Biking to Dreamy Piran, Slovenia and an Istrian Gem

You cannot be sad while riding.- Anonymous

Stages 5 and 6 of our cycling journey from Venice, Italy to Porec, Croatia took us to dreamy Piran, Slovenia and the Istrian gem of Porec, Croatia.  The beginning of Stage 5 was mostly uphill from Trieste, Italy across the border to Slovenia. None of the hills we encountered on this ride were terribly high or long.  Our heavy hybird bikes slowed us down, but generally, the route is relatively easy.

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The bike path from Italy into Slovenia continued.  This is thanks to the EUs investment in cycling paths.  The path, today, was yet another stunning bike route which took us out of Trieste along a plateau with views of the Adriatic Sea. A large portion of it was dirt and snaked along an old rail line through an ancient forest.

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Trieste off in the distance as we cycled uphill and into Slovenia.

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Before exiting Italy, yet another stunning fishing village awaited.  Muggia, Italy is a small village southeast of Trieste lying on the border of Slovenia and is the last and only piece of Istria still in Italian territory.

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Our first town in Slovenia was the coastal town of Koper along the Adriatic Sea.  The town is officially bilingual with both Slovene and Italian as the official languages.

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From Koper, we cycled to Portoroz, Slovenia, literally Port of Roses.  After Portoroz, the village of Piran, Slovenia was our destination. Here we experienced one of the steepest hills on one of the hottest days of the trip. But it was only a couple kilometers and Piran awaited us.

Piran is located in southwestern Slovenia on the Gulf of Piran on the Adriatic Sea and resembles a large-open air museum with medieval architecture.  Narrow streets and compact houses  and a small harbor gives the seaside village a special charm.  Stage 5 wrapped up with about 45 miles of biking.

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On our last day of cycling, we peddled from Piran, Slovenia to Porec, Croatia kicking off with a cycle through the salt gardens of Secovije.  Once past the salt gardens, we crossed the border of Croatia to the Istrian peninsula.  The Secovije international border crossing is one of the main crossings from Slovenia into Croatia. It is mostly designed for cars and trucks, but we jumped into the line with our bikes and no one seemed to be bothered. The crossing guard in both countries were very friendly.

The Isrian peninsula is the largest on the Adriatic Sea with some modest hills along an old railroad bed.  Cycling with our passports was a requirement for all on our trip even those of our fellow German and French biking buddies.  All passports were checked at the Croatian border as Croatia is slowly phasing into the EU and is not yet part of the Schengen unlike other EU countries.

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The last day mileage was about 55 miles and the destination was Porec, Croatia.  Biking through the Istria region gave us our first glimpses of the famous Croatian coast and started to get us excited about the few days we would be staying there. Along the way, we stopped in the beautiful city of Novigrad for lunch.

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Porec is a village on the western coast of the Istrian peninsula and has been a UNESCO site since 1997.  It is almost 2,000 years old and is set around a harbor protected by the sea. The village population is about 12,000 people.  Originally part of Italy, Porec and much of the Istrian peninsula became part of Croatia in 1947.

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All in all, this bike ride was in the top tier of cycle trips that we have completed.  The cycling routes were mostly (97%) either on country roads with little to no traffic or on bike paths.  The architecture and history along the route was beautiful as well as fascinating.  And the food, weather and sea coast exceeded expectations. Check out our other days cycling here.

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La Dolce Vita: Biking to L’Isola Del Sole and Trieste

Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life. -Anna Akhmatova 

Our biking destinations for Stages 3 and 4 (of our cycling journey from Venice, Italy to Porec, Croatia) was the beautiful Italian towns of Grado,  L’Isola Del Sole (the sunny island), and the historic city of Trieste.

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Lagoon to Grado.  Grado is off in the distance with an awesome bike path on a causeway to it.

 

 

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The approach to Trieste.  Hundreds of buoys for the yachts that fill the Med in July and August.  

