Split or Istria Region (Pula,Rovinj)

We are arriving in Croatia, October 2017 from California.  We hope to stay a minimum of 3 years.  Our plan is a home base for traveling Europe (travel one week every month).  Initially we were drawn to Split, but now concerned about the distance and time getting to European destinations. We are now considering the Istria Region (Pula or Rovinj) for 2 reasons:
1.  Easy, quick access to other parts of Europe
2.  The fact that Italian is widely spoken, we feel that Italian would be a language when learned would more versatile for our needs.
Are our distance concerns of getting north from Split unfounded ? Is the transportation (trains) easy, or costly?
We have read mixed reviews of Istria from, it is beautiful to there are a bunch of Italian Hooligans.  First and foremost our concern is safety. We are leaning towards Rovinj or Pula, is it safe, and a pleasant location?
Any advise from anyone would be appreciated

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