When thinking about vacations and deciding where to go this summer, if you are considering Croatia then a good option can be Pula. We have got to know Pula quite well over the past five months and last Friday, March 21st, a Bearing team presented a pre-feasibility study of the potential of Pula Kulturring in the City Hall for the Mayor and representatives of the local, regional and national government. In this article I will give an introduction to the city, and maybe it will attract you to one day come to visit.
Pula is the eight largest city by number of inhabitants in Croatia, with 57.460 citizens (census in 2011) and unlike smaller costal towns, the city has an active urban and cultural life during the whole year. It is an ancient city on the southern peak of the the Istria peninsula, around one of the most beautiful bays in the Adriatic sea. The area is know for its gentle scenery, pleasant climate, good wines, coastal tourist resorts and beautiful beaches, but the city offers much more than sea, sun and sand.
Pula has a very long history, being a settlement since close to two thousand years B.C. Around 46-45 B.C. the city was given the rank of a Roman colony, which resulted in intense development with a big surrounding area under its jurisdiction.
The Roman colony dates to the time of Julius Caesar, and the foundation was entrusted to two influential Romans: one was Caesar’s father in law, and the other one was Cassius Longinus, brother of the Cassius, who is remembered in history as Caesar’s assassin. The names of the founders are engraved in the oldest standing Roman monument in Pula, the Hercules Gate.
The natural beauty of Pula’s cultural centre, surrounding Istria countryside and turquoise water of the Adriatic have already made the city an international summer vacation destination. The Roman ruins and 19th century Austro-Hungarian architecture serve as backdrop to the city which has a very focused heart of architectural, historical and cultural significance. Large quantity of Roman buildings and ruins remain throughout the city and have survived up to the present day.
With these unique historical assets, we believe there is the potential to develop Pula from todays regional tourist destination to a world class destination of international importance and priority.
Under Venetian rule (1331-1797), Pula was architecturally neglected, even substantially dismantled. Many structures from the Roman era were pulled down, and stones and columns were carted off across the sea to Italy to be used for new buildings there. However, the unique foundations and many unique assets remain, for example the Roman Amphitheatre (“The Arena”) which is on the similar scale to the Coliseum in Rome. It is one of only twenty remaining amphitheatres in the world, and one of the best preserved. The assets that remain even as ruins are very attractive for tourists, as they inspire imagination to think of how they looked in ancient times.
Today Pula is an industrial port city and the administrative centre of the Istria region. A long history of fishing, shipbuilding, trading, and winemaking, means the old industrial past mixed with the Roman ruins and Austro-Hungarian architecture ( in the surrounding more then 30 forts from the Austro-Hungarian period). The assets mentioned give rise to a unique and important location where tourism and the economy can flourish if directed properly.
As Croatia became a member of the European Union in 2013, the EU structural funds are now available for development in the country. The City of Pula is quite well prepared for implementing the opportunities that come with the EU. The City has already prepared The Development Strategy for the City of Pula for the period 2013-2018 and it emphasises three strategic objectives:
1) Development of human resources and entrepreneurial infrastructure,
2) Enterprise development,
3) Tourist destination of excellence.
When it comes to the business sector, Pula stands for on average 50% of the foreign trade of the Istria region, and imports is about one third of the regions total. in exports the processing industry dominates, led by the "Uljanik" shipyard and followed by the production of cement, glass, clothing, electrical machinery and other products.
Regarding the organized tourism in Istria, it goes back to the Romans, when Emperor Vespasian, for the entertainment of that time, built the The Arena amphitheatre. After the Second World War, significant efforts were made to develop the tourist infrastructure in Istria County. In combination with the natural beauty, rich history and cultural heritage, investments paid off and resulted in highly developed, competitive service all along the western coast of Croatia coast, namely in Istria in general, an specifically in the following locations: Porec, Pula, Rovinj, Umag, Novigrad and Vrsar.
The Istria peninsula is the most important regional tourist destination in Croatia, hosting many western and central European visitors.
The Pula had 27% of all visitors and 35% of time spent in Istria with a total number of tourist arrivals in the year 2012 of 247,993 guests.
Most overnights were made by tourists from Germany, Italy and Austria. In fourth place were guests from the United Kingdom and in fifth place visitors from Slovenia.
The City of Pula has recently developed a culture strategy following the framework of the EU strategic period, 2014-2020. that anticipates all the important elements relevant for the culture in Pula. It is very important to emphasise that the culture offering of Pula is strongly anchored not only to the monuments but also in a large number of cultural events (382 events from April to October 2011). Events include concerts, exhibitions, dance evenings, international festivals, folklore evenings, the international Film Festival when films are shown in the Arena, etc..
In 2013 Pula Film Festival celebrated its 60th anniversary. It was originally established as a film festival for national production but for the 60th birthday it featured twelve feature-length and eighteen short films from all the member countries of the European Union were presented as part of Europolis Programme.
The Pula Film Festival has made an impact on the social and cultural life of Pula citizens, contributing to Pula’s popularization nationally and internationally. At the same time, the audience in Pula is a sociological phenomenon – loyal to its Festival, it has been following national film, expressing a whole array of emotions collectively and spontaneously.
Regarding the monuments and their presentation the Culture strategy proposes an integrated project named Kulturring, intended to enhance the tourist offering and brand. The intended integrated project is based upon Pula´s new established visibility of the inner city cultural heritage, which will include restoration and promotion of historic sites on the stretch between Pula Arena, over Giardina, Hercules Gate, Twin and the Golden Gate, Arch Street to the Forum with the Temple of Augustus and the Cathedral.
Cultural tourist routes would include central cultural tourism and educational points: the rise of the castle by the Historical and Maritime Museum, the planned Museum of Contemporary Art of Istria on the waterfront in an old printing office, the existing Archaeological Museum of Istria enhanced with new construction and technology, renovation of the church Sacred Heart and Small Roman Theatre and Istrian National Theatre. In addition the project would include two levels of underground passages and shelters of which recently opened as part of the exhibition space “Zerostrasse”.
In this way first-class cultural attractions can be developed where it is possible to walk through the city and experience all historically significant periods, from Roman beginnings, through the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the new, modern museum on the waterfront, the city on the lookout castle and then back again to the Roman theatre and archaeological Museum. By the Kulturring development, Pula with so many historical monuments and cultural performances in a small inner city area can become an even more unique and attractive tourist destination.
As i mentioned initially in this article, a Bearing team has been working on the process of establishing the preconditions of the integrated project Kulturring, anchoring the project to the national governance level as well as with local stakeholders. The actions taken, that were necessary for this stage of Kulturring project were of the prefeasibility level and were mainly: activating the stakeholders, verifying that the general conditionalities for EU structural funds were met and also screening the already prepared technical steps. We have concluded the prefeasibility work with a list of short term, mid term and long term actions that can now be taken forward by the city the and Ministry of Tourism in order to enhance the place brand offering of Pula.