Our biking mileage for Stage 3 was a modest 45 miles from Concordia Sagittarria to Grado and included a fun boat ride with our bikes across a lagoon.  From Concordia Sagitarria , we biked to the stunning fishing village of Marano Lagunare in time for lunch by the sea where a boat was waiting to ferry us and our fellow biking buddies (and all our bikes).  The boat took us from the charming fishing village of Marano Lagunare across a lagoon to the surroundings of Aquileia.

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Our chariot awaits.  Our boat ride with the bikes from Marano Lagunare to Aquileia.

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Pedestrian area of the charming fishing village of Marano Lagunare.

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Another view of the charming fishing village of Marano Lagunare
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Our dock on the other side of the lagoon from Marano Lagunare and then more cycling to Aquileia and Grado.

Once we docked on the other side of the lagoon, our cycling adventure continued to Aquileia.  Aquileia  is an ancient Roman city in what is now Italy at the head of the Adriatic and the edge of the lagoon.  Aquileia is believed to be the largest Roman city yet to be excavated.

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More fun with our new camera and the beautiful town of Aquileia.

From Aquileia, we biked over a stunning lagoon on a bike path to the gorgeous fishing village of Grado.  It is located in the Venetian lagoon in the northeastern region of Italy.  Once a fishing village, today it is a major boating and tourist destination with a lot of charm.   We loved Grado for the stunning blue seas that surround it, the pedestrian walking village, the stunning architecture and of course, fantastic food.  Our hotel for the night was located in the pedestrian only corner of the city and close to the sea.

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Marina and channel right in the center of Grado.  Boating in northern Italy must be a outstanding going from one charming village to another.
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The promenade in Grado.
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Charming street where we ate dinner in Grado.  Awesome dinner at the Spaghetti House in Grado.  For some reason, the owner thought we German and started speaking to us in German.  Must be Chris’ glasses.

 

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Loved Grado.  Definitely a place to revisit.

After spending the night in Grado, Stage 4 took us cycling about another 45 miles to Trieste.  The biking approach to Trieste was stunning along a coastal road with beautiful views.  Think Highway 1 in California but Italian style.  Si bella!

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Some tunnels on the approach to Trieste.
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Stunning views everywhere on our approach to Trieste.

Trieste is a city and port in northeastern Italy close to the Slovenian border (where we will be heading in Stage 5).  Trieste has an interesting history and was actually part of Austria from 1382 until 1918.  The city was annexed to Italy after World War I. It is a border town with an interesting mix of Austrian architecture and blend of Italian, German and Slavic cultures.  Our hotel for the night is the super comfortable, Hotel Victoria, in downtown Trieste.

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James Joyce, an Irish writer, spent a lot of time in Trieste.

 

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Main square in Trieste

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We enjoyed our visit to Trieste. It is a large city and has many beaches, historical sites, and neighborhoods. Its multi-cultural past and its small suburban villages give it a unique feel.  It is strategically located near the Slovenian border where we are off to in Stage 5. Slovenia is a new country for us and looked forward to our visit – and it did not dissapoint.  It actually exceeded expectations. Stay tuned for our cycling experience in Slovenia and Croatia.

 

Back on the Bikes: Venice, Italy to Porec, Croatia

We are back on the bikes this week. We have not put in any serious miles since our ride in Southern India back in February so we are excited to be back at it and especially in Europe – our favorite place to cycle in the world.  Europe has a fabulous network of bike paths, and European drivers embrace the term “sharing the road”.  There is such a biking culture here both in terms of recreation and daily transport. In virtually every European village and city, you will find bike paths as well as young, middle-aged and older folks alike cycling to work, riding from the supermercati with groceries and flowers in bike baskets or heading out an evening cycle with the family. On weekends and holidays, you do not have to go very far before encountering a local pelaton making laps out on a country road.

