Vodnjan (Croatia) (photo by Zupa Vodnjan)

Vodnjan general information

City: Vodnjan (tal. Dignano)
County: Istria County
Country: Croatia
Population: 6.119
Area: 100 km2
Time zone: CET (UTC+1)
Postal code: 52215
Area code: 52

Vodnjan is a picturesque town located in the southwest of Istrian Peninsula, around 12 kilometers north of Pula. It was built on the remains of prehistoric hill fort, and because of great atmospheric conditions it was inhabited during the Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Main activities of the population were agriculture, winery and olive oil production, so it is not surprising that today there are top-quality wine and olive oil being produced in this area. Every year there is a traditional olive oil manifestation being held in Vodnjan, where you can try some of the finest olive oils in the world. The historic part of town is full of churches, gothic houses and palaces, old wells and building decorations, along with slim and curvy streets.

Vodnjan has a rich cultural and historical ancestry, and its biggest attraction are the mummified remains of three saints in the Church of St Blaise, which are admired because of their preservation. The surroundings of Vodnjan has a large number of the “kažuns”, round stone field houses which were used as a cover for the cattle and people and for keeping tools and marking territories.

Vodnjan is today an administrative center of the municipality of the same name which includes Galižana, Peroj, Barbariga and Gajana. The town has a population of 6119 it has two official languages (Croatian and Italian). Majority of the autochthonous population is called “Bumbari” with their unique dialect, folklore, jewels, costumes, dances and customs. Even though it is located in the interior it has a coast of almost 9 km length.


Vodnjan history


Photo by Zupa Vodnjan

Oldest traces of life in town goes back to the Bronze Age. They can be seen on numerous remains of stone buildings located on top of the hills which were called hill forts (castellier). Some of them found in Vodnjan area are: Kaštelir Vodnjanski, Monte Mullino, Mandriol and Sv. Jakov kod Gurana. Besides the hill forts, there were found numerous remains of the graves called tumuli. The tumuli were first discovered in 1954 north of Peroj in the Magornjak – Casali location.

With the arrival of the Romans, the area develops in economic and political way. This is especially true for the agriculture, winery and olive oil production, which is witnessed by many production sites for making wine and olive oil. Most of these sites were found on the western coast of Istria, in Barbariga, because the most of the trade was going through the sea routes. There are also the remains of Roman villas and estates that were used for vacations and leisure, and the most important were on locality Dragonera close to Barbariga.

Name Vodnjan is first mentioned in 1150 – Vicus Atinianus. Later it is mentioned in the form Paponis de Adignano in 1194, then Bassilus de Adignano in 1230-1233 and Bassilus de Adignano and Villa Adignani in 1303. In the 13th and 14th century, this area is under the influence of the Venetians and in 1331 the residents decide to separate from Pula and turn to the Venice Republic. When Znanno Dolfino, a Venetian, is named for Vodnjan podestant, the separation is completed in 1388.

By the end of the 16th century, while most of the population of Istria was battling starvation and disease, Vodnjan was one of the most prosperous areas of Istria, and a sanctuary for many fugitives and exiles. At the time there was a plague in Istria which in time came also to Vodnjan. In 1649, bad weather conditions affect Vodnjan and ruin all of its crops. Despite the troubles with the disease and food, the population and economy of Vodnjan have survived.

Because of the vicinity to Austrian Dutchy of Pazin and suitable position, Vodnjan was privileged for some time. It was a central location for the militia called “cernide”. They were armed forces of men in the age between 18 and 36 which were protecting southern Istria and were based in Vodnjan.
By the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century, Uskoks, backed by Austria, began the fight for separation from the Venice Republic. After the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797, Austrian army enters Vodnjan. Three years later, Vodnjan falls under Pula, and in 1905 it is occupied by the French, which had made it a part of the Kingdom of Italy.

In the next hundred years, Vodnjan was again under Austrian government and because of its strategic and traffic position it became more important. Following the World War I and World War II, there was a time of hard and major changes, while in 1993 it was once again given the status of municipality.


Vodnjan climate

Vodnjan is located in a mild and temperate area. The characteristic of this climate are warm summers and rainy winters. The driest part of the year is early spring (March) and the summer. There is a side maximum of rain in May and June and a maximum in the autumn (October and November). Average temperature of the sea in the summer is between 22 and 24°C, while the number of sunny hours is more than 2400 a year. During the winter, temperatures rarely fall under zero. This whole area is under the influence of quadrant III and IV winds whose total occurrence hits around 24% with average strength of 2 Beaufort. However, from the west and northwest (ponenant and lebić/garbin) there are sometimes strong winds with the strength of 7-8 Beaufort.


Vodnjan economy and tourism

The tourism in Vodnjan is in constant grow over the past decade. Catering industry is particularly developed (restaurants, taverns and pizzerias) along with agro-tourism. In the last three year accommodation capacities have increased along with the number of the apartments and vacation homes, which take up around a half of the capacity. Because of the long tradition in agriculture, winery and olive oil production, those products are an integral part of the touristic offer of Vodnjan. In the area there are olive and wine roads. The most important touristic area is a residential-touristic settlement Barbariga with the capacity of 6000 people which was built during the 80s.

The most important company in this area is Uljanik proizvodnja i opreme d.d., which is a part of a shipyard Brodogradilište Uljanik Pula. The company have been founded in 1981, and it specialized in production of steel constructions which are built in all kinds of ships and boats as well as other maritime products. Commerce tone Galižana has an area of 20 ha and it has over 20 business subject with over 300 workers. Activities in this area are mainly based on production: press, concrete production, clothes, plastic, bicycles, orthopedic aids and locks. There are plans to build a business zone Tison near Vodnjan which would have an area of 270 ha.

Restaurants: Vodnjanka


Vodnjan traffic connection

Vodnjan area is characterized by a strict road network in which most of the roads pass through the immediate center of the town, which causes a lot of traffic jams during rush hour, and especially in the summer months.

With its location in the southwestern part of Istria there are two state and county roads intersection, near the A9 Highway from which there are two entrances to the city: Vodnjan North Junction and Vodnjan South Junction.

Roads in Vodnjan area:

  • D75 State road
  • ŽC5101, ŽC5190, ŽC5192 County roads
  • 50159 Local road

Through the center of the town there is a R101 rail Pula – Buzet – Republic of Slovenia border with a train stop. In Vodnjan area there are no infrastructure for air traffic.


Vodnjan archeological findings and cultural attractions


Vodnjan Kažuns 1Kažun is a small house – shelter, made of stone, and very common for the fields of Istria. They were used as a shelter, for keeping tools and to rest during work in the fields. Today they are a symbol of Istria, so you can see many newly built Kažuns all over the peninsula. It is also very common on the souvenirs. It is interesting to note that in the oldest British National Park District, Kažun was built as a symbol of Croatian entrance to the European Union. Read more


The Church of St Blaise and mysterious mummies of the saints

The Church of St Blaise and mysterious mummies of the saints Vodnjan 1The Church of St Blaise is the biggest in Vodnjan and its surroundings. The bell tower is 62 m high, which makes it the tallest in Istria. The church was built for 40 years from 1760 to 1800 and it has 10 altars, 24 paintings and 18 sculptures. Read more




The Museum of Vodnjan – Bettica Palace

The Museum of Vodnjan – Bettica Palace 2Bettica Palace was named after the Bettica family which received its noble title in the 16th century, along with a large estate close to Betiga near Barbariga. This family from Verona came to Istria and became the owners of the palace that was presumably built in the 14th century. Read more