In July 2022, a unique contemporary cultural attraction was unveiled in the tiny traditional village of Momjan in north-west Istria. The House of Castles is a visitor and creative center as well as an artist-in-residence space and virtual museum showcasing the architectural heritage of castles across Istria.
The initiative is part of a general move involving a different approach to tourism. Visitors are being encouraged to connect more with the surrounding culture they see and not simply consume then leave without a deeper interaction.
In turn, local centers receive funding to be more accessible, more sustainable and aim to welcome visitors year-round.
Momjan is the latest in a string of projects under the umbrella of Take It Slow, a high-budget, EU-funded strategy to regenerate the Adriatic region across Italy and Croatia, along the coast and into the interior. Its remit is to use their natural and cultural heritage as tools for sustainable and more balanced local development. Thousands flock to Poreč every summer to lie on a beach – now there’s a perfectly good reason to take a cloudy morning out and head to Momjan, 35 minutes away.
Running over 30 months, Take It Slow extends until December 31, 2022, by which time it will have assisted 120 separate sites and centers focused on promoting natural and cultural heritage.
Slow tourism is nothing new, of course. A burgeoning trend in the industry, it grew out of Italy’s successful Slow Food movement, initially a one-man campaign by an activist in Piedmont horrified that a prominent American fast-food chain had been allowed to set up by the Spanish Steps in Rome. Over nearly four decades, Slow Food became a global movement, strving to preserve traditional local cuisine, and promote small businesses and sustainable production. Ultimately, it championed quality over quantity. It now numbers 100,000 members in more than 150 countries.
Transposed to the broader context of tourism, with more wide-reaching funding, this slow approach is perfectly suited to the Mediterranean, with its age-old traditions dictated by the seasons and the sea.
Arca Adriatica is a similar, cross-border project between Croatia and Italy, with aims along the same lines at Take It Slow. As well as renovating various boats such as the gajeta and the Kvarner guc, it funded a €1.5-million visitor attraction in Malinska, on the western seaboard of Krk island. Showcasing the maritime heritage of the Adriatic, the DUBoak center was unveiled in the late spring of 2022.
Its name reflecting the historic surrounding region of Dubašnica, as well as a juxtaposition of the Croatian word for ‘deep’ and the English ‘oak’, this new facility focuses on the maritime culture, shipbuilding skills and everyday life of the islanders. Malinska harbor was where goods in oak trunks were loaded onto wooden boats for transportation across the Adriatic to Rijeka and Venice.
This article is sponsored by The Croatian National Tourism Board: ‘Croatia Full of Life’.