Croatia Pula Roman Arena Interior Walls

Written by Missy Johnston

Yacht Chartering in Croatia should include a stop in Pula, in northern Croatia on the western coast of the Istrian Peninsula, long favored by civilizations through the millenniums, especially by the Romans as can be seen by the extraordinary arena that is still a focal point of Pula today. Pula has a very long history, a great protected harbor with a major marina, and is a gateway into Istria, known for wineries, truffle hunting, shell farming, honey, and olive oil. Pula also has been a center of ship building. As the first northern mainland port after cruising through the Cres-Losing group of islands in the Kvarner Gulf, yacht chartering in northern Croatia should include a stop in Pula, an important port for many civilizations through millenniums.

Croatian Pula Roman Arena

Pula is located in a naturally protected location along the western coastline of the Istrian Peninsula, which civilizations have beneficially used with evidence of settled life in the area found from over a million years ago. There are remains from both the Bronze Age and the Hellenistic Age, however, the greatest impact, at least that which is seen today in Pula, was that of the Roman civilization The Pula Arena was built between 27 BC and 68 AD, much of it still standing to this day anchoring the center of the city next to the harbor. The Romans also created both a water supply and a sewage system for the city and the city was surrounded by strong Roman built walls with ten gates. Some of the walls can still be seen today within the city, and several of the gates remain including the triumphal Arch of the Sergii, the Gate of Hercules (in which the names of the founders of the city are engraved) and the Twin Gates. It was in Pula that Crispus Caesar was executed in 326 AD and Gallus Caesar was executed in 354 AD. After the Fall of Rome, this part of Croatia went through various rulers just as did other parts of Croatia.

Roman Arena Interior showing Oval Shape and Part of Wall that has been Cleaned and is White Again

Actually, an Arena, as the structure is built in an oval shape, the Arena in Pula is the only remaining Roman Arena in with world with a complete encircling wall. Undergoing cleaning, today one can see the original color of the cleaned gleaming white stone wall against the stone wall darkened by modern pollution, and imagine what the Arena once looked like, and will look like again stark white against the bright blue sky and imagine the impact this huge Arena made in Roman times on those arriving in Pula harbor. Built to host 20,000 spectators, and known today by the post holes remaining, those spectators sat in comfort as a huge cloth cover, soaked in bee’s wax to repel rain, came out over the seating area for sun and rain protection. Today, the labyrinth of space underneath the Arena where animals were housed before the Events, and where Warriors and Gladiators prepared are open to the public with explanatory signage.

Roman Arena Exterior Walls

Not far from the Arena is Pula Old Town, once the Roman town, but further built up in the medieval ages, with little winding walking streets. The easiest entrance is through the Roman built Arch of the Sergi, also known as the Golden Gate. This majestic arch was erected around 27 BC by the Sergi Family to commemorate three brothers who fought in the naval battle of Actium where the future emperor Augustus Caesar defeated Marc Antony and Cleopatra on the Greek mainland. It stood at the entrance to the Roman town, the walls of which can still be partly seen nearby along the road leading to the gate. The walking streets open up into a lovely piazza housing the perfectly proportioned Roman Temple of Augustus built between 2 B.C. and 14 A.D. Fronted by a high porch supported by six Corinthian columns, the temple survived the Christian time period by being converted to a church only to be destroyed by a bomb when Pula was heavily bombed during WWII in 1944. The Temple was painstakingly re-constructed stone by stone after the War, and now houses a small archeological display.

Roman Arch of the Sergii Entrance to Old Town

It is Old Town Pula where all comes alive at night, although the Harbor is quite attractive with the light show that plays every 15 minutes on the hour at the city’s 19th-century Uljanik shipyard, one of the world’s oldest working docks. Created by renowned lighting designer Dean Skira, the shipyard’s iconic cranes are lit up in 16,000 different color schemes. In Old Town, the bars and night clubs are very active, particularly in the piazza where the Temple of Augustus is located where cafes and bars have outdoor seating around the piazza with the Temple artfully lit at night.

Old Town Roman Temple of Augustus in Piazza

When yacht chartering and stopping in Pula, don’t miss spending a day exploring the rest of Istria, perhaps heading to Livade for an hour of a Truffle Hunting Exhibition to learn all there is to learn about Truffle Hunting, and to enjoy a lunch filled with truffles at Zigante Restaurant, visiting a winery for a wine tasting, enjoying olive oil and honey tastings, and perhaps visiting the medieval walled village of Motovun.

Well located on a natural safe harbor, civilizations for over a million years have settled in and around the Pula area and today is no different. Be sure when yacht chartering in Croatia to include Pula as a stop or start or end a charter in Pula when cruising in northern Croatia.