All contemporary and historical descriptions of Vrsar begin with a fact that the settlement is situated on a hill overlooking the bay that is naturally protected by the island of Sveti Juraj, and which served as a suitable anchorage. The bay and the quayside have been used continuously since ancient history. On its coast, numerous remains from all historical periods have been found, particularly from the Roman times and Middle Ages. Nowadays it is the centre of the tourist life of Vrsar and the location of a modern marina.
Both throughout history and today, the life of Vrsar has gravitated toward two locations: one is the old Vrsar town on the hill, while the other is the Vrsar quayside beneath it. The Vrsar quayside is sheltered by the island of Sveti Juraj, which was not an island in earlier historical eras, but rather an elongated peninsular formation that ran parallel to the coastline. The ambient of the protected bay on the maritime route along the western coast of Istria, the freshwater sources that never run dry as well as the proximity of hills with evidence of prehistoric habitation have always attracted either people who wanted to inhabit it or mariners in transit. The administrative centre (of today’s Municipality of Vrsar) has remained on the hill to this day, while the economic and tourism centre found its place on the Vrsar quayside below.
The Vrsar quayside has been the centre of the fishing industry. Historical evidence of fishing and fisheries are spread along the coast of Lim Bay, along the Vrsar coast and in the Vrsar quayside. Throughout history, fishing was not a top branch of the economy compared to producing wine and olive oil or mining stone, but has always been existentially important as a source of additional income and food. Fishing activities are mentioned in the earliest medieval documents. They are also mentioned and regulated in detail by Statuti, et ordini da osseruarsi nel castello di Orsera et suo contado of 1609.
- F. Tommasini, Bishop of Novigrad, said the following about the Vrsar quayside: … Near them is a quayside, suitable and protected, through which they can easily market their products. That quayside, which is among the most suitable ones in Istria, is sheltered by islets raised like hills [relative to the sea level, author’s comment], protecting it from the winds.
The importance of the quayside is also reflected in the fact that a public health/hygiene station (Sanità) used to be located there, and that there were rules in force on the control of vessels and persons arriving by sea through the quayside. The following are several legal provisions on that topic:
Since it is just and appropriate for us to know when our subjects leave from here in order to travel elsewhere, to any other country or settlement for their profit, we hereby order, among other things, that no one shall dare travel from here without coming here before us and informing us of their destination, under pain of penalty of 25 small liras for each person and each time our order is violated; in our absence, they are to inform the steward, under pain of other penalties at our discretion. Similarly, we command that, for all vessels arriving to our jurisdiction, their owners shall, immediately after berthing and securing their vessels, come to our palace and state clearly where they are coming from, where they intend to go, what their cargo is or what goods they wish to load; in our absence, they must inform our steward, under pain of penalty for those who violate our order, a corporal or monetary penalty to be decided on at our discretion. Since it is difficult for the [aforementioned] persons to learn of our order, we order that our chief constable shall warn the said owners [of the vessels] of the above order immediately after a boat, ship or other vessel arrives, under pain of the aforementioned penalties. We order, however, that, after the aforementioned owners of boats or vessels are warned by the chief constable, the said chief constable is not obliged to warn them again when they come for the second time, but rather, they must abide by our order each time they arrive to our quayside, and half of the penalty is to be given to the accuser and the other half according to our judgement.