Yes, it’s a commerical for sports equipment, but it’s also a good presentation of the diversity that makes Slovenia such an attractive destination for short-term visitors and long-term residents who want some variety in the scenes and activities on offer, and all within a a couple of hours from each other.
Unless you choose to travel by bike, foot, kayak and foot, in which case it make take a little longer…
This week's photo comes from a recent search we did through Flickr for a story on spending from four to 48 hours in Piran. It was taken by Anna & Michal, but to really appreciate the view you'll need to click here to see the full 8MB image, which you can move around and explore. You can also download a copy of it here.
Part of the appeal of Slovenia as a destination is the remarkable variety of landscapes, climates, cuisines and cultural heritage packed into a relatively small area, due to the young nation’s position at the crossroads of north, south, east and west Europe. Piran, and the Slovenian coastal region of Istria in general, is a fine example of this, giving the country and access to the Adriatic as well as an area famed for its wines, olives, persimmons, seafood, architecture and – on occasion – wind (known as the burja or bora). For both short-term visitors and life-long residents of Slovenia it represents an escape from the inland and the chance to enter another, more Venetian world, an opportunity that should be seized whenever possible.
We thus present a short guide to spending from four to 48 hours in Piran, with a choice of sights and activities that isn’t meant to be exhaustive, or exhausting, but rather a simple presentation of things to see and do that’ll let you say: “Yes, I’ve been to Piran, and I loved it”.
The town is an old Venetian settlement, ruled by the lagoon-based city state from 1283 to 1797, and this history can still be seen in many of the more notable buildings. The town’s proximity to Italy also means that Piran, or Pirano, is essentially bilingual, as seen in the two languages on the signs and often heard in the accented dialect of locals. The best place to see Venetian architecture is in the Old Town, basically the whole of touristic Piran, which can easily be explored on foot in a few of hours – it’s mostly pedestrianised – with breaks for cafés, light shopping and food.
Notable buildings include the Benecanka Casa Veneziana Pirano, aka the Venetian House, now a boutique hotel, but one that you can still enjoy from the outside. It’s long been a tourist attraction, as seen in the postcard below, and is said to have been built by a Venetian merchant for a local women he fell in love with.
Postcard of the Venetian House, 1914. Source: Wikipedia
Venetian House can be found on the edge of Tartini Square, named after the composer Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770), the first recorded owner of a Stradivarius. As old as it may look, this square is relatively recent. It was an open dock until 1894, when – the locals having grown sick of the smell of the sewage and waste that floated in the waters – it was filled in, with the statue of Tartini being placed there two years later.
Photo of the dock that became Tartini Square, taken in the late 19th century, with Venetian House roughly in the middle. Source: Wikipedia
Postcard of Tartini Square in 1915. You can see the Venetian House behind the two men. Source: Wikipedia
Tartini Square in 200. Source: Wikimedia - © Plamen Agov • studiolemontree.com CC by 3.0. You can see more old photos of the square here.
It’s from this square that you can see another icon of Piran, the statue of the Archangel Michael, which for a little over 250 years has been sitting atop the church of St George, moving to show the direction of the wind to the town’s seafaring residents. (It was taken down for a short time 2018, for some much needed repairs)
St Michael. Screenshot from YouTube
Another structure to seek out are the Cloisters of Saint Francis Monastery, a place that still houses Franciscan monks and one that’s known for having great acoustics. For that reason it hosts the Piran Music Evenings and Tartini Festival, with the latter taking place late summer (this year, 2019, from August 22 to September 9), with the official website here.
The Cloisters. Wikimedia - Isiwal CC-by-4.0
Before or after your walk around town you might want to sunbathe or swim, and you can do so at various spots, with some of what to expect (no sand) shown in the following video from Korea.
Once you’ve seen the Old Town and bathed in the sun and/or the sea, you might want to take in some more of the related cultural and touristic offerings. These include the Sergej Mašera Maritime Museum, Piran Aquarium and the Museum of Underwater Activities(website down, at the time of writing), all of which offer what the names suggest. You can also find details of upcoming festivals, concerts and other events in Piran here.
If you’re spending longer in Piran then you might want to see a little more of the coast, that 47-km of Slovenia that separates Croatia from Italy. Within walking distance, or an easy cycle, drive, taxi or bus ride, is Portorož, a Riviera-style resort town with a very different feel to the Venetian peninsula. It’s here you’ll find casinos and beaches with recliners and umbrellas, with everything from top hotels and classy restaurants and a marina to pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap stores selling flip-flops, sunhats, sunglasses, inflatable items and so on. It’s not for everyone, but then neither is climbing Mount Triglav, so if it sounds interesting to you then take a look.
If you want to see more of the Venetian side of the coast then head on to Izola, although only if you haven’t been to Piran first. Meanwhile, the economic centre of the Slovenian Istria (aka Primorska) is the port town of Koper. While a little more developed than its neighbours, it still has another charming Venetian Old Town to explore.
Two areas that are more untouched, and where you’ll probably want to take your own food and drink, are Strunjan and Debeli rtič. Strunjan is a coastal nature reserve with many paths and trails for walking, hiking and biking, and the ideal place to get away from the crowds and ice sellers for a few hours. You can read our more detailed guide to this hidden treasure on coast here. A similar kind of experience can be had at Debeli rtič.
