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Pula ( ; ; ) is the largest city in Istria Countymarker, Croatiamarker, situated at the southern tip of the Istriamarker peninsula, with a population of 62,080 (2006).Like the rest of the region, it is known for its mild climate, tame sea, and unspoiled nature. The city has a long tradition of winemaking, fishing, shipbuilding, and tourism. Pula has also been Istria's administrative centre since ancient Roman times.


Pula is the largest city in Istriamarker county, with a metropolitan area of 90,000 people. The city itself has 62,080 residents (2005), while the metropolitan area includes Barbanmarker (2,802 residents), Fažanamarker (3,050 residents), Ližnjanmarker (2,945 residents), Marčanamarker (3,903 residents), Medulinmarker (6,004 residents), Svetvinčenatmarker (2,218 residents) and Vodnjanmarker (5,651 residents).

Its population density is 1,093.27 residents/km², ranking Pula fifth in Croatia.

Its birth rate is 1.795 per cent and its mortality rate is 1.014 per cent (in 2001 466 people were born and 594 deceased), with a natural population decrease of -0.219 per cent and vital index of 78.45.

The majority of its citizens are Croats representing 71.65% of the population (2001 census). Ethnic minorities and their composition is as follows: 3,415 Serbs (5.83 per cent), 2,824 Italians (4.82 per cent), 980 Bosniaks (1.67 per cent), 731 Slovenians (1.25 per cent) and the rest belong to other minor ethnic communities.

Geography and climate

The city lies on and beneath seven hills on the inner part of a wide gulf and a naturally well-protected port (depth up to ) open to the northwest with two entrances: from the sea and through Fažana channel.

Today, Pula's geographical area amounts to , on land and at sea, bounded from the north by islands Sv. Jerolim and Kozada, city areas Štinjan, Veli Vrh and Šijanic forest; from the east area Monteserpo, Valmade, Busoler and Valdebek; from the south with the old gas works, commercial port Veruda and island Veruda; and from the west Verudela, Lungomare and Musil.

Like the rest of the region it is known for its mild climate, tame sea, and unspoiled nature with an average of sunny days of 2,316 hours per year or 6.3 hours a day, with an average air temperature of ( in February to in July and August) and sea temperature from to .



Hominid remains, dating back to 1 million years B.C., have been found in the cave of Šandalja near Pula. Pottery from the Neolithic period (6000-2000 B.C.), indicating human settlement, have been found around Pula.

The city's earliest recorded permanent habitation dates back to the 10th century BC. It was founded by the Illyrian tribe of the Histri, an ancient people that lived in Istria.

The town was known to early Greek voyagers, since its founding was attributed to the Colchis. It was mentioned in the mythological story of Jason and Medea, who had stolen the golden fleece. The Colchis, who had chased Jason into the northern Adriatic, were unable to catch him and ended up settling in the region where the Illyric tribe lived. They called the place Polai, signifying "city of refuge". Greek pottery and a part of a statue of Apollo have been found, attesting to the presence of the Greek culture.

Ancient period

The Istrian peninsulamarker was conquered by the Romans in 177 B.C., starting a period of Romanization. The town was elevated to colonial rank between 46-45 B.C. as the tenth region of the Roman Empire, under Julius Caesar. During that time the town grew and had at its zenith a population of about 30,000. It became a significant Roman port with a large surrounding area under its jurisdiction. During the civil war of 42 B.C. of the triumvirate of Octavian, Mark Antony and Lepidus against Caesar's assassins Brutus and Cassius, the town took the side of Cassius, since the town had been founded by Cassius Longinus, brother of Cassius. After Octavian's victory, the town was demolished. It was soon rebuilt at the request of Octavian's daughter Iulia and was then called Colonia Pietas Iulia Pola Pollentia Herculanea'. Great classical constructions were built of which a few remain. A great amphitheatre, Pula Arenamarker was constructed between 27 BC - 68 AD., much of it still standing to this day. The Romans also supplied the city with a water supply and sewage systems. They fortified the city with a wall with ten gates. A few of these gates still remain: the triumphal Arch of the Sergiimarker, the Gate of Hercules (in which the names of the founders of the city are engraved) and the Twin Gates. This town was the site of Gallus Caesar's execution. During the reign of emperor Septimius Severus the name of the town was changed into "Res Publica Polensis"

In 425 A.D. the town became the centre of a bishopric, attested by the remains of foundations of a few religious buildings.

