Very early Rovinj history is a little hazy but it is widely accepted that a settlement existed around the site of Saint Euphemias Church during the Roman occupation which ended mid-way through the 1st century.
The first written proof originates from an unknown writer from the 5th century who refers to ‘Castrum Rubini’.
Rovinj history has been very turbulent since its beginnings.
It wasn’t until the Venetians took control in 1283 that some stability existed, and under Venetian rule which lasted until 1797. The town then became an important fishing, maritime and shipbuilding centre.
Rovinj was originally an island, an area now called the Old Town, and remained an island until 1763 when a causeway was created and joined the island to the peninsular as the towns population increased.
The island was also fortified during Venetian rule with 2 walls and 7 gates being built to defend the island from the many pirates and marauders who threatened Rovinj throughout the centuries.
Balbi’s Arch still remains although it is not the original main arch which was demolished around 1678. You might say it is an old replica built during the term of Mayor Daniel Balbi and is a popular tourist landmark and entrance to the Old Town.
Space was limited on the original island which lead to the construction of narrow houses and streets punctuated by equally small squares. This has created the unique, romantic and very charming town, as many know today.
Rovinj History After the Venetians
Following the fall of the Venetian republic, Rovinj fell under the rule of the Austrians. This was for a short time until Napoleon made his claim from 1809 to 1813.
The Austrians then took it back in 1813 and throughout the next 101 years, until 1914, Rovinj went through another phase of development including the building of cement production facilities, a tobacco factory, a hospital, and even a theatre.
Towards the end of this period, Rovinj was connected by railway and had gas and telephone installed in the town.
At the end of World War 1 (1914-18), Rovinj was claimed by the fascist government of Italy. It remained under Italy’s rule until the capitulation under the Germans. This lasted from 1943 to the end of the war in 1945.
As a province of Croatia, Istria became part of Yugoslavia in 1943. During this period, Rovinj started to develop a reputation for tourism throughout the world.
The tourist development was obviously interrupted by the war in 1991 but taken up again soon afterwards. Tourism is now the largest industry, both in Rovinj and Istria.