A town that juts into the Gulf of Trieste is a breath of fresh air, writes Josh Price.
If you're after a holiday in the middle of your European holiday — go to Piran.
It's not as well known as Dubrovnik or Venice but has much of the same charm. It's a coastal Slovenian town perfect for a few days of relaxation to recharge from the often-hectic nature of big-city travel across the Continent.
After two weeks battling around some of the busiest tourist towns in Europe, having barely stayed in the same bed for two nights in a row, not to mention the peak-season queues and crowds in every postcard location, Piran is the perfect spot to take a much-needed break.
Having settled into our small, but lovely Airbnb just off the main square, Tartini Plaza, we walk around the water's edge of this medieval town.
It is almost completely cut off to cars and our only obstacles are walking into fellow pedestrians, or stepping on a swimmer sunbathing on the footpath next to one of the many ladders leading into the crystal-clear, refreshingly cool, Adriatic.
Inviting restaurants line the waterfront, serving mainly seafood, or, unsurprisingly given Italy is a mere 30m away, pizza or pasta.
A leisurely 30-minute walk at sunset to the peninsula's point and back through the alleyways of the town, sets the scene for a romantic few days of slow paced exploration.
On our first full day we hire some bikes, at about €15 ($27) each. We set off along the clearly marked waterside cycle lanes, riding south to the casino/resort town
We carry on past a marina and along the Jerneja Canal to a salt farm known for its chocolate. It's good, but no Whittaker's. The path around the farm is a highway of cyclists making their way along the coast. Despite this two-wheeled traffic, trundling along proves very peaceful and provides the breath of fresh air we need after the fumes of the big, condensed cities of Italy.
By the time we head back to base, the heat starts to overwhelm us — 32C while riding a bike will do that to you. With much of the cycle path back to Piran following the water, and ladders every 50m for easy access, we begin our long afternoon of cycle, swim, drink, sunbathe, eat then repeat.
Day two, and we decide to walk north along the coast and over a few hills to Strunjan Beach, a sandy spot with inflatable water parks for kids. And if you keep walking beyond the beach to the stony area at the bottom of the cliffs, you'll find yourself at a spot for adults — a nudist beach. Not our cup of tea so we opt to continue walking up the hills behind the beach to the top of the cliffs.
The well-marked path gives beautiful views back towards Piran and north towards the Italian city of Trieste.
The path slowly winds back through vineyards to Strunjan and on to an old railway tunnel that is now a cycle/walkway right through the hill to Portoroz. It's a lovely walk, and to get into the tunnel out of the heat is nice after the 8km we've already walked.
Following a delicious and well-earned pizza, we start our walk from Portoroz back to Piran, where again we spend the afternoon walking, swimming, drinking, sunbathing, eating . . . you
know the drill.
On our final day we decide to skip the morning exercise and head straight to the beach. We find a spot just off the footpath, lay down our towels, get out our books and relax.
After lunch we climb up the town's bell tower, a tough walk but worth it for the views from the top — Tartini Plaza below, down the coast to Croatia, and across the Adriatic to Italy. We get the fright of our lives at quarter to the hour. BANG! The bells chime, and they're rather loud when you're at the top. With minimal room to move, the bells were clanging right next to us. At 45m above the town, it was a scary experience.
Things are calmer on the medieval wall that once closed off the peninsula from the rest of the country. From there we can see the whole town with its terracotta rooftops, and with a perfect sunset striking the water as a backdrop, we are mesmerised.
It's one of the more beautiful views I experience throughout the whole of my European excursion, nicely topped off with a bottle of local red wine.
We hoped Piran would provide us with a holiday from our (fast-paced) holiday; a chance to put our feet up and soak up the sun. It perfectly delivered.
flies from Auckland to Venice, via Dubai, with return Economy Class fares from $2282.
A direct ferry connection from Venice to Piran operates from April to October.
Trafalgar's 11-day Best of Croatia and Slovenia guided holiday, starts in Zagreb and visits Lake Bled, Ljubljana, Opatija, Rovinj, Plitvice Lakes, Trogir and Split, before ending in Dubrovnik.
Prices from $3850 per person. Savings of up to 10 per cent available on 2019 trips booked and paid by January 31, 2019.