A word of warning: if you’re travelling by car to Rijeka from Italy, you’ll have a tough time finding your way unless you have a satellite navigation system or know a few words of Italian. Italian road signs don’t show the name “Rijeka”, but “Fiume” – which means “river” in Italian. And guess what “rijeka” means in Croatian? River.

Why? Well, take the highway which traverses behind the city and you’ll come to a spectacular gorge through which the river Rječina runs.

Travelling the main road into Rijeka itself, you’ll drive right along it. The Rječina was one of the reasons why this area was settled before Roman times – both providing water for life and shelter for the ships of the Liburnians, an Illyrian tribe famed for their skills as sailors . What’s harder to spot today is that the ground under Rijeka bubbles with underground springs.
Water is absolutely central to the personality and existence of Rijeka – bright, refreshing, life-giving and always moving on.
Although there are traces of Stone Age inhabitation in the area, it was the Liburnians who built the first significant settlement on Trsat hill (or, as they called it, Tarsat), to defend their harbour from attack. The Romans drove out the Illyrians in the 13th century. Trsat ceased to be the most important settlement, as the Romans founded the town of “Tarsatica” on the land where Rijeka’s old centre now lies.

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