Villa Sancta Maria

Oprtalj, Istria & Kvarner, Croatia Book from Book from £272 per night

Lovely old stone farmhouse with gardens and a pool, set on a hillside overlooking Motovun in inland Istria (sleeps 12-14)
Standing high on a hillside above the River Mirna valley, this old 6-bedroom stone villa faces south, enjoying all-day sunshine and a view of the medieval-walled hill-town of Motovun in the distance. The interiors have been carefully restored (retaining original terracotta-tiled floors and wooden-beamed ceilings) and filled with antique furniture, kilim rugs, ceramics from Sicily and bold modern paintings by Croatian artists. Best of all, there's an enormous old open fireplace in the kitchen, which you can literally step inside.

Cosy and homely, yet refined and rather special, the house has a boho-chic vibe, which we loved. It's set in big private gardens, planted with palms, lemon trees, oleander, azalea and fragrant lavender bushes (all beautifully lit at night), and there's a turquoise pool off to one side, plus an organic vegetable garden where you can pick your own produce. Other facilities include bicycles, a small playground, outdoor gym equipment and a sports pitch with flood-lighting. Behind the villa, overgrown woodland is slowly being cleared and replanted with olive groves - the region is noted for its excellent olive oil and fine wines, as well as seasonal delicacies such as white truffles and wild asparagus, all of which you must try while you stay.


  • Perfect for 1-3 families: grounds include a pool, playground and sports pitch for football, badminton and volleyball, and 3 of the 6 bedrooms can be twinned
  • Stunning views over the valley
  • A peaceful, inland location, away from the summer crowds on the Adriatic coast
  • But only 20km from Novigrad (dubbed Croatia's 'Portofino') for afternoons on the beach
  • A big kitchen with indoor/outdoor dining areas and a BBQ. Or ask for meal delivery, book a chef or drive to great restaurants


  • You'll need a car to get here, and to reach grocery shops (2km to the nearest village; 6km to a town)
  • A 7-night minimum stay all year
  • The pool is solar heated, and only open June-September
  • Shower bathrooms are small and rather basic; only the master bedroom has a bathtub
  • The nearest nightlife is on the coast - though the garden is so beautiful, you could barely wish for more on a balmy moonlit night

Best time to go

Istria is at its busiest in July-August, with the tourist season in full swing - at Villa Sancta Maria you can avoid the crowds, and enjoy blissful rural isolation, lazing by the pool and dining in the garden. For an active holiday, hiking or cycling, spring and autumn are better as it is less hot. Foodies will love Inland Istria in autumn, when it stages the grape and olive harvest, various truffle festivals, plus the marunada (chestnut festival) in Oprtalj.

Our top tips

Be sure to try biska, mistletoe-flavoured rakija, unique to Istria. Known by the ancients to have health-promoting properties, the recipe was brought to the region by pagan Celts, over 2000 years ago. Mistletoe leaves are dried in the sun, then steeped in homemade rakija (a potent spirit made from distilled grapes). Mistletoe is a parasitic plant which grows on oak trees in Inland Istria, and biska is often served in local restaurants as a digestif.

Great for...

Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Villa
  • 6 bedrooms
  • Self catering; chef/meals on request; restaurants nearby
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
  • Laundry Service
  • Weekly maid service


The villa has 6 bedrooms; 3 are doubles, 3 are twin/doubles. With a sloping wooden ceiling under the eaves, the master bedroom is spacious but cosy and romantic, with a big antique bed, wooden floor, 4 windows with old-fashioned wooden shutters, and a generous ensuite bathroom with a tub. A smaller adjoining double room (shared bathroom) opens onto a big covered terrace, with a hammock, table, and fantastic views over the surrounding hills. These two rooms are recommended for close family or good friends. Fresh country air and total silence guarantee a good night's sleep.