Piran is known for its salt pans, once the source of its wealth, and these are still in business, producing the famed local fleur de sel. Even if you don’t make the trip to see the seawater evaporating leaving these precious crystals, you’ll find stores all over town selling the stuff, both as a cooking ingredient and in various other preparation. Not made in Piran itself, but still in Slovenian Istria (aka Primorska or the Littoral), you might want to look out for local wines and produce. Wines offer include the red Refosco and white Malvazija, although there are also many other varieties and blends to enjoy, as outlined in this earlier article, while olives and PDO designated olive oil are produced nearby and are worth picking up or seeking out in restaurants.
As noted above, the region produces plenty of very drinkable wines, and often at prices lower than they’d command if they came with an Italian name, so do explore these if a fan of the grape. With regard to food, since you’re by the coast you should take the chance to check out the seafood restaurants. You’re also next to Italy, so don’t feel like you’re betraying Slovenia if you order some pasta and gelato.
If you’d like to learn more about Piran, including the stories that don’t make it into the tourist guides, then you can find all our articles on the town here
STA, 27 March 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar announced on Wednesday that Slovenia would issue a diplomatic note to Croatia over a grave border violation by a Croatian police boat in the Bay of Piran last Sunday.
Cerar said the boat crossing 2.5 km into Slovenian waters and even 1.3 km across the bay's midline was a special kind of provocation.
He spoke of an unnecessary escalation between the two countries, of a failure to honour international and EU law and of a violation of the Schengen border - by a country that would like to become a member of the Schengen area.
The newspaper Delo has reported that the Croatian police blamed their excursion on problems with navigation equipment.
"This is obviously just an excuse and as such completely unacceptable", Cerar commented, saying accepting this would be an "affront to the intelligence and abilities of the Croatian police authorities, which know exactly what they are doing".
The latest incident is part of a long history of run-ins in the bay featuring police and fishing boats on both sides of the border.
Since June 2017 the bay has also become the central theatre of the two sides' take on the international border arbitration decision, which Croatia is refusing to implement. The arbitration award gives 80% of the bay to Slovenia.
Cerar added today that Sunday's incident proved the implementation of the arbitration award was urgent, not only from the legal and political standpoints and bilateral relations but also because of "the entire European story".
"Such behaviour is not European and also serves as a poor example to the Western Balkans," Cerar said, adding the EU was constantly repeating that membership candidates needed to respect international law.
Captain and his Friday (Kapitan in njegov Petek) is an ethnographic documentary from 2014, presented here first in Slovene with English subtitles, and then in Slovene with Slovene subtitles. The Captain of the title is Mirko Bogić, while Friday is his companion, Savina Gorišek. At the time of filming Mirko was 97 and Savina 84, with both still sailing in Piran Bay, as they have done together for more than 40 years. The film takes the viewer through their daily routine, where they demonstrate that age is not an obstacle for an active life, full of love for each other and the sea.
A Slovenian team, working for the Piran-based organisation Morigenos, has discovered that the common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) living off the coast share the Bay of Trieste, dividing it based on time of day rather than territory, the first time such behaviour has been observed.
A paper published in the journal Marine Biology, “Behavioural and temporal partitioning of dolphin social groups in the northern Adriatic Sea”, and written by Tilen Genov, Tina Centrih, Polona Kotnjek, and Ana Hace, outlines how the researchers carried out their work, and what they learned. The team used the distinctive features on the dorsal fins of 38 dolphins to keep track of each individual, noting when and where the animals were sighted in the bay. An analysis of the data showed that the dolphins were divided into two groups of 19 and 13, with the remaining six making up a loose group of its own. The larger group of dolphins tended to following fishing trawlers between the hours of 07:00 and 3:00. In contrast, the smaller group of 13 were seen swimming with the trawlers, and hunted in the bay between 18:00 and 21:00. Dolphins from each group were rarely in the same area at the same time.
Source: Tilen Genov
In addition to revealing such temporal segregation for the first time in this species, the study is of interest because – as the paper concludes – “We demonstrate how different segments of the same population may behave very differently and have differing effects on human activities such as fishing (through potential depredation or gear damage). In turn, they may respond differently to anthropogenic pressures, as temporal partitioning may make animals either more or less vulnerable to disturbance from boat traffic.”
The full paper can be found here, while those interested in learning more about Morigenos can read an earlier story about the organisation here. The study reported in this story is also summarised in a short and relatively simple Slovene-English dual text here.
Get to Know the 17 Historical Towns of Slovenia
There are many ways to plan a trip around Slovenia and lenses through which to view it, and one way to explore the country is through its historic towns. But how to choose these in a land that’s got so many? One way is by turning to the work of the Association of Historical Towns (and Cities) of Slovenia (Združenje zgodovinskih mest Slovenije), a group that includes 17 mostly medieval towns sited around the country, each of which has its own story to tell, with the full list being Idrija, Jesenice, Kamnik, Koper, Kostanjevica na Krki, Kranj, Metlika, Novo mesto, Piran, Ptuj, Radovljica, Slovenske Konjice, Škofja Loka, Tržič, and Žužemberk.
STA, 30 October 2018 - The night rain and wind have caused problems around Slovenia, but these have for now mostly remained limited to roads blocked by fallen trees, stormwater and minor flooding of some rivers. While the worst was still expected along the Drava river in the afternoon, the latest reports are more optimistic.
STA, 15 October 2018 - The statue of Archangel Michael, a major landmark of the coastal town of Piran, was lifted back to the church steeple by a helicopter of the Slovenian Armed Forces on Monday.
One of the many charms of Slovenia is the variety of distinct landscapes and climates packed into such a small area, as well as the ease with which one’s able to escape the country and spend some time amid a different language and culture.