Croatia is a new benchmark for European tourists and Istria, Northern Croatia, hides some magnificent gems.
The best way to reach Croatia is to pass through Triest. Take time to visit some interesting towns en route such as Duino, with its Castle and Sistiana with its magnificent bay.
While you are climbing on the main road, stop to admire the spectacular views towards Miramare Castle situated on the Gulf of Triest, and then raise your eyes for in the distance you will spot Slovenia and Croatia. Cross the tunnel hewn into the rock and drive towards the spaciouus promenade of Triest. Park in Piazza Unità d’Italia (parking is free on weekends) and enter into the oldest part of the town and rest in one of the elegant late XIX century Austro-Hungarian cafes. Enjoy an espresso or a cappuccino made with the world-renowned Illy coffee (the ex-mayor of Triest, Riccardo Illy), accompanied with a croissant or tasty apricot pastries.
Then continue your journey and stop at Muggia (from Roman origin it is the only Italian town remaining in Istria). From Muggia, follow the coast road and you will arrive at the Italian/Slovenian border. Once you have entered into Slovenia, you will admire rolling hills where the famous Slovenian vineyards are found.
For the next 43 km along the Slovenian coast you will encounter four towns: Koper, Izola, Piran and Portoroz. If you have time park and have a stroll in the old part of Koper where you can visit the Cathedral and eventually climb to the top of the Church tower. For lunch the suggestion is to have lunch in a restaurant at Portoroz where you will find patrons gambling at its famous casino or lovers of the renowned Thermal Spa.
Resuming your journey along the coast you will encounter the Sečovlje Salina Nature Park – several kilometers of salt-pans and admire the presence of White Herons. Buy a kilo of Slovenian salt which has a very good taste. It’s cheap but itwill be a tasty reminder of your trip!
Your culinary holiday hasn’t ended yet because you will reach Croatia for dinner. You can taste an excellent menu of fresh fish and rice at Savudrija, an Istrian pizza at Brtonigla or a grilled fillet at Petrovija. Water it down with a jug of fresh white Malvazija wine or a full-bodied red Teran, two varieties of local grapes. Enjoy all of this while you admire a fantastic sunset where the sun disappears into the sea!
Michael Richard Giraschi