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Our summer in Europe kicks off with a six day cycle from Venice, Italy through Slovenia to the coastal town of Porec, Croatia.  Cycling mileage from Venice to Porec is only about 290 miles.  It was a relatively modest distance but some of the route was dirt, and we were on heavy hybrid bikes which elongated the time to cover the 70-85+kms each day. Our self-guided cycling trip was booked with a new cycling company we found, Rad & Reisen, and our experience with them was excellent.  There were a few key things that differentiate this biking company from other biking companies we have used which include but are not limited to REI, Backroads, Randonee:

  1. Rad & Reisen uses a local logistics company, FunActive, that places stickers along the route. Some days, we did not need our turn by turn directions because of the sticker placement which was really nice.
  2. Although the trip was self-guided, there were six others (a couple from Germany, another German with a Swiss, and two others from France) that started at the same time with us and stayed at most of the same hotels.  It is nice to meet new folks that share a common interest and catch up before and after the rides.
  3. One of our fellow bikers broke the brake on the bike.  While the other biking companies we have used have a contact number for situations like this, Rad & Reisen has a hard wired, local network for not just a person to assist but experienced bike shops.  Within thirty minutes, a person from a local shop was at the site and fixed the brake.

There were so many things to love about this biking trip.  Three out of the six days we cycled were mostly on flat surfaces until reaching Trieste, Italy (a great town) and then each day thereafter the amount of hills increased.  Only 3% of the biking was on busy roads and this was mainly when we entered larger towns.   27% of the biking was on cycle paths and 70% on very small country roads giving the feel that 97% was on a cycle path.  It is pure bliss cycling along gorgeous country roads with no traffic, stunning scenery and fabulous weather.

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Stage 1 included biking from Venice (mainland) to Jesolo.  We had two options for this stage (and most stages):

  1. Bike the whole way about 75 kilometers
  2. Or, bike and take a ferry to Jesolo

We are in training to attend and bike some of the Tour de France so we opted for biking the whole way.  Once we got out of Venice, we were on some beautiful country roads and cycled through some lovely smaller villages- including Zuccarello, San Liberale, Ca’ Tron, Caposile. Our final destination for the day was the beach town of Jesolo on the Adriatic located in the province of Venice and on the coast the north of Venice.  Jesolo is a beach town with little Venetian architecture but a beautiful beach.  For us, it was a little too touristy and a bit kitschy but the sound of the ocean and the view of the beach was lovely.  We had a great hotel, Hotel Bali, right on the beach and centrally located in Jesolo.

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Stage 2 was more impressive.  It included visits to the stunning villages of Caorle, Portogruaro and Concordia Sagittaria.  The villages have an interesting history and gorgeous architecture.    On Stage 2, we logged about 85 kilometers.

Caorle is another coastal town in the province of Venice situated between two estuaries- Livenza and Lemene rivers.  It was founded in the 1st century BC by the Romans and was one of the strategic cities of the Republic of Venice.

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In Caorle, like other village centers, stands the typical bell town.  This one dates back to 1048.  It is a typical Romanesque style but has a cylindrical structure which is unique.

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From Caorle, we cycled to Concordia Sagittaria, another beautiful little town in the province of Venice that was founded in 42 BC by the Romans.

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We stayed in this lovely, family-run hotel and restaurant in Concordia Sagittaria, Hotel Iulia.

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Portogruaro was located roughly 1 mile from Concordia Sagittaria on a bike path beside a river.  Portogruaro was an important river-port for the Republic of Venice and is a beautiful city with Venetian elements.

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Our butts were sore at the end of Stages 1 and 2.  We have been hiking not biking.  We are not used to sitting in the saddle for about 6 hours and were both fighting a bit of a head cold that we have had since leaving the tropical Central America for Scotland a week ago. But it felt great to be back on the bike again.

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Stay tuned for Stages 3-6 where we bike to some gorgeous towns of Grado, Italy, Piran Slovenia and then onto Croatia along the stunning Istrian coast.