Bale where you can tickle your tastebuds without spending a fortune.
It's known for it's Istrian steak as well as homemade sausages.
Close to the bus stop and town entrance, this local tavern is the place to try fuzi and truffles. See my review.
Just outside the old town, this place specializes in homemade pasta, venison with beef and homegrown chicken.
Bale is not the place for sprawling resorts or international chains but if it's boutique-style you're looking for, Bale is the place for you. The best is the four-star Hotel Meneghetti outside town in the rolling Istrian countryside. In town are some wonderful, homey B & Bs.
From Rovinj bus station, there are buses to Bale every hour or so and the trip takes 15 minutes. For the schedule and online booking see Bookaway. It's also a quick drive with easy parking right outside the old town.