ISTRIA TO THE ADRIATIC
Istria is the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea, located at the head of the Adriatic between the Gulf of Trieste and the Kvarner Gulf. Its territory is shared by three countries – Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy.
Istria is indeed a feast for the eyes. Its streams flow to the sea through deep valleys and gullies, which bring to mind the ancient local myths about giants. The rolling hills with small towns perched on their peaks overlooking fields and valleys remind of vintage paintings. The views are simply splendid with white-topped mountains, lush fields of wheat, plateaus, valleys, vineyards, olive groves and, finally, the sea. A CNN reporter, who spent some time in this charming area, described Istria with the following words: “As I sat in the shaded stone courtyard taking in the soft breeze and lazily scraping up the last bits of lunch from my plate, it occurred to me that this must have been what Tuscany was like before the Hollywood movies, the cookbooks and the hordes of tourists: Tuscany when it was still under-the-radar and affordable.”
On the western side of the Istrian peninsula one can find picturesque towns like Piran or Umag, with their cobbled piazzas, shuttered houses and back alleys laden with laundry. Meanwhile, the inland Istria is an area of rare, disarming beauty characterized by medieval hilltop settlements and stone-built villages. The historic hilltop towns like Motovun and Grožnjan look like remnants from another century with their ancient, half-abandoned stone-built structures rising above the rich green pastures and forests.
In the scope of the Adriatic cycling tour, a perfect way to explore Istria is on bike, following the abandoned Parenzana railway track, which offers the most stunning sceneries.
Parenzana is an abandoned, 123.1-kilometre narrow-gauge railroad connecting 33 Istrian towns from Trieste to Poreč, which was in operation in the early 1900s. The railway used to be of vital importance for the countryside villages, as it operated daily through the hilly karst landscape of Istria to transport passengers, salt (from Piran and Sečovlje), olive oil, fruits, vegetables, Istrian stone, lime, wood, flour and wine.
Starting in Italy, the tour runs along the coast to the picturesque coastal town of Piran, a slice of Venice in Slovenia. The small historic towns are probably the highlight of the tour – the world-famous inland towns of Grožnjan and Motovun in Croatia are next on the list. Before returning to and ending in Piran, the tour turns back to the coast, stopping at the towns of Poreč and Umag.
Easy cycling, relaxing and magical nature, charming towns, interesting history sights, excellent food and wine, welcoming locals and the warm sea – it is hard to imagine a better way to spend a holiday.
The tour is suitable for everybody, including families. However, for the more eager cyclists, there is always enough time to explore other local routes in the course of the day.
More photos can be found here!