The chief reminder of Pula’s Roman heritage is the immense amphitheatre (Amfiteatar or arena), just north of the centre, a huge grey skein of connecting arches whose silhouette dominates the city skyline. Built towards the end of the first century BC, it’s the sixth largest surviving Roman amphitheatre in the world, with space for 22,000 spectators, although why such a capacious theatre was built in a small Roman town of only five thousand inhabitants has never been properly explained.

The outer shell is remarkably complete, although only a small part of the seating remains anything like intact; the interior tiers and galleries were quarried long ago by locals, who used the stone to build their own houses. It is, in fact, lucky that the amphitheatre survives here at all: overcome by enthusiasm for Classical antiquities, the sixteenth-century Venetian authorities planned to dismantle the whole lot and reassemble it piece by piece in their own city; they were dissuaded by the Pula-born patrician Gabriele Emo, whose gallant stand is remembered by a plaque on one of the amphitheatre’s remaining towers. Once inside, you can explore some of the cavernous rooms underneath, which would have been used for keeping wild animals and Christians before they met their deaths. They’re now given over to a display devoted to Roman-era wine production in Istria, with an atmospherically lit collection of olive presses and crusty amphorae.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Croatia features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Sailing in Croatia: a first-timer’s guide

Sailing in Croatia: a first-timer’s guide

Coastlines don’t come much more idyllic than Croatia’s 2000km of ruggedly beautiful Adriatic shore. Along this magnificent stretch are ancient Roman remains…

03 Jul 2017 • Eleanor Aldridge insert_drive_file Article
Island-hopping in Croatia: a practical guide

Island-hopping in Croatia: a practical guide

With its mountainous coastal backdrop, scattering of tawny islands and giddyingly translucent waters, the Croatian Adriatic offers one of the most compelling se…

13 Jun 2017 • Jonathan Bousfield insert_drive_file Article
The 10 best summer festivals for escapism in 2017

The 10 best summer festivals for escapism in 2017

Festivals are a different beast in 2017. They used to be associated with drinking warm cider while watching crusty bands in your naffest clothes; now the best e…

07 Jun 2017 • David Hillier insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month