Middle Ages

Chapel of St. Mary Formosa
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city and region were attacked by the Ostrogoths, Pula being virtually destroyed by Odoacer, a Germanic foederati general in 476 AD. The town was ruled by the Ostrogoths from 493 to 538 AD. When their rule ended, Pula came under the rule of the Exarchate of Ravenna (540-751). During this period Pula prospered and became the major port of the Byzantine fleet and integral part of the Byzantine Empire. The Basilica of Saint Mary Formosa was built in this period.

The first arrival of the Slavs in the environs of the town dates to the 7th century, but they never really settled the city, which kept its Roman soul. The history of the city continued to reflect its location and significance, like that of the region, in the redrawing of borders between European powers.

From 788 on Pula was ruled by the Frankish kingdom under Charlemagne, with the introduction of the feudal system. Pula became the seat of the elective counts of Istria until 1077. The town was taken in 1148 by the Venetians and in 1150 Pula swore allegiance to the Republic of Venicemarker, thus becoming a Venetian possession. For centuries thereafter, the city's fate and fortunes were tied to those of Venetian power. It was conquered by the Pisansmarker in 1192 but soon reconquered by the Venetians.

In 1238 Pope Gregory IX formed an alliance between Genoa and Venice against the Empire, and consequently against Pisa too. As Pula had sided with the Pisans, the city was sacked by the Venetians in 1243. It was destroyed again in 1267 and again in 1397 when the Genoesemarker defeated the Venetians in a naval battle.

Pula then slowly went into decline. This decay was accelerated by the infighting of local families: the ancient Roman Sergi family and the Ionotasi (1258-1271) and the clash between Venice and Genoa for the control of the city and its harbour (late 13th - 14th century). In 1291 - by the Peace of Treviso - Patriarch Raimondo della Torre gained the city as part of the secular realm of his Patriarchate of Aquileia, only to lose it to Venice in 1331, which then held it until its downfall in 1797.

Pula is quoted by the Italian poet Dante Alighieri, who had visited Pula, in the Divine Comedy: "come a Pola, presso del Carnaro ch'Italia chiude e i suoi termini bagna" or "as Pula, along the Quarneromarker, that marks the end of Italy and bathes its boundaries".

Venetian, Napoleonic and early Habsburg rule

Venetiansmarker took over Pula in 1331 and would rule the city until 1797. During the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, Pula was attacked and occupied by the Genoese, a Croatian-Hungarian army and the Habsburgs; several outlying medieval settlements and towns were destroyed. In addition to war, the plague, malaria and typhoid ravaged the city. By the 1750s there were only 300 inhabitants left in the city, wandering around the ancient city, now covered with weeds and ivy.

With the collapse of the Venetian Republic in 1797, when Venice was beaten by the army of Napoleon, the city became part of the Habsburg Monarchy. It was invaded in 1805 after the French had beaten the Austrians. It was included in the French Empire's puppet Kingdom of Italy, then placed directly under the French Empire's Illyrian Provinces.

Austro-Hungarian and Italian rule

Austro-Hungarian dreadnoughts at Pula.

In 1813, Pula and Istria were restored to the Austrian Empiremarker (later the Austro-Hungarian Empire), and became part of the Austrian Littoral crown land. During this period Pula regained prosperity. From 1859 Pula's large natural harbour became Austria's main naval base and a major shipbuilding centre. It was chosen for this honour by Hans Birch Dahlerup, a Danish admiral in the service of Austria. The city transformed from a small city with a fading antique splendour into an industrial town. The island of Brijunimarker to the south of Pula became the summer vacation resort of Austria's Habsburg royal family.

