Bale, Croatia – 13 Snapshots and a Traveler’s Notebook

Soardo-Bembo Castle

The best thing about Bale is that it’s on the way somewhere. In a place like Croatia’s Istrian peninsula, where there are dozens of medieval towns and villages to explore, that’s important. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t have experienced these sensational pre-sunset hues that plastered the early autumn landscape that enveloped us. And wouldn’t have discovered what is now on my short list of favorite Istrian towns.

Tucked neatly among olive groves and vineyards about halfway between Rovinj and Vodnjan –and another 12 kilometers further, the port city of Pula– Bale (Valle to Italians) was for us a dinner pit stop on the way to the latter.

Bale cobblestone
Bale cobblestone

A quick google search turned up La Grisa (in the center) and Meneghetti (on the outskirts), well-rated but relatively pricey slow food-style Konobas, the local word for the Italian trattoria or Slovenian gostilna. On the recommendation of a newsstand/trafika owner, we settled on the more authentic and less fussy Kod Kancelira, where locals drinking bottomless glasses of Istrian red out front greeted us warmly. The homemade truffle cheese soaking in olive oil from the proprietor’s cellar was a nice fit after a few hours in the car. I had a steak and Danijela had gnocchi, both topped with a creamy truffle sauce; when or if you go, ask for a less creamy version.

A self-guided pre-sunset circle tour followed, largely along where walls once fortified the old town center. The colors were just about perfect, made all the better coming at the tail end of Ljubljana’s darkest September on record. The light was pushing energy into my pores.

What struck us both immediately was how neat and well-kept everything was. I’d estimate that two-thirds to three-quarters of the houses on our after dinner walk –many well over a century old– have fresh facades, new windows, new roofs. The contrast with similar towns, such as the nearby and larger Vodnjan, was striking.

There were guest houses galore, with several more on the market –many of those requiring an infusion of cash-backed TLC–for those interested in trying to cash in on the AirBnB boom before it inevitably goes bust. I must admit the thought was inviting. The nearest shore, purportedly Istria’s most pristine, is just five kilometers away.

Soardo-Bembo Castle, Bale, Croatia
Soardo-Bembo Castle

Its focal point is the central Tomaso Bembo Square, dominated by the Gothic-Renaissance facade of the 16th century Soardo-Bembo Castle (above). It’s a beautiful structure, fully renovated in 2012. Sitting opposite is the equally impressive municipal building (below) whose exquisite loggia dates back to the 14th century.

Municipal Building, Bale, Croatia
Municipal Building, Bale, Croatia
Municipal building, Bale
Municipal building, Bale
Tomaso Bembo Square, Bale, Croatia
Tomaso Bembo Square, Bale

It’s quiet, laid back and seemingly out of the way –at least by current standards. Posters suggested plenty to do during the summer months. I’ll definitely be back. And will stay for breakfast and lunch, too.

A few more images below; I didn’t feel like carrying or fidgeting with my DSLR so these are all iPhone snaps.

In the Bale maze
Small church, Bale
Trg Palih Boraca, Bale
Trg Palih Boraca, Bale
Partisan Memorial, Bale, Croatia
Partisan Memorial, Bale, Croatia
Pay phone, Bale
At Tomaso Bembo Square
Always a joy to see a Yugo, a car I drove in the US for five years.


And finally, a couple links to help you plan: Tourism Office 1 and Tourism Office 2.



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  1. Steph & Zach dorworth says

    First off, truffle cheese? Yes please. We can tell you’re a photographer because these photos are excellent. Looks like a great place to visit.

    1. Bob R says

      It was good, perhaps just a bit too strong on the truffle side, but that’s not really a complaint.

  2. Koen says

    Croatia is on our must visit travel list for Europe. Great to know this small place, where you can just wander aournd.

  3. Andi says

    I love the stone buildings, it’s my dream to live in one someday. Beautiful town.

  4. authenticfoodquest says

    Croatia is on my bucket list and it’s discover Bale, from your perspective. The slow food type approach sounds incredibly delicious – – homemade truffle cheese, loads of red wine 🙂 Yum. Can’t wait to visit soon!

    1. Bob R says

      That’s typical of most Istrian towns, on both the Slovenian and Croatian sides of the border. Hope you make it. 🙂

  5. andysmerdon says

    So few people in the pics – is it always this quiet? Great pics 🙂

    1. Bob R says

      Don’t know about ‘always’, but it was on this particular early evening. 🙂

  6. One of our friends just came back from Dubrovnic and tols us how crowded it is there. So it’s good to know that there are less crowded little towns in Croatia where we could stop to enjoy the atmosphere if we wanted to make a road trip!

  7. Kate says

    Such beautiful architecture! I knew very little about Croatia before reading this post, but the cuisine sounds amazing!

  8. Carolina Colborn says

    Croatia is a must-see, they say. These are such neat info and photos of Bale!

  9. nickwheatley says

    Bale looks beautiful! We were on the Istrian Peninsula earlier this year but didn’t happen through there. The north of Croatia seems more and more inviting because of the crowds that you now find around Dubrovnik and the islands in the south. Maybe we’ll have the opportunity to travel through Bale soon – thanks for putting on my radar!

  10. Adelina says

    What a quaint looking little town! Sounds like a great place to base yourself along the Istrian Peninsula

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