Pula is full of Roman sights; temples, arches, and gates are all to be found there but by far the most impressive, and still in use today, is the Pula Arena, a Roman era amphitheatre. A trip here is a must for anyone interested in Roman antiquity.
The Arena is a popular venue for performances in the summer months. It seats around 5,000 and hosts the Film Festival, Opera Festival and various concerts. It’s astonishing to think that this building that was completed in 81 AD and over the centuries has been pillaged for its stone is still standing and still fulfilling its original purpose, minus the blood & gore of course. A big difference to our modern sports stadia, considered to have a good innings if they last more than a few decades. It used to seat 20,000 and must have been an amazing sight to behold. It is among the sixth largest surviving Roman amphitheatres and still has its complete circuit of external walls.
If you don’t manage to get there when there’s an event on, you can still go inside. Entry is 50 Kuna (about $9) and you’re free to wander around inside as you want. Don’t forget to go beneath the arena floor too, to see the underground passages where you’ll find the permanent exhibition of wine-making and olive growing in Istria.
We don’t recommend staying in or near Pula itself, the town isn’t particularly pretty, preferring Rovinj, a 45 minute drive away, but what Pula does have, as a fairly large and non-touristy town, is a substantial market. With indoor market halls for fish and meat and an outside area for everything else, you should find everything you need to create your own versions of some Istrian cuisine classics, as well as some items to take home at non-tourist prices – don’t be afraid to try a bit of haggling too. If you’re driving from Rovinj we suggest getting to Pula early, park up near the Arena, then walk into town and visit the market, do your shopping then check out the Arena. If you buy some fish, ask the fishmonger for a polystyrene box to keep it cool in the trunk of the car.