In World War I, the port was the main base for Austro-Hungarian dreadnoughts and other naval forces of the Empire.

During this period many inhabitants were Italian speaking. The 1910 Austrian census recorded a city population of 58,562 (45.8% Italian speaking; 15.2% Slavic). However, this census focused on the spoken language, not the nationality of the citizens. Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Pula and the whole of Istria - except the territory of Kastavmarker - were given to Italymarker under the peace treaty.

The decline in population after World War I was mainly due to economic difficulties caused by the large-scale reduction of the Austro-Hungarian military and bureaucratic facilities and the dismissal of workers from its shipyard. Under the fascist government of Benito Mussolini, non-Italians, especially Slavic residents, faced huge political and cultural repression and many fled the city and Istria altogether. Italian rule lasted until its capitulation in September 1943. The Nazi German army entered to fill the vacuum left by retreating Italian soldiers. The whole city became part of “Küstenland”, the occupied zone under the Third Reich. During German military rule (1943-1945), Pula was integrated into the Operational Zone Adriatic Coast, a German occupation zone. The city then saw a very difficult period: arrests, deportations and executions of people suspected of helping the Partisans' guerilla struggle. The city was subjected to repeated Allied air raids during the Second World War.

Post-WWII and modern era

For several years after 1945, Pula was administered by the United Nations. Istria was partitioned into occupation zones until the region became officially united with the rest of Croatia within the SFR Yugoslaviamarker on September 15, 1947. Pula formed an enclave of the Zone "A" defined by the Morgan Line within SFR Yugoslaviamarker, occupied by a company of the United States 351st Infantry and a British battalion of the 24th Guards Brigade.

When the city was ceded to SR Croatia, a republic of SFR Yugoslaviamarker, upon the ratification of the Italian Peace Treaty on 15 September 1947, creating the Free Territory of Trieste, its population of 45,000 was largely made up of ethnic Italians and Istro-Romanians. However, between December 1946 and September 1947, most of the city's Italian residents opted to emigrate to Italy during the Istrian exodus. On August 18, 1946 it was the site of the Vergarola explosion.

Subsequently, the city's Croatian name, Pula, became official (Italian name: Pola). Since the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1992, Pula and Istria have become part of the modern-day Republic of Croatia.


The city is best known for its many surviving ancient Roman buildings, the most famous of which is its first century amphitheatre, which is among the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the World. and locally known as the Arenamarker. This is one of the best preserved amphitheatres from antiquity and is still in use today during summer film festivals. During the World War II Italianmarker fascist administration, there were attempts to disassemble the arena and move it to mainland Italy, which were quickly abandoned due to the costs involved.

Two other notable and well-preserved ancient Roman structures are the 1st century AD triumphal archmarker, the Arch of the Sergiimarker and the co-eval temple of Rome and Augustus, built in the 1st century AD built on the forum during the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus.

The Twin Gates (Porta Gemina) is one of the few remaining gates after the city walls were pulled down at the beginning of the 19th century. It dates from the mid-2nd century, replacing an earlier gate. It consists of two arches, columns, a plain architrave and a decorated frieze. Close by are a few remains of the old city wall.

The Gate of Hercules dates from the first century. At the top of the single arch one can see the bearded head of Hercules, carved in high-relief, and his club on the adjoining voussoir. A damaged inscription, close to the club, contains the names of Lucius Calpurnius Piso and Gaius Cassius Longinus who were entrusted by the Roman senate to found a colony at the site of Pula. Thus it can be deducted that Pula was founded between 47 and 44 BC.

The Augustan Forum' was constructed in the first century BC, close to the sea. In Roman times it was surrounded by temples of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. This Roman commercial and administrative centre of the city remained the main square of classical and medieval Pula. It still is the main administrative and legislative centre of the city. The temple of Roma and Augustus is still preserved today. A part of the back wall of the temple of Juno was integrated into the Communal Palacemarker in the 13th century.

