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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
Thanks
HownWen

I was just in Pula and Rijeka ( Fiume in Italian). I cant imagine a safer place, and definitely not in most of America.

I agree about Split , as a "home base" it is too far from other parts of Croatia let alone other parts of Europe.

I speak Italian and I can say that in Pula one can get buy fairly easy in Italian, though most young people will speak English ( they learn from second grade). Older people depends on level of education, those who have gone to university will generally speak a very good level of English.  Funny though in both Pula and Rijeka some younger people will give you blank stares for any Italian past a sentence or two, and ask to speak English.

Rijeka is a larger city than Pula, but has advantage of train connections which Pula doesn't have, I don't remember about Rovinj maybe it has a connection to Trieste. Will you be driving or going by train ? Something to consider in choosing a home base. Also, looking where UK discount airlines fly you may wish to consider- often dirt cheap to fly and connect through London rather than flying from Croatia to a third destination. For example I could fly from Pula via London to Rome, cheaper than by train form Pula or flying to Rome from Pula.

Definitely Istria although it took less time to drive from Venice to Opatija in the Kvarner region than it took to drive up from Pula to Venice. Split has a lot of international flights but someplace like Opatija/Rijeka is closer to Zagreb which has even more.

We chose Split because it's closer to Sarajevo, where my husband is from, but are looking toward settling in the Rijeka/Opatija region eventually.

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