The largest town on the Istrian peninsula offers a diversity of attractions to lovers of culture. The rich itinerary of its three thousand year old history, where every step you take through the old town is a landmark, begins and ends with the Roman amphitheatre revealing itself in all its beauty. This is one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world! Today it serves as a host to greatest cultural programs.
A great tourist asset is surely 190 kilometres of indented coastline, crystal-clear sea and beaches to suit everyone’s needs: smooth and even stone surfaces or pebbles for all generations, especially families with children or “secluded” beaches hidden by untouched greenery for those who want a bit of privacy.
Besides the Amphiteathre, while strolling through Pula you will come across numerous monuments of Roman architecture: the Triumphal Arch of the Sergi from the 1st century B.C., Hercules’ Gate and Twin Gates, the Temple of Augustus and Small Roman Theatre in the town centre.
A unique experience will be moments of relaxation in the main town square, which has managed to retain its role as the meeting place since the Augustan Age.
In ancient and medieval times Pula was surrounded by walls with ten gates. Since the walls could not resist time and became unnecessary, they were demolished in the early nineteenth. century, while the only preserved area is from today's Twin gates to Giardina. The Twin Gates were named since two identical arches formed the opening which led into the inner courtyard or the city. They were built during the II-III. century, and now lead to the Archaeological Museum and the castle, Kaštel.
By collecting stone monuments in the Temple of Augustus in 1802, marshal Marmont began the founding of the museum collection in Pula. However, the discovery of stone, ceramic and metal objects in Nesactium was the basis for founding the Museo Civico (City Museum) in Pula in 1902. After the seat of the “Società istriana di archeologia e storia patria” had been moved and with the transfer of the archaeological inventory from Poreč to Pula, the Museo Civico was integrated with the National collection (stone monuments) and the Poreč Regional Museum (Museo Provinciale) into one regional institution. Therefore, in 1925 the Museum of Istria (Il Regio Museo dell'Istria) was founded in the present-day museum building. In 1930 the museum opened its doors to visitors, and a guidebook in Italian was published. This exhibition, along with minor changes, was open for the public until the end of World War II, when many objects were transferred to Italy during the Anglo-American administration.
The current Museum's permanent exhibition, based on a careful selection of a complex archaeological objects, visitors can enjoy and witness the development of material cultures in Istria, from prehistoric times through the period of Roman rule until the period of feudalism of the Peninsula.
Triumphal Arch of the Sergi - Golden Gate
The “Golden Gate” was erected between the years 29 and 27 BC by the Sergi family, in honor of three members of the family who held important positions in Pula at that time. This triumphal arch leaned against the city gate Porta Aurea thus called because of its richly ornamented arch or gilded elements. The gate and wall were pulled down in the beginning of the 19th century as a result of the city expansion outside the city walls.
The Arch was constructed in Corinthian style with strong Hellenistic and Asia Minor influences both in the method and ornaments. As the eastern side was not visible it has remained for the most part uncarved, while the western, town side is richly decorated. Today numerous cultural performances, theatrical and musical, are held on the square next to the Arch. The adjacent street is a shopping area.
The main square of classical and medieval Pula is situated at the foot of the central hill, in the western part of the city close to the sea. The coast where the Forum was constructed in the 1st century BC had to be filled up to gain a larger area. The Forum was the nucleus of city life, its religious, administrative, legislative and commercial center. On the northern part of the Forum stood two twin temples and a central one dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. Today only the Temple of Augustus has been fully preserved while of the second temple only the back wall, built into the Communal Palace in the 13th century, is visible.
Ancient remains of the Forum have been found during the construction of new buildings, the latest ones being "Agrippina and her time" (1st century AD). The remains have been partly restored and are now exhibited in the bank built on the site.
Even today the Forum is the administrative and legislative center of the city. During the summer months it is the venue for numerous cultural events.
The most famous and important monument, the starting and ending point of every sightseeing tour is the Amphitheater, popularly called the Arena of Pula, which was once the site of gladiator fights. It was built in the 1st century AD during the reign of Emperor Vespasian, at the same time as the magnificent Colosseum in Rome.
The ground plan is elliptical, the longer axis measuring about 130 m and the shorter one about 100 m. Gladiator fights took place in the central flat area called the arena, while the spectators could sit on the stone tiers or stand in the gallery. It is believed that the Amphitheater could seat about 20,000 spectators. Local limestone was used for its construction. In the Middle Ages it was the site of knights tournaments and fairs.