Piran is charming medieval town in the Gulf of Piran, southwestern of Slovenia, you do not want to miss. With 18.000 inhabitants, some would say its tiny and so it feels like.
Kissed by the Adriatic Sea, just like its sisters: Koper, Portoz and Izola, it is one of the three major towns of Slovenian Istria. More of Slovenia’s treasures here.
You will find Piran in the Golf of Trieste, 22 km from the actual town of Trieste.
Facts about the past of Piran:
In the pre-Roman era, Piran was inhabited by pirates who have disrupted Roman trade in the northern Adriatic.
It is one the oldest towns in Slovenia and is full of important Gothic architecture, which reminds of Venice. Not surprising, as the Venetians were home here for several centuries. Later it was an Austrian Hungarian city and between both world wars, this territory belonged to Italy and later to Yugoslavia and Slovenia.
The bilingual signs in Slovenian and Italian are heritage of the fact that here Italian was the dominant language, until the mid-20th century, so both municipality and locals speak Italian. Meraviglioso!
Piran is not a seaside resort as sand beaches don’t exist
But swimming is still at hand…
If you feel like wandering around in Piran, take a swim in the Adriatic, and do not wonder where, as there are built stairs that help you get into the sea, every 50 meters or so. The long promenade by the sea is paved in concrete and lying on it is not a comfortable feeling but swimming in the Adriatic will make it worth it. Locals just lay a towel on the pavement or on the stones and bathe in the sun, in the sea or meditate.
I have found a spot where there where many locals with dogs and took a swim in the sea, next to bull terrier which gladly shared his water space with me.
The Harbor and the local people
Walking trough the port of Piran you will spot the old fishing boats contrasting with the big shiny yachts. There are two worlds there: one of fishermen that go offshore fishing everyday at 4.00 am and return around 11.00 am to sell their catch to the local restaurants and Piranesi. The other one is the world of the yacht tourist that have nothing to do with the daily hassle.
The best time to see it
Piran will be fled with tourist from June to September, but if you visit it in May, September or October, you will have the chance to engage with the local fishermen, maybe try to join them on their fishing routes. If that’s your thing, why not?
The specials of the town
The magic of this medieval town comes with the small narrow streets. The houses are so close to one another, that you can pass a cup of coffee to your neighbor on the window.
Leave the Center with its Tartini Square and wander on the small streets. One of the charming squares of Piran is The 1st of May Square or the Old Square (Piazza Vecchia). It is the centre of the old Punta and the main streets of Piran meet here. Locals and tourists come here for a glass of traditional red wine, or, in the summer months, for the musical, dance and theatre performances .
The Old Square was the administrative centre of the town until the 13th century. In the old municipal building, which still stands today, you will find the restaurant Fritolin Pri Cantini. Here you can enjoy local cuisine in a familiar atmosphere.
The place, which looks like a cabin on the seaside, with lilliputian chairs and tables, is run by two merry women and they cook right before your eyes.
Just try their calamari with polenta dish, garlic sauce and local beer.
In the same 1st of May Square, you will see the St. Donat Church, built-in the first half of the 14th century (1325). It is still well-preserved and its interior is used as a gallery. The centre of the square, has a stone rainwater cistern, which was built after a severe draught in 1775.
If you feel like promenade walking, you can take the 3 km sea-shore trail from Piran to Portoroz. Here rest in a coffee shop and then visit the 700-year-old Sečovlje Salina – a cultural monument of national importance.
The Sečovlje Salina is 650 hectares of salt pans and home to 272 bird species, making it the largest coastal marsh wetlands and at the same time the most important Slovenian locality from the ornithological point of view.
Access by car
The center of Piran is a fortress where access by car is not allowed. The parking places, small and dispersed, are to be accessed only by the locals based on a yearly fee. As a tourist, you have two store parking houses with a 1.7 euro hourly rate.
What to see in Piran in one day
- Tartini Square, named by the town’s most famous resident, the violinist Giuseppe Tartini who ran a music school in Piran, which was known throughout Europe.
- Bell Tower (46.45 m)
is the highlight of your days spent in Piran. You will will have a 360 view above the city, see its hustle, but only hear the wind. It was completed in the year 1608, and is a smaller scale copy of San Marco Campanile in Venice, confirming the Venetian influence in Piran. The ticket you pay to go up in the tower is one euro and even if it were twenty times more, it would be worth it.
- Church of Saint George is the next building you will find near the Bell Tower and know that St. George is the patron saint of Piran. As a Christian prince and knight from Capadoccia, and a saint and martyr, he became a protector of many towns. Rarely is any saintly knight mentioned so frequently in legends and myths as he. Even the Dardanelles were once named the Straits of St. George. In England alone, one hundred and sixty churches are dedicated to this martyr. He is depicted as a mighty young man in his knightly outfit, on a white horse bearing his spear and a shield. The portrait of St. George on his horse, fighting a dragon, is one of the best known and frequently used motifs in Christianity.
Slovenia is a tiny country but definitely an example for the saying: strong flavors come in small bottles. The country, has three UNESCO sites and six on the waiting list, 7.000 km of walking trails, 97% of its surface is forest, 47 km of coastline to the Adriatic Sea and its home to the second biggest underground canyon in the world.