Hugging Slovenia’s miniature coastline, wedged between the borders of Croatia and Italy, sun bathes the seaside town of Piran. Glittering at the tip of a green peninsula, this Venetian village is a gem on Slovenia’s 47 kilometre slice of shore. Piran offers incredible views from its old town wall, opulent architecture within the historic village, and a lively harbour front to sit and soak in the sights.
Continuing on our road-trip with Ashleigh’s folks, we stumbled upon Piran on our way back to Italy from the Croatian coast. While Ashleigh and I had already been travelling for more than a year, her family was on vacation and didn’t want to miss a thing, visiting all the prime spots along the Adriatic Sea. After parking our beastly twelve-seater, which could barely manage the medieval roads of Europe, we set off on a nice walk together along Piran’s harbour front. Enjoying the views of boats bobbing in the water and purple jelly fish flitting about aimlessly, we took our sweet time winding our way to the old town centre. After stopping in the Sergej Mašera Maritime Museum, once the splendid Gabrielli Palace, we continued to the main square.
The grand square of Tartini actually used to be part of the harbour until they filled it up in 1894, for “sanitary reasons”. In that time there was a strong smell around all the important government buildings, thanks to the raw sewage pumped directly into the sea, so filling in the harbour was one way of creating more space while solving the stink. Today there’s plenty of room for market stalls, café chairs, and rambunctious skateboarders, with nothing but the sweet smell of lavender in the spring time.
Two masts, that once decorated the town hall, now flank the entrance to Tartini Square. On the first pole there is a carving of the winged lion, a symbol of the Venetians who ruled Piran for hundreds of years. Underneath the relief is a Latin inscription that reads as follows:”GAZE AT THE WINGED LION, WHICH GRASPS TERRITORIES, SEAS AND STARS”. At the base of the second mast is Saint George, the town protector, slaying a dragon upon his horse (as usual). Underneath that great saint is a Latin inscription: “WITH OUR PRAYERS, YOU REMAIN SAFE, THE LAND OF PIRAN”.
Through the maze of Piran’s terracotta-topped houses we strolled, marvelling at the intricate stonework and elegant designs that Venetian architecture had to offer. As the buildings crept up the hillside we were forced to follow, breathing heavily, but altogether eager to see what was ahead. At last we arrived at the base of what once protected Piran from Ottoman invaders. Sections of the old town wall and seven gates still stand throughout Piran, though the rest of it has been demolished. Southeast of the town is the largest section of wall, positioned against the hill with six towers. I had a lot of fun clambering up and down its stone steps, leading up to magnificent viewpoints of Piran and the azure sea below.
On top of the wall I could clearly see the Church of St. George, watching over Piran from its lofty position, and I knew I had one more thing left to climb. It only cost a euro to enter the church’s bell tower, but as my eyes wandered up its rickety, wooden stairwell to the rafters, I began to feel uneasy. The spiral stairway was a patchwork of repair jobs and creaked despairingly with every footstep. As we climbed I tried not to think of how old the stairs were, if I would survive the fall, and why I didn’t buy health insurance. Fortunately, we made the climb without incident and the salty smell of the ocean breeze greeted us at the top belfry, along with excellent photo opportunities. Before descending, the tower of doom had one more trick up its sleeve, blasting our eardrums with its damned church bells. I’m not actually trying to dissuade you from climbing the tower, I heartily recommend it, it’s all part of the experience (just bring ear plugs)!
A hit of gelato was all we needed and we sat blissfully in the sun at the edge of the crystal-clear Adriatic, still gazing around at the charming, pastel-box buildings of Piran. This was another one of those Mediterranean, seaside villages filled with all your needs for a get-away holiday. Those café cluttered market squares, whimsical tourist shops, cobblestone lanes and gorgeous turquoise waters will bewitch you every time. Don’t just dream about it, come and see it!