Background: found some cheap flights to Krakov in July and requested my husband put in for those dates, but after our last trip, we wanted something more relaxing and beachy than a city trip. We'd been to Dalmatia (Cavat/Dubrovnik, Split, and Zadar) in 2012 and it wasn't a highlight of our larger Balkan trip, so it took a little convincing to get my husband on board. But it's hard to argue with 25 euro return flights to Pula. So we were off for 5 nights.
Once again we flew Laudamotion, which I've taken to Majorica twice and Naples once in the last year or so. They're reliable as always and a good value. (They've never weighed our bags or given us any of the issues that EasyJet and RyanAir , despite being owned by the latter.
On the recommendation of people on this board, we picked up a rental car from Sixt, 140 euros for 5 days. A good price, and we got upgraded after listening to the canned spiel about their insurance, which would have doubled the price. We have USAA and a good travel credit card, and at first it seemed nice that we were upgraded to a literally brand-new small SUV for the price of an economy car, but in retrospect, it kept us from going to a couple places we might have been interested in because any damage from gravel roads.
The Pula airport is tiny and so we were in Pula's old center within an hour of landing. Pula was busy and parking was difficult - we ended up parking way past the car ferry terminal, and started to doubt the wisdom of traveling in July (we usually travel in May/June and September/October). We had limited time due to dinner plans in Rovinj, so we opted to just do a relatively quick walk through the old city, admiring the very impressive Arena, having a falafel lunch in a park near the Zerostrasse underground passage, sharing a small beer at "Uliks" an art-noveau bar in the building where James Joyce lived for a couple years, quickly toured the Temple of Augustus, and headed back to the car within less than 3 hours, with a quick stop to see the famous floor mosaic unearthed by the damage of an Allied bomb in WWII.
My husband is big on Roman sites and history, and Pula's arena is certainly grand, but we didn't feel we missed anything personally by making this stop relatively short. We've done lots of Roman stuff in the last 8 years and a relatively quick glance felt fine. Pula was appealing enough but I'm not sad we didn't spend more time there.
From there it was 35 minutes driving to Rovinj, or rather, the suburb outside Rovinj where our holiday apartment was located. The owners were not yet there, so a neighbor was checking us in, and she was lovely, but spoke no English. Throughout our stay in Istria, Italian and German were the two languages we heard most, so luckily speaking a bit of German to people who also spoke just a bit of German came in handy.
Apartments Sarc Rovinj are run by a lovely family from Slovenia in their own holiday home, and I can say that these modern, clearly recently refurbished apartments may have had the most thoughtful touches of nearly anywhere I've stayed at. Great lighting, electrical outlets everywhere (!!!), extremely effective air conditioning, a real fridge, basics like salt and vinegar in the pantry. I felt the price (about 107 euros/night) was a little high for the location, a 15 minute walk from the beach and 25 minutes walk from the old town in a residential area, but the hosts, who invited us to a BBQ and made a plate for us when we couldn't attend, and invited us into their home for homemade walnut liquor, and provided extras like bikes free of charge, made up a bit for the cost. (Similar flats in the area and elsewhere were half as expensive but didn't have AC - and it was in the mid-90s during our trip. AC was necessary.)