I remain in awe of the tiny ‘chicken’ shaped country of Slovenia snuggly located in southern central Europe. The wonderment stems from such a small country squeezing in so much variation in culture, climate, language and landscapes. Having recently moved to the capital city Ljubljana, I was keen to set out on more rural but relaxing adventures.
A weekend in Piran confirmed why I should feel amazed by one of the ‘chicken’ legs of Slovenia. Piran is situated in south-western Slovenia. It faces Italy across The Gulf of Trieste and the Adriatic Sea. The easiest and fastest route to visit Piran is by car. It is a convenient ninety-minute drive by motorway direct from the capital Ljubljana. It is also warmer with a subtropical climate. I decided to chase this warm Slovenian sun as the autumnal weather had started to engulf Ljubljana. A welcoming warm sun met me during a late October weekend.
How To Get INTO Piran
Yes, the heading specifically states “into”. No public cars are allowed enter Piran. So, on arrival all visitors must park their cars in the multi-story car park outside of Piran. I admit this does not sound very picturesque and the cost of parking is quite expensive. I did ponder if I was entering some walled Disneyland-type establishment. However, this is not the case. It is a testament of how nature is maintained, respected and protected in Slovenia.
I hopped on the free shuttle bus service which operates every ten minutes to Piran. No one can be disappointed when the shuttle bus drops everyone off at the main marble-paved square. The bright, pastel colours of Tartini square (Tartinijev trg) engulfs your view on the right surrounded by the wonderful old Venetian style city of winding labyrinthine streets. You’re eyes rove to the left to the quaint harbor and stunning view out onto the Adriatic Sea. Immediately there is a distinct Italian style ‘feel’ to Piran which makes sense given it was part of the Republic of Venice from 1283 to 1797. Italian was the dominant language here until the mid-20th century. A rich history unfolds purely by looking at your surroundings in this Medieval Piran town.
Where To Stay
I had arranged to stay in a small B&B in the centre of the town. Accommodation is ample but comparatively much more expensive in Piran than other parts of Slovenia. An option for budget travellers is to stay in the neighbouring seaside town of Portorož. As the modern tourist, I used Google maps to navigate my way around but this was unnecessary. Piran is very small. On entering the narrow streets of Piran you are surrounded by breath-taking tall, old buildings. It was pleasantly quiet during my weekend stay. I was afforded the luxury of roaming the streets peacefully. However, at peak season accommodation needs to be booked in advance and I was informed the quaint streets can become crowded with tourists.
An Eyeful of Architecture
Piran lends itself to leisurely strolls and exploration of the Venetian Gothic architecture. This grande semi-circular “square” is dominated by the statue of composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini who was born here. The oldest building in the square is the striking red Venetian house. This was built by a wealthy merchant for his mistress. Walk further to take in the spectacular view from the hilltop at the cathedral of St. George. The baptistery and bell tower also reside here. The baroque style of the cathedral is inviting. Although visitors cannot not enter it, you can get a view through a metal grille to discover the rich ornate interior. Nearby, the Minorite Monastery has a quaint, picturesque cloister which is attached to the Church of St. Francis Assisi. This was originally built in the 14th century.
Fish Lovers Eat Here
Piran’s humble size is certainly forgotten when seeking good fish restaurants. There is ample choice. I discovered a local restaurant along the harbour on a boat. Yes, on an actual boat. The owner goes out to fish in the norming and the evening menu is his morning’s work fresh from the sea. I quickly associated the gentle rocking, not with sea sickness, but the comforting effect of a cosy, local eatery with a wonderful ambience. The fisherman turned chef by evening, can be seen busy in the kitchen at the far end of the small boat. His wife is the friendly, enthusiastic host. White wine is served in large carafes. There is no written menu. The host makes her recommendations and occasionally calls into her husband in the kitchen. I would recommend the mussels. The freshly caught sole was also delicious, oozing with natural flavour. The sense of pride was evident in the food and the noticeable warm interaction the host and chef have with all their customers.
Want To Be More Active?
Being Irish, my inner thermostat for swimming in open water is high, that is, it can never be as cold as the Irish sea. Therefore, swimming in late October in Piran was perfectly warm for individuals of an Irish constitution! I cannot recommend it enough. The salty, lukewarm and incredibly clear water was amazing to swim in late on a Saturday afternoon. This was followed by a quick towel dry and as per the local etiquette, an outdoor beverage in the sun. The coastline is dotted by numerous café’s overlooking the water edge. No eyebrows were raised as I sat on my towels to avoid leaving damp patches on the outdoor furniture of the café! I sipped on a Laško, one of Slovenia’s ‘national’ beers and watched the sunset. An activity most Slovenes will gladly approve of.
Why Visit Piran?
Piran is a beautiful place for a relaxing weekend to soak up the warm southern Slovenian sun, laze by café’s and indulge in fresh fish at local establishments. Piran for me is richly calm, scenic and delicious!