Two Roman theatres have withstood the ravages of time: the smaller one (diam. circa 50 m; 2nd c. AD) near the centre, the larger one (diam. circa 100 m; 1st c. AD) on the southern edge of the city.

The city's old quarter of narrow streets, lined with Medieval and Renaissance buildings, are still surfaced with ancient Roman paving stones.

The Byzantine chapel of St. Mary Formosa was built in the 6th century (before 546) in the form of a Greek cross, resembling the churches in Ravennamarker. It was built by deacon Maximian, who became later Archbishop of Ravenna. It was, together with another chapel, part of a Benedictine abbey that was demolished in the 16th century. The floors and the walls are decorated with 6th-century mosaics. The decoration bears some resemblance to the Mausoleum of Galla Placidiamarker at Ravennamarker. The wall over the door contains a Byzantine carved stone panel. The 15th-century wall paintings may be restorations of Early Christian paintings. When the Venetians raided Pula in 1605, they removed many treasures from this chapel to Venice, including the four columns of oriental alabaster that stand behind the high altar of St Mark's Basilicamarker.

Church of St. Francis
The church of St. Francis dates from the end of the 13th century. It was built in 1314 in late Romanesque style with Gothic additions such as the rose window. The church consists of a single nave with three apses. An unusual feature of this church is the double pulpit, with one part projecting into the street. A 15th-century wooden polyptych from an Emiliamarker artist adorns the altar. The west portal is decorated with shell motifs and a rose window. The adjoining monastery dates from the 14th century. The cloisters display some antique Roman artifacts.

The Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary was built in the 6 th century, when Pula became the seat of a bishopry, over the remains over the original site where the Christians used to gather and pray in Roman times. It was enlarged in the 10th century. After its destruction by Genoese and Venetian raids, it was almost completely rebuilt in the 15th century. It got its present form when a late Renaissance façade was added in the early 16th century. The church still retains several Romanesque and Byzantine characters, such as some parts of the walls (dating from the 4th century), a few of the original column capitals and the upper windows of the nave. In the altar area and in the room to the south one can still see fragments of 5th to 6th-century floor mosaics with memorial inscriptions from worshippers who paid for the mosaics. The windows of the aisles underwent reconstruction in Gothic style after a fire in 1242. The belfry in front the church was built between 1671 and 1707 with stones form the amphitheatre. There also used to stand a baptistery from the 5th century in front of the church, but it was demolished in 1885.

The Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas with its Ravenna-style polygonal apse, originally dates from the 6th century, but was partially rebuilt in the 10th century. In 1583 it was assigned to the Orthodox community of Pula, mainly immigrants from Cyprusmarker and Nauplionmarker. The church owns several icons from the 15th and the 16th century and an iconostasis from the Greek artists Tomios Batos from the 18th century.

The star-shaped castle with four bastions is situated on top of the central hill of the old city. It was built, over the remains of the Roman capitoliummarker, by the Venetians in the 14th century, following the plans of the French military architect Antoine de Ville. Since 1961 it now houses the Historical Museum of Istria. Close by, on the north-eastern slopes, one can see the remains of a 2nd-century theatre.
A Roman relief at the Archaeological Museum of Istria
The Archaeological Museum of Istria is situated in the park on a lower level than the Roman theatre and close to the Twin Gates. Its collection was started by Marshall Marmont in August 1802 when he collected the stone monuments from the temple of Roma and Augustus. The present-day museum was opened in 1949. It displays treasures from Pula and surroundings from prehistory until the Middle Ages.


As a result of its rich political history, Pula is a city with a cultural mixture of people and languages from the Mediterraneanmarker and Central Europe, ancient and contemporary. Pula's architecture reflects these layers of history. Residents are commonly fluent in foreign languages, especially Italian, often also German and English. From October 30, 1904 to March 1905 Irish writer James Joyce taught English at the Berlitz School; his students were mainly Austro-Hungarian naval officers who were stationed at the Naval Shipyard. While he was in Pula he organized the local printing of his broadsheet The Holy Office, which satirized both William Butler Yeats and George William Russell.

