The most famous and important monument in Pula, and the starting and ending point of every sightseeing tour is the Amphitheater, which is better known as the Arena. This was once the venue for gladiator fights. It was raised in the 1st century AD during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian. It was built at the same time as the biggest and most well-known monument of its type - the Coliseum in Rome.
The ground plan is elliptical. The longer axis measures about 130 meters and the shorter one about 100 meters. Gladiator fights took place in the central flat area called the arena, while the spectators sat on the stone tiers or stood in the gallery. It is believed that the Amphitheater could seat about 20,000 spectators. Local limestone was used in its construction. In the Middle Ages, it was the site of knights' tournaments and fairs.
Today it is the venue for summer events such as the Film Festival, the Opera Season, the Equestrian Festival, and various concerts. It can seat about 5,000 spectators. The underground passages, once used by the gladiators, nowadays host a regular exhibition of viticulture and olive-growing in Istria in ancient times. The exhibits include reconstructions of equipment once used for producing olive oil and wine (mills, presses, vessels) and amphorae used for storing and transporting it.
Because of its size and geographical configuration, the Arena is situated outside the old city walls. The road that leads to the center was constructed during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian, after whom it was named - Via Flavia. Even today it's one of the city's main roads.
The Triumphal Arch of the Sergi - the Golden Gate
The Golden Gate was erected between 29 and 27 BC by the Sergi family in honor of three members of the family who held important positions in Pula at that time. This triumphal arch leaned against the city gate of Porta Aurea, thus called because of its richly ornamented arch and gilded elements. The gate and wall were pulled down at the beginning of the 19th century as a result of the city's expansion beyond its walls.
The Arch was constructed in the Corinthian style with strong Hellenistic and Asia Minor influences both in the manner and motifs of its ornamentation. As the eastern side was not visible, it has remained for the most part uncarved, while the western, town side is richly decorated. Today numerous cultural performances, both theatrical and musical, are held on the square next to the Arch. The adjacent street is a shopping area.
The Temple, situated in the Forum, is dedicated to the goddess Roma and Emperor Augustus. It was constructed between the years 2 BC and AD 14, which was when the Emperor died. In terms of its shape, it follows the typical pattern of temples.
The function of the Temple changed over the years. With the ending of the ancient pagan era, its original function ceased and the temple was afterwards used as a church and a granary. At the beginning of the 19th century, it was a museum for stone monuments.
In 1944, it was hit by a bomb and completely destroyed. It was reconstructed between 1945 and 1947, and nowadays houses a collection of ancient stone and bronze sculptures.
The other twin temple, of which only the back wall is preserved, is believed to have been constructed at the same time and in the same style, and was called the Temple of Diana.
At the time when Pula was a free municipality, a palace was erected in the Forum. It was the seat of the municipal government. During Venetian rule, it was the seat of the Duke and Proveditor, while today it is the seat of the mayor. Additions over the centuries (from the 10th to 16th centuries) led to a building that combines in an exceptional way architectural styles from the Romanesque to the Renaissance. The inscription on the facade, which was restored in the 16th century, dates the construction of the Communal Palace to 1296. The year probably refers to the first significant renovation and additions, as it was undoubtedly the seat of the municipal government even earlier.
Earlier phases in the construction of the Communal Palace can best be seen on the eastern wall where Romanesque and Gothic styles intertwine. Sculptures of Telamon and the Sirens in corners enclosed by Renaissance columns, together with Baroque windows are the latest alterations to the outer appearance of the Communal Palace. Neglect and negligence have left a considerable mark on this building, which has recently been radically restored.
In ancient and medieval times, the whole city was surrounded by walls and could be entered through about ten gates. The walls had become old and unnecessary so they were pulled down at the beginning of the 19th century. Parts of the walls between the Twin Gates and Giardini Square have been preserved to the present day.
The Twin Gates, thus called because of the two arches through which you enter the inner yard, which was once the entrance to the city, were erected between the 2nd and 3rd centuries. The Twin Gates today lead to the Archeological Museum and castle. The remains, partly restored, of an octagonal sepulchral structure, a mausoleum from the 1st-2nd centuries, have been found opposite the Twin Gates.The Castle
From the upper circular street, one of the paths leads to the top of the central hill of the city, where a star-shaped castle with four bastions was built in 1630. Wishing to protect the city and its harbor because of it great significance in the maritime trade in the North Adriatic, the Venetians commissioned the building of the castle from the French military architect Antoine de Ville. This was most probably the site of an earlier fortress dating from the pre-Roman and Roman period. The Histrian hill-fort was primarily built for defensive purposes, whereas in the Roman period a small military garrison was stationed here. Today the castle houses the Historical Museum of Istria.
The aquarium contains Adriatic flora and fauna, including protected and poisonous marine organisms. These are found in approximately 40 pools, covering 1200 m2. There is also a marine turtle rescue centre, an exhibition entitled "Old Fishing Equipment", another called "Save the Neptune Grass (Posedonia Oceanica)", and an exhibition of photographs of Pula's fortifications and items from the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, as well as a small marine theatre.
For more information, go to: www.aquarium.hr