Before I knew anything about Slovenia or had even landed in Ljubljana, I was most excited about visiting Piran, a small picturesque village on the Slovenian coast. How could I not be excited? Red roofs, narrow streets, beautiful squares, fresh seafood and a gorgeous Mediterranean view--that has my name written all over it!
Piran has that laid-back Italian feel. Not only because of its close proximity to the Italian border, but also because it has strong Italian roots. Piran was a part of the Venetian empire from the late 13th century to the end of the 18th century. It became part of Italy a second time from 1918 to 1947. While characteristically Piran may seem like every other Mediterranean town, there is one thing that sets it apart from all others: salt.
Image by Luka Crnic
Pure sea salt is produced in Piran. Using the same traditional methods and tools that have been used for over 700 years, salt is still Slovenia's premier export. For that reason, salt is highly celebrated in Piran. Every year in April, the Festival of Salt is held to mark the beginning of a new salt-making season. At the salt pans, visitors can learn about the traditional salt production and visit the Museum of Salt-Making.
These salts have a flavor and texture that make them a prized ingredient among European chefs (and my kitchen, too). You can purchase salt at the salt pans or in the salt shop Benecanka located in the pinkish building on the main square (the one with a single balcony). Since I mentioned it, take note of the pink building. Legend says that a rich merchant built it for his mistress. There is an inscription between the upper windows that translates "let them talk." This was his way of proving to her that she was more important than his reputation.
The main square is named after the famous European violinist Giuseppe Tartini, who also ran a music school in Piran. Looming over the square is St. George Cathedral. It's worth the hike up the hill to see it and get a fantastic view of the village, as well as the bay where you can see Croatia in one direction, and Italy in the other.
Amidst the dreamlike atmosphere are some culinary wonders as well. Try the "Hugo," the town's signature drink. It is a mix of elderflower liqueur and Italian prosecco. Another must is seabass. The Fonda fish farm located in the Piran Bay is known for producing the best farmed sea bass in the world. Top it with a little local olive oil and sea salt and the rest is history!
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