Trieste is a border town, a stunning meeting place of peoples and cultures that gives travelers special locations to visit and strong emotions. From the city starts a wonderful path, which takes up an old railway line built in 1902 to connect Istria to the rest of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Parenzana was abandoned after only 33 years of service, but the route was later restored as a cycle path; hence, the Route of Health and Friendship was born, symbol of sharing between Italy, Slovenia and Croatia. Before us, we have a long but exciting journey through history and nature. The total length of the itinerary, from Trieste to Porec, is 123 kilometers, of which: 13 km in Italy, 32 km in Slovenia and 78 km in Croatia.
We start from Campo Marzio, where the first station of the railway used to stand; the Italian section of the path is quite short and officially begins at 2km from Muggia, at the mouth of the Opso river. Those who want to follow faithfully the former railroad must juggle through the streets of Trieste and its suburbs until Muggia.
After a while we pass the Slovenian border: here the landscape becomes more interesting and we begin to appreciate the aromas of the Istrian countryside vineyards. After Bertocchi, past the Rižana river, begins an urbanized path that crosses the Škocjanski zatok Natural Reserve, and continues until the city of Koper. Here we find one of the many underground passages of the path that leads us to the old station of the village, now a delightful and colorful flower shop.
We head back toward the sea, one of the main characters of this trip. We pass Izola, a charming and lively medieval town deeply linked to fishing and tourism.
We then go back to the countryside of Slovenia, and after a while, we find the first of the two tunnels of the path: the first leads us through the lush valley of Strunjan and the second under Mount Luzzan. We then find ourselves above Portorož, a famous resort belonging to the municipality of the picturesque Piran.
Here begin the ancient salt pans of Sečovlje ,and they will accompany us until the border of Croatia. We coast the canal of Dragona and we pass the small station of Savudrija; from here the view is beautiful, we can admire the salt fields, the Mediterranean scrub, the Adriatic Sea.
The path then plunges inland, in the peace of the woods and glades. After more than 30km we arrive at Buje, once called "Sentinel of Istria". It is at 170m above sea level and from here, in the clear days, with a little luck you can see Trieste and Venice.
We bike downhill back to sea level, towards Livade, capital of Istrian truffle, then one last hill of 270m separates us from our destination. After Motovun, Vizinada, and Višnjan, we arrive in Porec, a small city with a rich cultural heritage and many activities for tourists.
The Parenzana is a beautiful and exciting cycle path, to ride at least once in a lifetime, discovering in a handful of kilometers three amazing countries with their environment, their culture.
Author: Chiara Marras