My dilemma was a free weekend in Italy between business trips. Italy is a wonderful place with incredible food and so much history, I could have easily spent my time there. Instead, I opted to visit a new country, by taking a day trip to Piran, Slovenia.
Piran: an easy way to visit a new country, and a unique way to do it
I was looking for a place to spend the weekend without going too far away. Working in Torino through Friday, and needed to be in Palermo by Sunday night. Someone suggested I visit Trieste (a new city for me in northeast Italy) and Piran, Slovenia and this seemed like a good option. I was also tempted by other places, but given this was late July, it was getting into prime tourist season, so I mostly wanted to avoid any huge crowds. My weekend trip consisted of a train from Torino to Trieste in Frecciarossa Business Class and 2 nights in Trieste with a day trip to Piran.
Getting to Piran
My hotel (NH Trieste) was a few blocks from the train station and even closer to the ferry pier where I caught the ride to Piran. There are also bus options between Trieste and Piran, but nothing direct, and the boat was much faster. My roundtrip ferry ticket was about €17, and the trip was 30 minutes each way.
Trieste is in the Northeast corner of Italy, on the Slovenian border, and is officially a bilingual city. Some signs in Trieste are in both Italian and Slovene. There is a narrow strip of Slovenian territory on the Adriatic Sea and Piran is at the end of a peninsula between Croatia and Trieste, Italy.
There is a ferry (Trieste Lines) that runs between Trieste and Piran, and that seemed like the best option vs some indirect bus routes. The ferry leaves Trieste at 9am and returns around 8pm. That was more time than I needed, but it was nice not to rush around when I was exploring Piran. I bought the ferry ticket at the pier, and after some passport formalities, I boarded the boat. I’m not sure why there was passport checks considering we were remaining within both the EU and Schengen zones. The boat was comfortable enough for the short trip, and despite 10-across seats, it was drastically more spacious than a 777. It was an easy journey, and the hydrofoil was smooth and speedy. There are also ferries from Venice and other places in to Piran most days during summer months.
Hello Slovenia, my 56th country
We arrived at the ferry pier in Piran around 9:30, so I had the day to explore. I started walking around to get the lay of the land. Located on a peninsula, there are beaches all around. I’m not that much of a beach person, plus I didn’t bring a swimming suit, although based on what I saw, apparently at least some beaches are clothing optional…yikes.
Piran is like a small, less crowded Venice. The architecture is very similar which makes sense given that it was part of the Venetian empire for 500 years. It was also part of Italian territory between 1918 and 1947. Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia, and became independent in 1991. Piran is a charming town on the coast. There are narrow, cobble stone streets, and like Venice, there are no cars in the city center. Also, like Venice, the campanile at St. George’s Cathedral looks a lot like the original in Piazza San Marco.
Churches in Piran
I’m not Catholic, and never studied Art History, but am often impressed by old churches in this part of the world. One of the places I visited was the prominent church overlooking the whole city, St. George’s Church. The first church in this location was built almost 1000 years ago, and this building dates to 1592. It has a prominent location on the hill overlooking the town, and there are panoramic views all around from the church grounds. I paid a few Euros to walk around inside. There is a small museum, and some visible excavation to the oldest foundations. The sanctuary is visible from a small outside door, but it is obviously easier to see from inside.
While wandering around I happened across another small church and stopped in for a quick photo:
Besides the historic architecture and old churches, much of the draw to Piran is the seaside location. Being a warm Saturday in late July, there were lots of people enjoying the beaches. There isn’t a traditional sand beach, but mostly rocky areas, and some paved or gravel spots to sit on between dips in the Adriatic Sea.
Dining in Piran
Many of the restaurants are along the water, and unsurprisingly feature seafood. There are a few cafes in Tartini Square as well. One of my most memorable snacks during my time in Piran was the Borek I got from a small bakery. I got here later in the day so selection was limited, but I opted for the pizza Borek, basically philo dough with tomato sauce and cheese inside. Yum. Piran seems a lot like Italy, but it definitely is a mix of cultures, and Borek is common in Balkan cuisine.
As evening approached, I enjoyed relaxing at of the places along the water and enjoyed the shade, a cool breeze, and some Slovenian craft beer.
City Walls – quite a view
One of the more picturesque areas I visited was an intact section of the city walls. Areas of these walls date to the 7th century, but most of the remaining sections are more like 600 years old. From the top of the walls on a hill, the views are amazing. It cost €3 to access this section, and climbing up the walls, and through narrow corridors is not for everyone, I’m happy to have found this.
Final thoughts on Piran
Fast travel doesn’t always suit me, but I find myself doing it fairly frequently. By no means did I get into the culture of Slovenia during my short stay in this touristy spot, but I did enjoy getting to explore this unique place. It is a beautiful spot and a fun way to spend a free day in the middle of my business trip. Visiting more countries in the Balkans are certainly high on my list for future travel.