Formerly part of the Venetian Empire, this region has seen many empires such as Byzantine, Roman, Austro-Hungarian, and Yugoslavian (Communist). The cultural legacy of Istria is thus very rich and diverse.
After defeating the Illyrian Histri tribe, the Romans settled in the peninsula and left a large heritage, turning Pula into an important administrative centre and building villas, amphiteatres and temples. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the inner land remained a feudal territory occupied by Slavs, Frankish, Byzantines and finally Austrian Habsburgs, while the coast fell under control of the Republic of Venice in the 13th century. Intermittent combats were held between both powers until the fall of Venice in 1797. Since that date, the Croatian population of Istria struggled for autonomy and were severely repressed both by Austrians and Fascist Italy (after World War I), eventually ending with a revenge from Yugoslav partisans after the World War II, forcing most autochthonous ethnic Italians to leave. A small ethnic Italian community still lives in the coastal towns. Relatively spared from the Yugoslav Wars, Istria is now a prosperous region. Latter years have seen a growing regional sentiment and a reconciliation with its previously conflictive Italian identity.
The peninsula offers stark contrasts: the interior is very unspoiled and mountainous with ancient walled cities atop hills with surrounding fertile fields, whilst the coast has numerous beaches – do not expect any sand in them, though – and stunning scenery of rocky walls plummeting into the sea. The Istrian coast is arguably the most developed tourist destination in Croatia. Hordes of Italian, German and French tourists enjoy package tourism during the crowded high season.