Opatija was included in the territory of the Liburni, a pre-Roman Illyrian tribe. In Roman times, the area was home to several patrician villas connected to the nearby town of Castrum Laureana, the modern Lovran. Croats settled in the region from about 700 AD onwards. Conquered by King Pepin of Italy, son of Charlemagne in 789, the Istrian peninsula up to the Kvarner Gulf was incorporated into the Carolingian March of Friuli by 803. In the east, it bordered on the medieval Kingdom of Croatia established by King Tomislav about 925. Having invaded Italy, King Otto of Germany made the Istrian lands part of the vast March of Verona and Aquileia; from the 11th century onwards, the Imperial estates were held by the Patriarchs of Aquileia. In the Middle Ages the current towns territory was divided between Veprinac (now a locality of Opatija, perhaps home to a small fishing port) and Kastav, where the fisherman village of Veprinac. The small hamlet of Opatija itself developed around a Benedictine abbey dedicated to Saint Jacob, which was first mentioned in 1453. While western Istria was gradually conquered by the Republic of Venice by 1420, the remaining territory up to Opatija fell to the House of Habsburg and later was incorporated into the Austrian Littoral. Today Opatija is one of the top tourist destinations, and is often referred to as the pearl of the Adriatic.
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