Framed against the backdrop of the rocky Ćićarija ridge, the dainty village of ROČ, about 10km east of Buzet, sits behind sixteenth-century walls so low that the place looks more like a child’s sandcastle than an erstwhile medieval strongpoint. Roč has a strong folk music tradition, with performing skills passed down from one generation to the next, and almost the entire population is involved in some capacity or other with the local folk music society, Istarski željezničar (“Istrian railwayman”), which has a brass section, male and female choirs and an accordion band. The locals use an archaic, push-button accordion known as the Trieština, which is rarely found outside Istria and northeastern Italy. Best time to hear it in action is during the International Accordion Festival (Z armoniku v Roč) over the second weekend in May: the tourist office in Buzet will have details.
With their neat rows of sturdy farmhouses, the narrow lanes of Roč provide a wonderful environment in which to savour the rustic atmosphere of eastern Istria. There’s a small display of Roman tombstones inside the arch of the main gate into town, and the Romanesque St Barthol’s Church (Crkva svetog Bartula) in the centre, an ancient, barn-like structure lurking behind an enormous chestnut tree and sporting an unusually asymmetrical bell tower.