The other guest rooms each have their own entrance from the garden or front courtyard and are traditional in feel. We liked their wooden beamed ceilings, exposed stonework, terracotta tile floors, kilim rugs and the eclectic mix of antique and modern furniture - wooden beds, mismatched armchairs and gilt-framed religious paintings. Ensuite bathrooms are small and quite basic with showers but no tubs.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Barbecue
  • CD player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Coffee maker
  • Dishwasher
  • DVD player
  • Fireplace
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hairdryer
  • Hob or stove
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Radio
  • Satellite TV
  • Swimming pool
  • Terrace
  • Toaster
  • Toiletries
  • Washing machine
  • WiFi


There's a lovely kitchen area with a wooden beamed ceiling, a marble sink and a big stone fireplace. Besides mod-cons such as a cooker, dishwasher and espresso coffee machine, it has a long wooden dining table and a stash of hand-painted ceramic plates and bowls from Sicily. Cleaning supplies, coffee and spices are provided; if you don't want to cook, villa management can arrange a chef on request, traditional Istrian breakfasts of local cheeses and cured meats, or a choice of home-cooked dishes made-to-order. There are several spaces for dining in the garden, plus a BBQ, and you can help yourself to 30 varieties of vegetables in the organic garden.

For eating out, the nearest restaurants are in Livade (2km). We'd recommend driving a bit further though. Konoba Oprtalj in Oprtalj (6km) serves delicious truffle and pasta dishes at tables under the trees, with a spectacular view across the surrounding hills. To feast on Adriatic seafood, head to the coast - try Gatto Nero in Novigrad, where the local speciality is scallops (kapešante in Istrian dialect), or up-market Monte in Rovinj, Croatia's first and only Michelin-starred restaurant.

Features include:

  • Barbecue
  • Chef on request
  • Coffee / tea making
  • Coffee maker
  • Dishwasher
  • Food blender
  • Fridge
  • Full kitchen
  • Hob or stove
  • Meal delivery service
  • Microwave
  • Oven
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Shopping service
  • Toaster


  • Enjoy lazy mornings by the pool, active afternoons out and about, then return home for football, badminton and sundowners
  • Visit the hill-town of Oprtalj (5km) to explore its cobbled alleys, 16th-Century church, Venetian-era loggia and monthly antique fair. And don't forget nearby medieval Motovun which has an annual international film festival
  • Go olive oil tasting in the nearby hamlet of Ipši, where Klaudio Ipša produces award-wining extra virgin olive oil
  • Drive to the seaside town of Novigrad (20km) - dubbed Croatia's Portofino - for an afternoon on the beach followed by a sunset cocktail at waterside bar Vitriol
  • Pack a picnic and spend a day hiking or cycling through the green hills of inland Istria; the villa has bikes to borrow
  • Spend a day in the coastal city of Poreč (35km) and see the golden mosaics in its Unesco-listed 6th-century Basilica

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Olive oil tasting
  • Shopping / markets
  • Wine tasting


This is an ideal retreat for families. Children will love exploring the garden, the playground and the surrounding countryside. There's an outdoor pool, a sports court for soccer, badminton and volleyball (with flood lighting). Having your own kitchen means you can prepare meals for kids whenever you want, or you can ask for meals to be delivered/a chef service. There are grocery shops and restaurants in Livade (2km), Motovun and Oprtalj (both 6km).

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

The villa has 6 bedrooms, 3 of which can be set up as twins. An additional 2 rollaway beds/baby cots can be provided free of charge.


Available on request

Kids Activities on site:

  • Swimming pool
  • Small playground of swings and slides
  • Table tennis
  • All-weather sports court (soccer, badminton, cross mint (fast form of badminton), volleyball
  • Bicycles to borrow (free of charge)
  • Children's DVDs

Families Should Know:

The villa is on a hilltop so toddlers should not be left unsupervised


  • Airport: Trieste or Pula (both 2 hours' drive)
  • Hospital: Buzet (10 minutes' drive)
  • Shops: Livade (3-5 minutes' drive)
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests


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