Pula (Pietas Iulia; Pulj; Istriot Pula; Pola) is the largest city in Istria County, Croatia, situated at the southern tip of the Istria 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 center since ancient Roman times.
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.
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 .
Human 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.
The Istrian peninsula 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. . 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. 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 Sergii, the Gate of Hercules (in which the names of the founders of the city are engraved) and the Twin Gates. 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 center of a bishopric, attested by the remains of foundations of a few religious buildings.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city and region were destroyed by the Ostrogoths. Their rule ended about 60 years later, when 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. The cathedral and the Saint Mary Formosa chapel date from 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 always kept its Italian 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. 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 Venice, 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 Pisans 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 Genoese 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 - 14 th century).
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 Quarnero, that marks the end of Italy and bathes its boundaries". The "Istarski Razvod" (1325), dates from this same period. This is a crucial Croatian manuscript written in Latin, German, and Croatian, using the oldest Croatian alphabet called Glagolitic alphabet.
Venetians 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.
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.
In 1813, Pula and Istria were restored to the Austrian Empire (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 harbor became Austria's main naval base and a major shipbuilding center. The city transformed from a small city with a fading antique splendor into an industrial town. The island of Brioni (Brijoni) to the south of Pula became the summer vacation resort of Austria's Habsburg royal family.
During this period (XVIII-XX century) the most inhabitans were Italian speaking. According the Italian census of 1921, in Pula there were 41,125 Italians and 5,155 Croats.
Following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, Pula and the whole of Istria - except the territory of Kastav - were given to Italy under the Peace Treaty. That period was marked by economic and political unrest. 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 during World War II, in September 1943. The Nazi German army entered to fill the vacuum left by retreating Italian soldiers. During German military rule, Pula saw a very difficult period: arrests, deportations and executions of people suspected of helping the Partisans' guerrilla struggle. Also, Allied strategic bombings repeatedly destroyed whole parts of the city.
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 Yugoslavia on September 15, 1947. Pula was an enclave occupied by a company of the United States 351st Infantry and a British battalion of the 24th Guards Brigade within Yugoslavia.
When the city was ceded to Yugoslavia 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. However, between December 1946 and September 1947, most of the city's Italian residents (Istrian exodus) opted to emigrate to Italy. On August 18, 1946 it was the site of the Vergarolla explosion.
Subsequently, the city's Croatian name, Pula, became official. 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, sixth largest in the world and locally known as the Arena. 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 Italian 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 arch, the Arch of the Sergii 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 Palace 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 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 Ravenna. 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 Placidia at Ravenna. 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 Basilica.
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 Emilian 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 worshipers 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 Cyprus and Nauplion. 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 capitolium, 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 northeastern slopes, one can see the remains of a 2nd-century theatre.
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.
Major industries include shipbuilding, processing industry, tourism, traffic, food industries, construction industries and other non-metal industries.
Major companies located in Pula:
Volleyball-OK OTP Banka Pula (first Croatian league)
Basketball-KK Stoja and KK Pula1981
Judo-JK Istarski borac and JK PulaFit
Pula Airport is located south-east of Pula, and serves both domestic and international destinations. Similarly to nearby Rijeka Airport, 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 Trieste in Italy, Zagreb, Croatia's capital and Ljubljana, 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.
Other forms of partnership:
Strong friendly relationships and continuous contacts are maintained with these towns: