It’s hard to find a place that rivals Venice. The Bride of the Sea, as Venice is often referred to, seems to have it all: romantic bridges, winding canals, charming piazze, creamy gelato, and beautifully ornate churches.
But while Venice is most certainly a sight to behold, its beauty doesn’t come without one big drawback: tourists. Mobs of tourists.
Now, perhaps I just had a bit of bad luck when I visited Venice three years ago around Easter. It was cold and rainy, there were crowds everywhere, and I slept in a log cabin on the mainland that had a serious ant problem. Yeah, not the sort of romantic getaway one associates with Venice.
So as much as I wanted to fall in love with the place, I just couldn’t.
It was beautiful, don’t get me wrong. And it’s not that it was overrated, either. But I suppose that I was hoping to be whisked away by the charm of Venice, when in reality it just ended up being another stop on the itinerary (albeit a very picturesque one).
However, three years later, my romantic notions of the Adriatic have finally been fulfilled.
But it wasn’t Venice that ultimately did the convincing. It was the small, seaside town of Piran on the Slovenian coast.
Before I had visited Slovenia at the end of March, I had never heard of Piran. In fact, it was hardly even on my radar when I actually started researching places to visit during my five-day trip to the country.
I had my mind all made up: I would take the train from Frankfurt to Ljubljana, spend a few days exploring the Slovenian capital, and then take a day trip to Lake Bled – a place which would surely be the highlight of my trip. Or so I thought.
But with one day to spare near the end of my trip (Ljubljana ended up being much smaller than I anticipated), I spontaneously hopped on a bus to Piran, unaware of what was truly awaiting me.
Almost immediately, Piran won me over.
Its harbor was lined with bright, pastel-colored houses, and a Venetian stone clocktower shimmered in the reflection of the deep blue water.
When I arrived at the town square just a few minutes after getting off the bus, I did something I rarely do in the excitement of visiting a new place – I sat down, speechless, and decided to simply take it all in.
The soft colors, the laughter, the smell of pizza from a nearby restaurant – why had I never heard of Piran before?
As I began to explore this sleepy seaside town, it became clear to me that the colors of Piran were ubiquitous. They seeped into alleyways, radiated from marketplaces, and were splashed onto window shutters and rooftop terraces.
Piran was a place of vibrancy, no doubt. But it was also a place of subtlety. The hues around me – as diverse as they were – remained soft and gentle as I walked through the maze of narrow streets. Nothing about this colorful place was too flashy or too jarring.
I felt invigorated and at the same time relaxed by the vibe of Slovenia’s quaint fisherman village.
The charm of Piran was felt even better from above, for the place lost little of its magic as I climbed higher.
After exploring side streets and alleyways, I approached the town’s main church and its adjacent clocktower on the side of a hill, and the houses below me became an enchanting labyrinth of red tiled roofs.
But the ascent didn’t stop there.
I followed a cobblestone street further up the hill, until I was suddenly standing in front of Piran’s massive city walls. The walls – perched high above the city – provided a spectacular view in each and every direction.
In front of me, the entire village of Piran could be seen, its buildings crammed tightly into the small peninsula below me. To my left, the coastline of Croatia jutted out from behind another hill. And to my right, massive cliffs faded into the horizon, where sailboats made their way to the Italian town of Trieste.
It would be difficult to surpass the view I had from the city walls of Piran. But there was no need to do so. I was content as it was.
As I wandered back down the hill to the colorful streets of Piran’s city center, I let the calming pulse of the town guide me along. I approached the main square once again, and while I had the urge to explore more of Piran’s backstreets and alleyways, I decided to seek out a restaurant instead.
I ordered a pizza margherita and a glass of red wine. And then I simply sat, looked, and listened to everything that happened in the town square around me. In that moment, there was no need to do anything else but simply be.
La dolce vita, I thought to myself.
And then a smile crossed my face. I had finally found the magic I had been searching for in Venice.