Piran is a coastal hot spot

PIRAN, Slovenia -- The place to see and be seen on the Slovenian coast is Piran (Pirano in Italian), a fishing village with an Italian sensibility.

Pasta and fresh seafood, served Mediterranean style, are more prevalent at the surfside restaurants here than the pork in gravy served farther north.

All signs here are in Slovenian and Italian, reflecting the mixed culture of this Adriatic region, which is about two-and-a-half hours from Venice by catamaran and an hour's drive from the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana.

The city state of Venice ruled Piran from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

The evidence of the city's Venetian heritage is everywhere.

Piran's Venetian Gothic architecture gives the streets a more somber air than one might expect in such a carefree summer resort, where parades of families, vacationing Slovenian youths and partying Italians mix it up on the promenade.

Most of the action is on the waterfront.

A marina filled with colorful sailing vessels keeps photographers and fishermen busy.

But there is more to do here than watch the ships come in.

The maritime museum is housed in a 17th century waterfront palace and showcases antique vessels.

Among several churches of interest is the outstanding Renaissance and Baroque St. George's, which juts out over the Adriatic.

Not far from the church are the 15th century town walls, which are topped by seven crenelated towers.

Inland, the Old Town is a series of winding alleys with brightly painted facades and vaulted passageways.

Piran is only 1.5 miles away from Portoroz, the leading resort on the Slovenian coast.

The widest stretches of sand in the country are here; beaches are clean although crowded in the summer months.

Most of the hotels in Portoroz have the cement box look that was popular during the Socialist era when Slovenia was still part of Yugoslavia.

Portoroz is well developed to satisfy the needs of sunbathers.

Close to the beach you will find restaurants, pizzerias, a spa, a disco and a casino that is especially popular with Italian daytrippers.

Minibuses travel between Portoroz and Piran every 30 minutes.

A pedestrian thoroughfare extends only part way between the two towns so walking is not advisable.

In the summer, a 100-passenger sailboat makes regular sightseeing cruises from Piran to Portoroz.

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