Notes from Istria from an Epitourean traveller and what he and his travel companion found along their journey. We had so many extraordinary experiences during our trip to Istria. Our favourite was biking on the Parenzana Trail. The former train tracks are now a great hiking and biking trail that snake through Istria’s interior woodlands. We had a birds eye view of the region’s hill towns and countryside. We chose a downhill path that led us to local honey producer’s, Medea. The owners treated us to a 45-minute honey tasting before we crossed the street to have one of the best truffle-themed meals of our lives at Zigante.
For us the point of this trip was to learn about and taste as many local specialities as we could. Out of these, our wine tasting at Kzlovic Wine Estate was phenomenal, and in such a beautiful location. We also learned a lot about local olive oils when we visited Vodnjan Chiavalon Olive Oil Estate. Epitourean brought us to see about a dozen other outstanding Istrian food, wine and beer producers. I think we caught the best of what Istria has to offer.
Of course we wanted to see some of the region’s stunning villages, coastal towns and port cities. We stopped into Porec for the day, where the urban landscape is a wonderful mash up of Roman, Baroque, modern and and contemporary architecture. Rovinj was nothing less than dreamy and walkable, and a gorgeous seafront town. The hill top enclave of Groznjan, with its art galleries and incredible vistas of surrounding green hills, was one of the most charming places we’ve every visited. We will be back for certain.
Has this postcard piqued your Istrian interest? Click here to book your journey to the Truffle Epicenter.
Bucket List: Biking Istria’s Parenzana Trail
Istria has a clutch of amazing destinations that we continue to discover and refer to Epitourean travellers. Of these are its bosky trails, which are perfect for year round hiking and biking. Most travellers tend to ignore the region’s stunning interior woodlands in favor of Croatia’s seaside resorts, beaches and boating activities. But that’s a bit of a shame, especially because there are so many stunning trails to explore. One of these is Istria’s Parenzana Trail, a moderately challenging path, that is best explored on bike, and ideal for those who are seeking gorgeous panoramas, a little activity, and small Istrain villages along the way.
The Parenzana Trail was once a narrow gauge railway that connected Trieste, Italy with Istria’s sea facing town, Porec. It operated until 1935, carrying people and goods between quaint villages and port cities. The journey was slow, around six or seven hours, because the heavy trains had to snake up and down hills, and through tunnels and towns. With the advent of more efficient modes of transportation, the Parenzana became obsolete. The Italian fascist dictator, Mussolini had the steel train tracks dismantled after 1935. They were loaded onto a boat and shipped down the Adriatic to be smelted and used toward WWII axis power war efforts. Weighed down by too much tonnage of steel, the ship sank to the bottom of the sea.
The trail’s fascinating history is obviously enlarged by the regions stunning beauty. In the summer the forests are green and lush, and in the autumn they turn gold and red like New England’s deciduous landscapes. Charming hilltop towns stand against soft blue skies, and along the way there are restaurants and shops that offer regional delicacies like truffles, honey, wines and olive oils. It is the perfect adventure, for groups, couples and solo travellers alike. Epitourean is pleased to discover and offer a range of fun, easy bike and hiking tours along this beautiful Istrain trail.
The Good Life: Florence
Epitourean’s intrepid traveler, Robert Everson, shares his experience in Italy’s renaissance capital, Florence. In Florence, we stayed at the SoprArno Suites. It’s a beautiful, upscale bed and breakfast in a charming neighborhood, and an easy walk to anywhere you want to go. The rooms are gorgeous and the staff is so friendly. Our tour guides Claire, Silvia, and Todd were all so knowledgeable, and they shared their amazing personal insights of beautiful Florence. We took Epitourean’s “Gourmet Walking Tour of Florence” where we had spectacular culinary experiences. It was a day of fun and learning, and the food, wine, cheese, and olive oil were all spectacular! What a perfect way to see the city! Our guide, Claire, brought us to the most amazing places where we had the best food and wine. We also toured the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’ Accademia where we saw breathtaking art, including Michelangelo’s David. We had four hours to tour the museums, which was the perfect amount of time. Our tour guide, Silvia, was a wealth of information. She pointed out the museums’ highlights, and was able to move us right up to the front of each line. We wouldn’t have done it any other way! We also went to Chianti for a day trip to tour the Vecchie Terre di Montefili vineyard. Our guide, Todd, was amazingly knowledgeable about the Tuscan region and was an expert in Italian wines. The winery is gorgeous, and we had the entire place to ourselves for a private tour and tasting. We learned so much about Italian wines. Since our visit here, we’ve become huge fans, and now ship Italian wines to our home in the US! Leaving Florence, we took the train to Naples. It was a beautiful and relaxing train ride. Drivers from the Positano Car Service, whom are complete lifesavers, greeted us at Naples train station. They took us around Positano, which is absolutely dreamy, and having a driver was much easier than having to navigate the region’s windy and dangerous roads!