Updated: Feb 19, 2019
We don’t remember last time we have seen so big amount of snow in Istria as on this marvellous and sunny day when we headed for the very centre of the Istrian peninsula. It looks somewhat charming to see Istria in a totally new fashion. For gastronomy travellers, however, colder days and bura wind means only one thing: there should be some excellent dry meat products round here.
In fact, we are in the municipality known for the sausages. Sveti Petar u Šumi (literary, St. Peter in the Woods) is situated in the heart of Istria and is known nationwide and in the region for its annual festival “With sausages to Europe”. The idea came to life after the mayor Mario Bratulić introduced it as a way for touristic and gastronomic revival of the place. Not that it needs revival: Sveti Petar enjoys 100% employment. Everybody is working here, some even have two jobs. Take Mr Bratulić himself; apart from being entrepreneur, he is also mayor as a volunteer. He has been volunteering as head of municipalities since the end of 1990ies!
Sveti Petar u Šumi got its name after the Benedictine monastery, which appears in historical documents from 1174 with an unclear note on its 50 years of existence. Unlike other Istrian villages and towns where a settlement was built on a hilltop with a church and its tower, with the edges of the hill dotted with houses, at Sveti Petar u Šumi there were no houses around either the church or the monastery. Its inhabitants lived a bit further away, in scattered hamlets situated next to fields and vineyards, on the edges of karst plains filled with the red soil they cultivated, just the way it is today.
From the times of the Benedictines there is only one Latin book preserved, written in Carolingian minuscule, from the end of the 11th or the beginning of the 12the century. When the interest in the Benedictine order faded and the monastery was abandoned, in 1459 Emperor Frederick III handed the monastery over to the Paulines - the white monks, who restored it. Interestingly enough, they arranged the cloister in the way that they put the new Renaissance columns on the ground floor and moved the old Romanesque ones to the floor above. They still inhabit the church and the monastery in the very centre of the place. You are welcomed to come inside and see richly decorated interior, chapels and other church riches. Along with all this wealth of unrivalled treasure across Istria, the main reason for the pilgrimage to the church at Sveti Petar u Šumi is the still prodigious image of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which you can still see exposed at the high altar.
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The name of the place hides an enigma for Croatian speakers. What is the name of an inhabitant of Sveti Petar u Šumi. Imaginative solutions have been given during the years, but it is fairly simple – they are called Supetarci. Historically, Supetarci were dealing with agriculture. The land is not very productive here; in order to feed large families, people started to cut down the trees and clear land for cultivation. They didn’t have to look far, as the place itself was surrounded by woods on all sides. In time, locals were also famous as excellent masons and craftsmen, a tradition that continues to this day.
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In early 1920ies the place started to cultivate tobacco. Whole area was involved in tobacco fields, drying of tobacco and preparing it for market. The tobacco production seized to exist in 1960-ies, but the community reoriented itself to raise specific Istrian turkey within the Pazin’s factory Puris. In 1976 a modern meat factory for poultry was opened and parts of the business is done still today.
The aforementioned hamlets of Sveti Petar still exist today and neighbourhoods with their own distinctive names, usually given by the geographical location or according to the prevalent surname. Among these surnames Bratulić is especially famous; not only it is the surname of the municipality’s mayor, but his uncle is one of the most famous Croatian academics. Charming Istrian mentality is present in other neighbourhoods too, of which many care for the gastronomy traditions.
This is the municipality known for its excellent dried meat products, but also wine, and we invite you to read their stories. And if you feel tired, you can always take a break in one of over 50 holiday houses and villas in the municipality! Enjoy!