I visited Piran by accident. After several lovely days in Ljubljana, my boyfriend and I originally intended to head north to Slovenia’s wine region. I was very excited to visit a small medieval town called Ptuj, mainly because I am really not mature and the name is pronounced “Pahtoohie.”
However, due to my inability to differentiate AM and PM, we missed the one bus of the day. Typical. In the what to do next sweepstakes Piran won by default: it sounded pleasant and there was a bus departing in the next hour. Sold.
It was one of those random strokes of luck. Piran is incredibly charming and is a perfect example of one of Slovenian’s defining characteristics: it’s chameleon-like ability to soak up whatever culture it borders. In the north it’s the Alpine culture of Austria, in the East it’s a more Slavic feel. In Piran the vibe was definitely Italian.
Tucked into the Adriatic coast, Piran has been Greek, Roman, Slavic, Byzantine, Austrian and Italian, not to mention Yugoslavian and now finally Slovenian. It had a long a fruitful 500-year stretch under Venetian rule, and the impression in modern times is still that of a Venetian seaport. Almost half of the tiny population of Piran (or Pirano) is Italian and all of the street signs are in both Italian and Slovenian.
Leafing through my guidebook I discovered there aren’t many conventional attractions in Piran. The appeal is to wander through the medieval walled city, enjoying the Venetian Gothic architecture and the warm Adriatic culture. The town center is called Tartinijev Trg, it is a wide smooth marble square surrounded by candy colored buildings. The Italian composer Tartini was born in one of these fancy town homes. Down by the harbor a string of somewhat touristy restaurants serve up delicious fresh seafood and pasta.
After lunch you can score some gelato and walk along the old town walls for great views of the city and more. The views stretch all the way into Italy. Later on, walk down to Piran’s poor excuse for a beach. Like many places in the Adriatic Piran’s coast is not sandy but rocky. On the shore a skinny nude man practiced yoga in the sun. In the sea dozens of purple jellyfish jostled about aimlessly. Nothing. Scares. Me. More. Than. Jellyfish. I dipped my toes in but elected to keep my top on.
We caught an evening bus back to Ljubljana feeling sunny and relaxed. I don’t know what we would have done with more than a day in little Piran, but as a day trip it was a perfect snapshot of Northern Adriatic culture. On the ride home I reminded myself to screw up my itinerary more often.