Please don’t go to Piran. There, I said it. In all my travels this is the one destination I’d like to keep for myself. Here’s how to have a holiday so perfect you won’t want to leave. Let’s start with the view. Imagine waking up to this:
This is the million dollar vista from a surprisingly affordable vacation rental home, which I found on Trip Advisor only by planning more than six months in advance. But any visitor can enjoy a similar view for a few euros by visiting the town walls. A parking structure is nearby, where you can leave your car and venture on foot into the steep, narrow streets of the town. Stop into the Mediadom, where high tech holograms in ancient tunnels welcome you to a film about the local history that is offered in English, Italian and Russian. Bring an ID to get the student or senior discount.
And then soak up the centuries as you wander, looking into the elegant, tiny churches on the backstreets or seaside. The crowning glory is Saint George’s Cathedral, dating back to 1641 when Piran’s nobles grew rich from the locally produced salt, under the protection of Venice. I wasn’t a big fan of visiting the actual salt pans a short distance away, but took home some of the gourmet fleur de sel from the Piranske Soline shops in town. Makes a great gift.
The Venetian vibe is obvious in the splendid buildings on Tartini Square. Piran’s outdoor living room was created when a smelly part of the harbor was filled in. A statue of the town’s native composer and noted violinist Giuseppe Tartini presides over the lively cafes and free cultural performances during summer festivals.
Of course, the main attraction for holiday makers is the Adriatic Sea. Part of the rocky beach nearest our rental was clothing optional, but if that’s not your thing just keep strolling until you find another place to put down your beach towel and swim or soak up the sun.
You’ll be hungry after all the walking and swimming. The waterfront is lined with fish-oriented eateries, but most days we shopped in the small grocery store, farmers’ market and bakery that stays open for summer visitors. The fresh ingredients made for some memorable meals, accompanied by local wine or Slovenia’s incomparable mineral water, Radenska.
From Piran you can walk along the sea to the more lively resort town of Portorož. There’s also a public shuttle bus. You’ll hear lots of Russian spoken, as well as the two official languages of Slovene and Italian. If you have a car, Piran is a good launching point for day trips to Koper and Izola. The Škocjan and Postojna Caves are an easy drive. You can even go to Italy for lunch in Trieste without stopping for a border check. Crossing into the Croatian side of the Istrian peninsula is a bit more complicated because you are leaving the Schengen transit area. We showed our passports and were waved through after only a short wait, but stay on top of the security situation and time your travel accordingly to avoid a long wait at the checkpoint.
Most days we were happy doing nothing, although even menial tasks like laundry or dishwashing were memorable with our million dollar view. It’s a great place to catch up on reading, so don’t forget your Kindle. Now the only question is, “How soon can I go back?” And, of course, finding some way to keep this secret gem all to myself.