The borders and rulers of Istria have changed so many times throughout history. The biggest empires to claim this peninsula were the Romans, the Venetians and the Austro-Hungarians. Evidence of these strong rulers remain to this day: the sixth largest amphitheatre in the world and temple of Augustus in the town of Pula date from 27BC-68 AD, fine examples of Venetian architecture can be found in the main towns and villages throughout Istria whilst permission was granted from Vienna to construct the narrow-gauge railway line Parenzana, built in the last days of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Today, having been dismantled on Mussolini's orders in 1935 it is a wonderful bicycle and hiking track.
Today, the average Istrian can claim to have been born in Yugoslavia, their parents born in Italy and grandparents in Austria. Istrians speak Croatian, Italian and an Istrian dialect - a mixture of the two. Geographically separated from the rest of Croatia by Mount Učka, Istrians historically considered themselves as different from "Croatians". Today, the tunnel through the heart of the mountain has made it easily accesssible and many people from the capital Zagreb are maintaining second homes on the peninsula.
The Italian influence is felt strongly in the cuisine and the language. Fresh pasta is made daily and can be seen on all n restaurant menus ranging from the Konobas to the gourmet restaurants. Road signs are in both Croatian and Italian mainly in north western Istria. Basically, the further away you drive from the coast i.e. from Italy the less the Italian influence.