Until very recently, we hadn’t actually realised that our closest beach/seaside town, was actually in Slovenia, not Istria. Not by many kilometres, but enough to be our closest. In just over half an hour, we can be in beautiful Portorož, on the Slovenian Riviera, the 47km slice of coast, in this otherwise landlocked country. However, as gorgeous as this town is, we think we actually Piran, a little further on, towards the main coastal town of Koper and onwards to Trieste, is perhaps even more pretty.
From 1283 to 1797, Piran was part of the Republic Venice, and today, Venetian influences are everywhere. Until the mid 20th century, Italian was the official language and the architecture and food have strong Italian influences. Even though now in another country, the city of Trieste is only a short drive away, and Venice can be accessed in a couple of hours. After 1797, Piran was ruled back and forth, by Austria, France and Italy, until 1954 when it became part of Yugoslavia. In 1991, it became part of the new country of Slovenia. However, it is a town which feels very much Italian. The architecture is reminiscent of Venice, the pastel colours of the buildings like one of the Cinque Terre towns.
What makes it a bit more special, is the fact that it’s almost car free. Only residents can drive into the town, through controlled barriers. Outside these barriers, is a huge underground car park, where visitors park up and either walk the 1km into the town, along the sea front, or hop on one of the free shuttle buses, which run every 15 minutes or so. The shuttle bus drops you off right on the edge of Tartini Square, the main square, named after the violinist Guiseppe Tartini, who was born and lived here. Three sides of the square are surrounded by elegant, colourful buildings – very Italianate – whilst the fourth side opens onto the pretty harbour. The bell tower of the Church of St George, stands above the square, and is a great example of the Venetian influence – it is a smaller scale version of the Campanile in St Mark’s Square in Venice.
The old town leads directly off the square, via a series of cobbled alleyways, all taking you up to the top of the hill and the town walls, where the vantage point is amazing. From the walls (and the top of the campanile) you can see the whole of Piran below you, and the views across to Istria and Italy. The old town itself, is as pretty as picture. Higgeldy-piggeldy houses, of various heights and sizes, all painted different pastel colours usually with lowers tumbling down out of window boxes. Little independent shops and holiday lets and the odd boutique hotel, mingle with the houses.
Piran, I don’t think, ever gets very, very crowded, but if you did want to escape Tartini Square or the harbour, where the restaurants and bars are located, I’d really suggest the walk up into the old town and take in the cloisters of St Francis Monastery, considered by many to be the most beautiful in Slovenia. This is such a peaceful, serene place, and if you are lucky, you may even get the place to yourself, like we did. And, you’ll get the opportunity to sit on an amazing chair, carved out of the trunk of a 500 year old olive tree, just as our friend did. Do go into the church as well, and look up…
The harbour is small, and very pretty, as is the coastal path. There are lots of restaurants here, most specialising, obviously in fish. It’s safe to say we’ve not had a disappointing meal here, as like Italians, the restauranteurs of this town, know how to do food well.
We are extremely lucky that we now live so close to beautiful places like Piran, and its neighbours of Portoroz and Izola, and can just drive across the border for an afternoon out or an evening away. Now that Croatia has joined The Schengen Zone, it has made travel across the border so much easier, and that means we can really explore our new(ish) locality. It’s a real privilege to live somewhere so stunning.