One of the places that was on my list of “must visit” for (too) long was Dvigrad in Istria. Finally, this morning, leaving Rovinj, I drove straight there. Visible from the highway high above the deep valley, Dvigrad is short drive from the turn to Rovinj. Actually, you look for signs to Kanfanar and then, once you enter the town, you take the first left and simply drive straight to Dvigrad. Small parking is right in front of the ruins and we found a local with his offer of home made olive oils and grapas.
Dvigrad is an ancient town that started as an Illyrian settlement. Later came the Romans and the centuries that followed were quite calm till the late Middle Ages when Istria became a much wanted pray of the always greedy Venetians. The divided towns of Istria were no match for modern Venetian armies and “diplomacy” and they slowly fell into the Venetian rule.
By the end of the 14th century, Istria became involved in the war between Venice and Genova. The patriarchs of Aquileia continued to rule Dvigrad until the beginning of the 15th century and The well known aristocratic family from Pula, the Castropols/Castropola, got involved in this battle siding with Goricians dukes who fought for patriarchs. During the heavy clashes between Genoa and Venice, Dvigrad was besieged by the Genoese admiral Paganin Doria who conquered it in 1345.
In the year 1383, Dvigrad was reconquered, but this time by the Venetians, who burnt it, slaughtered its population and took the relics from the basilica of St. Sophia. Spreading their rule in Istria, the Venetians tried to bring under their influence all of Istrian towns.
In 1420 Dvigrad finally became part of Venetian dominions in Istria. In 1616. Dvigrad was devastated by the Uskoci during the war between Venice and Austria and in 1631. was devastated by plague. This was the beginning of the end of life in Dvigrad. When the church of St. Sophia was abandoned in 1714, the town was left to its sad fate…
Visiting Dvigrad you have to ask yourself why the locals have done so little in preserving this? Cutting down most of the trees would definitely help and it probably does not cost 20 900 934 Euros! There are ruins of 220 structures and one is able to still walk the stone paved streets of this medieval town. Of course, it is smart to watch your step and head as the walls may fall down! Also important is to watch your step when climbing the towers and defense walls that are quite high and, if you get dizzy on narrow paths very high above the ground, be careful when reaching towers.
I looked around in search of a twin town ruins but could not see much. Dvigrad actually means “two towns” or “twin town” as even in Roman times, this place had it’s sibling on the nearby hill. Today’s Dvigrad is actually Moncastello and the other town was Parentin – abandoned in 10th century. Constant attacks, plague and malaria destroyed this other town…
Dvigrad makes a spectacular visit for anyone into history and “ghost towns” and it may be visited just before storms when cloudy skies give ominous feeling to the whole site. We enjoyed it on a very beautiful day although I plan to return in the Winter when the vegetation is not that high. Hopefully, the restoration works started in 1997. will continue soon.