Updated: Jan 7
Among the small places in the Istrian peninsula, Momjan is especially famous for its wine production. In our mind, it is not a place where you can get drunk and sleep in a nearby ditch. This Croatian tradition resembles some folktales of evil fairies throwing mostly men in ditches and trenches, obviously as a good explanation to their wives. No, Momjan is much more sophisticated and posh place, the Tuscany-like area of North-Western Istria where wine and food blend in a magnificent testimony of the cultural influences and natural God-given wealth. Close to the sea and – more importantly – to the water springs, this place was people’s choice to live since prehistory.
For history buffs, Momjan (Momiano in Italian) is a small paradise. The village itself was mentioned already in 1035, although a prehistoric castle and Roman castrum were also situated here. In medieval times it was a place in hands of clergy and nobility. In 1340 it becomes a property of German family Raunicher, and two centuries later it was taken by family Rota from Bergamo. Since 1905 the place is part of the Buje (Buie) municipality. While entering Momjan, one can see a fort, single standing of once four towers of Momjan castle. It was built in 13th century by Wosalcus de Mimiliano, on a stone viewpoint above the Argilla brook. It was long the home of Rota family, and one can still see the remnants of walls, tower and portals. And this is the place where every year Momjan celebrates one of its best products: Moscato wine!
The event is called “In Realm of Momjan Moscato” and it is dedicated to this sweet grape. Momjan Moscato is protected by its geographic origin. It is a dry, sweet wine of a deep golden colour with an aroma reminiscent of wild carnations, roses and sage. Over the centuries, it has created its kingdom on the hills surrounding Momjan. Peasants from the Italian province of Furlania are believed to have brought the white muscat to Istria around the year 1200. Over time, the vine adapted to the local hills and the special features of the region’s climate and soils, ultimately transforming into a separate variety – Muškat Momjanski. Today it grows in a limited area stretching from the hills at Oskoruš to St. John at Merišić. It is produced by only five winemakers: Kozlović, Markežić, Prelac, Brajko and Sinković.
While we walk through the narrow streets of this village, we realise Momjan is not just one but several places. There are many small villages, some with only a handful of houses. They are especially interesting for sacral architecture but also the remnants of old stone houses. In the centre of Momjan is medieval Church of St. Martin, surrounded by a graveyard and oldest houses of this place. Close to Momjan is the village of St. Mauro, with beautiful church of St. Mary of Health. You can also visit the old village of Merišće with Church of St. John the Baptist or prehistoric Oskoruš, where Fontana Fusca reminds of the ancient times and search for water. The village has two churches: St. Catherine and St George. In Brič there is once richly decorated Church of St Mary Magdalene, while St Jacob’s and St Juste’s churches are jewels of village Brda, perched above Argilla brook on the altitude of 408 metres.
People who visited these churches during the centuries were mostly peasants cultivating vine, fruits, and vegetables. They were and still are of both Italian and Slavic origin, evidenced in names, surnames, and a special almost melodic way of talking. Everyone speaks immaculately Croatian and Italian, often also Slovenian because Slovenia is just behind the northern hill slopes. Boskets and groves around Momjan are rich with pheasants, deer and boar, so the hunting tourism develops more and more. If you’re not into shooting, you can still enjoy the nature using a network of paths where you can walk, jog, cycle. The nearest beach is only 15 km away and staying in Momjan is an excellent choice if you don’t want hustle and bustle of holiday seaside at night.
Gastronomy, however, is the main reason why Momjan enjoys many visitors. Momjan is part of Buje’s wine road network. Along with it, there are renowned wine-cellars that offer quality wines such as Malvasia, Teran, Refosco, Muskat and other wine sorts. Along the olive oil roads, you can taste one of the best extra-virgin olive oils in the world.
Photos by: www.buje.hr