Notable Residents

Italian natives of the city are known as "polesi" and "polesani"


Major industries include shipbuilding, processing industry, tourism, traffic, food industries, construction industries and other non-metal industries.

Major companies located in Pula:


  • Football-NK Istra 1961 (first Croatian league) and NK Istra (third Croatian league)
  • Volleyball-OK OTP Banka Pula (first Croatian league)
  • Handball-RK Arena
  • Basketball-KK Stoja and KK Pula1981
  • Swimming-SK Arena
  • Judo-JK Istarski borac and JK PulaFit
  • Rowing-VK Istra


View of marina from Veruda commercial marine port.

The natural beauty of Pula's surrounding countryside and turquoise water of the Adriaticmarker have made the city an internationally popular summer vacation destination. The pearl nearby is Brijunimarker national park visited by numerous world leaders since it was the summer residence of Josip Broz Tito. Roman villas and temples still lie buried among farm fields and along the shoreline of the dozens of surrounding fishing and farming villages. The coastal waters offer beaches, fishing, wreck dives to ancient Roman galleys and World War I warships, cliff diving, and sailing to unspoiled coves and islands large and small.

Pula is the end point of the EuroVelo 9 cycle route that runs from Gdańskmarker on the Baltic Seamarker through Polandmarker, the Czech Republicmarker, Austriamarker, Sloveniamarker and Croatiamarker.

It is possible to track dinosaur footprints on the nearby sea shores; certain more important finds have been made at an undisclosed location near Balemarker.


Pula had an electric tramway system in the early 20th century. It was built in 1904 as a part of Pula's economic crescendo during the Austro-Hungarian rule. After WWI, during the Fascist rule, the need for tram transportation declined and it was finally dismantled in 1934.

Pula Airportmarker is located north-east of Pula, and serves both domestic and international destinations. Similarly to nearby Rijeka Airportmarker, it is not a major international destination. However, this is likely to change as low-cost airline, Ryanair has started scheduled flights to Pula since November 2006. Nearby international airports include Triestemarker in Italy, Zagrebmarker, Croatia's capital and Ljubljanamarker, Slovenia's capital. There are direct flights into Pula airport from London and Dublin during whole year and several other large airports in Western Europe during summer.

A train service operates north from Pula through to Slovenia, however the line remains disconnected from the rest of the Croatian Railways network. Plans to tunnel the 'missing link' between this line and from Rijeka have existed for many years, and despite work commencing on this project previously, has never seen completion.

Buses serve Pula from a wide range of local, domestic and international locations and operate from the large bus terminal on the edge of the city centre. Public bus operation is ran by Pulapromet.

Passenger ferries also operate from the port area to nearby islands, and also to Venicemarker and Triestemarker in Italy.

Nearby towns and villages

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Pula is twinned with:
  • Grazmarker (since 1972, partnership established in 1961)
  • Triermarker (since 1971)
  • Imolamarker (since 1972)
  • Veronamarker (since 1982)

Other forms of city partnership

  • Szegedmarker (A request for partnership in 2003.)
  • Velesmarker (Document of friendship and cultural cooperation in 2002)
  • Novorossiyskmarker (Protocol of partnership and town twinning in 1997)

Friendly relationships

See also



  1. Croatia 2001 census
  2. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 24
  3. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 28
  4. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 29
  5. A short historical overview of Istria and, especially, Pula
  6. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 7
  7. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 10
  8. Kristina Džin: 2009, Page 7
  9. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 12
  10. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 12
  11. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 12
  12. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 12
  13. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 13
  14. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 15
  15. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 15
  16. First World War - Willmott, H.P., Dorling Kindersley, 2003, Page 186-187
  17. Kocsis, Károly; Az etnikai konfliktusok történeti-földrajzi háttere a volt Jugoszlávia területén; Teleki László Alapítvány, 1993 ISBN 9630428555
  18. Ana Ivelja-Dalmatin: 2009, Page 20

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