When we arrive at Piran, it has already started to get dark. It is drizzling slightly and the streets shine in the glow of the street lights. Maybe not the Mediterranean feel I had in mind, but autumn on the Adriatic Sea can undeniably be a bit capricious. It is not until the following morning that I really get to know Piran. As the sun begins to rise, I take my coffee cup and paw up in the chilly morning to our roof terrace, looking out over the city and the sea. The sky shifts in pastels, a rooster goes crazy in one of the alleys below me and on kullen the sun burns behind Piran's city wall. The salty winds of the Mediterranean swirl in my hair and despite the chilly temperature I sit completely still and just soak up all I can of Piran. You know, that kind of moment that you feel like you want to remember for the rest of your life.
Piran is located on Slovenia's small corner of the Mediterranean Sea, sandwiched between Croatia and Italy. A cute little town with 3.800 inhabitants, built on a narrow peninsula in the Adriatic Sea. “Almost like Venice!” exclaims my daughter when she walks into the old town's narrow alleys on the first evening. And there is a lot in it. 500 years of Venetian rule have given Piran much of its identity. Here the church towers look like Venice, the street signs are in Italian and Slovenian and the medieval architecture could be any small charming town in Veneto.
However, Piran has not only belonged to Venice over the years. In the 20th century alone, Piran belonged to four (!) different countries. First Austria-Hungary until World War II, then Italy for a few years, then Yugoslavia until 1991 and now today part of present-day Slovenia. It is not difficult to understand that the colorful history has left its mark - in everything from restaurants to music and art.
We rent an apartment in the middle of Piran's charming old town for three nights - Apartments Music House. A storey apartment at the top of a medieval house with beamed ceilings, roof terrace, kitchen and two bedrooms. Not a single corner is straight, the old steps are inclined and you have to watch your head when you go up to the roof terrace. But what a place. From here we have the whole city at our feet.
We go down to Tartini square for an espresso with a vanilla filling Cream cheese, we go up the hill to the church of St.George to enjoy the view of the city, we buy food in the neighborhood store and we walk on the city wall. Nothing fancy at all, but so perfect in all its simplicity. Visiting Piran in autumn means no queues, no crowds and definitely no swimming weather. The bathing ladders down into the blue waters of the Mediterranean stand alone, embraced only by high tide and wild waves.
Piran's city center is car-free, and the only thing heard in the city's alleys are the fruit vendors talking busily with their customers, the waves crashing against the rocks and the steps of the occasional high-heeled shoe echoing between the house walls. Piran is something so unusual as a popular holiday resort without crowds, without cruise ships and without fuss. No traffic, just a lovely little town. If you want a sandy beach and a more tourist feel, Slovenia's most popular seaside resort is here Portoroz only a few kilometers from here. In Portoroz, the spas and hotels are more numerous and the hills are strewn with luxurious holiday villas. Don't expect anything Benidorm though, Portoroz is a beach town with more soul than surface.
When darkness falls over Piran, the restaurants along the old town's coastal edge come to life. The fish restaurants are lined up here. A string of pearls of outdoor dining and wine bars. Even in autumn, the outdoor seating is open, but now with sliding glass doors that protect against the wind.
However, we never eat by the water's edge, but in one of the secret little restaurants in one of the many back streets in the old town. We actually eat at the same place every night. Not at all like us, but when you find a gem like this, it's hard to resist the urge to return. We are completely hooked on the little restaurant Cantina Klet vid Prvomajski trg. Five tables inside. Three tables outside. Always full. Here we hang out with the local old men who play dice games and bang on the table laughing and drink local wine from the decanter. The fish is ordered from a hatch in the wall of the house next door, the drink is ordered at the table. Gigantic slices of lightly grilled tuna, whole-grilled sea bass and mackerel. All at very affordable prices. A well-filled glass of local wine €1,50. A gigantic portion of tuna €12,80. All with cash payment, of course.
It is easy to spend the day in Piran and its surroundings. We go to Portoroz for lunch and eat truffle pizza which is so drenched in freshly grated truffle that it looks like someone dropped a bucket of iron filings over the pizza. We walk by the large sea salt pools at Sečovlje Salina Nature Park and buys salt manufactured in the same manner as under Venetian rule. It doesn't matter if the days are a little cloudy. Everything still feels warm and cozy.
When, on the last day, we have handed in the keys to our apartment and are sitting on the free bus to the parking garage where we parked the rental car, all three of us feel the same feeling. Slovenia may be a small country, but the impressions and experiences we have been offered have been really big.
Where is Piran?
Piran is located on Slovenia's small coastal strip, halfway between Croatia and Italy. The nearest international airport in Slovenia is in the capital Ljubljana, 1,5 hours from Piran. There is also an airport in Italian Trieste.
Map (Opens in Google maps)
How do I get to a car-free city by car?
We parked in the parking garage Garage Fornače, which has plenty of parking spaces and an affordable unit price per day. Then it was just a matter of hopping on the free bus to Tartinitorget.
Map (Opens in Google maps)
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Have you been here? What did you think of the destination?
Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.