Get to know the lives of the locals, their habits, secrets and their favourite spots in Izola. Discover Izola with relaxed Barbara or with active Matej. Trust me, both stories are interesting – each reveals something new in its own way, and shows you the love they have for their town through the perspectives of each of the two. Who will you choose to go with first?
Everyone carries at least one secret inside of them, which is connected to the place where they live. The secrets are different – some more, some less hidden. Some of them we share with others at certain moments, while others remain just ours forever. The locals of Izola have shared some of them with you. We can call them secrets or their experiences, maybe their favourite moments due to which they enjoy living in their town.
Some small secrets by the people of Izola
The Secret of the Church of St. Maurus
The parish priest Janez Kobal took over the ministry in the parishes of Izola and Korte 17 years ago. About 250 years ago, as many as 12 priests cared for the parish, which testifies to the importance of the Church at that time.
The sacral heritage of Izola is opulent and the Church of St. Maurus is surely one of the most picturesque buildings in the area. It stands on the highest point of the former island and gives the town its distinctive silhouette. In the 14th century, on the site of today’s magnificent church with a white and orange façade, stood a smaller church, which has later undergone many architectural transformations. The Church of St. Maurus was built between 1547 and 1553. In that year, it was dedicated to St. Maurus: the patron saint of the church, who, according to the legend, saved the town from the Genoese occupation in 1380. The church was later restored and rebuilt several times.
“The church was built in the Renaissance style, imitating the style of Venice. The inhabitants of Izola chose the best Venetian architects and painters for the renovation. You don’t have to go to Venice. Come to Izola, and you’ll see part of it here.”
The priest told us an anecdote, which also testifies to the artistic riches found in the church. Inside there is a painting depicting St. Laurence giving alms to the poor. It was made by the students of the prominent Venetian painter Bernardo Strozzi, who is considered the main founder of the Venetian Baroque style. Years ago, the church was visited by a great art lover, who was apparently also a collector, seeing that he asked to buy the painting for a dazzling sum. Nevertheless, the priest stood by his principles and the work of art still contributes to the importance of the sacral heritage in Izola.
Would you like to find out more? Watch the video.
Do you know where Bela Izolanka is hidden?
Autumn is the most beautiful time of the year for walks among vineyards. The grapes are already harvested and the vines draw attention, shining in different shades the colour of the sun. In the hinterland of Izola, on the Šavrini hills that can be admired from the town of Izola, you'll find many footpaths that will make you feel like you're experiencing a real autumn-coloured fairy-tale. This area is also home to many olive growers and winemakers.
The most widespread wine varieties in Istria are Malvasia and Refosco. Tilen Praprotnik of SteraS wines also mostly produces these two varieties. Tilen strongly believes that climate and environment influence the quality of grapes and consequently the taste of wine. He's also an avid researcher and collector of old Istrian varieties. Just like some people collect badges, he collects old vines. He grows over 10 different Istrian varieties, from which he produces special white and red wine.
The name Steras reflects the character of the vineyard, which is planted mostly on terraces, made over the millennia (the Slovene phrase » s teras » literally means » from terraces «). Terrace means that the vineyard is located on a hillside. Thus, the vineyard is closer to the sun and produces grapes from which we get the precious liquid, which is the fruit of hard work and sacrificial love. Right on the terraces, next to one of his vineyards, Tilen discovered a special old variety that is very dear to him – Bela Izolanka. He’s proud to be the one to start reviving it from oblivion. Bela Izolanka is said to be one of the four most important varieties grown in Istria in the first half of the 20th century.
Find out more about the mysterious Bela Izolanka in the video!
Tastes of summer in a tiny jar
Inhabitants of seaside towns live in harmony with the sea and everything it has to offer. For years, people in the area have been harvesting salt following traditional methods. The salt is a real gourmet treat, and preservation of salt-harvesting habits reminds us of the importance of cultural heritage. The salt in Slovenian Istria is harvested in the salt pans of Sečovlje and Strunjan. The salt-workers use traditional tools - wooden scrapers. The salt is hand-harvested and transported in wagons. The Kolman family from Izola also cultivates a love for traditional salt-harvesting, Istrian flavors, as well as for the spices and herbs that grow along the Adriatic coast. In their company - Fina Isolana, they prepare mixtures of Piran salt and natural herbs, hand-picked in the Adriatic. Their story stems from the once simple lifestyle of the locals. "Our family always gathered at the table after a long day's work. With a bit of food and a lot of love, we grew up" says Mitja Kolman, who runs the business. He believes that the essential thing in life is enjoying the company of good people over quality food and drink. The idea of preparing salt and herb mixtures developed precisely from this: the goal is to make the food we share with friends even more delicious. As Mitja's nonna used to say: "To eat, drink, and love each other – that is to live!" Don't we all agree?
Discover the story of this small family-run business and the secret, carefully stored in a tiny jar.
»I think about photography all the time«
Alan Bučar Vukšić is a young photographer whose beautiful photographs of Izola also fill the Visit Izola Instagram profile. He started taking photos after sustaining a knee injury. He's always been an athlete – a football player. As part of rehabilitation after the injury, he started cycling. On his cycling adventures, he noticed the beautiful viewpoints of Izola and Istrian nature. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and began to take pictures … Soon, he bought a camera, which he didn't use at first. Instead, he continued taking photos with his phone. However, when he went on holiday to the Canary Islands with his mother, he started to take photographs with his new camera. Since then, they have been inseparable! Alan takes his camera everywhere, and he's always on the lookout for different views of the nature that surrounds us. » I take photos literally every day « he told us.
Which one do you think is his favourite spot for photography? Take a look at the video below!
Alan Bučar Vukšić, photographer
Passing down traditions from generation to generation
»We must not forget it, our language«
Did you know that in the countryside just a short drive from Izola conversation runs quite differently? In the hinterland of Slovenian Istria, you can hear the Istrian dialect, which even the nearby locals sometimes don't fully understand. There are two typical subdialects: the Rižana and the Šavrin Hills subdialect. Both are based on the characteristics of the Lower Carniolan and Littoral dialects – they don't express dual (a grammatical number that the Slovene language uses in addition to singular and plural), but they have a similar vocabulary with numerous Romance loanwords and a single quantity of accented vowels. The Carniolan origin of the Šavrini Hills dialect is apparent in the »ẹ« sound. The dialect is based on a mixture of elements of Slovene, Croatian, and Serbian as a consequence of the Uskok settlements in Istria during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Šavrini Hills speech is also prevalent in Korte – the largest settlement in the countryside of Izola. There is never a dull moment in Korte and the surrounding villages; there are several cultural societies that, together with the locals, carefully pass down the traditions from generation to generation. Here, different generations are strongly interconnected, and life takes place mostly outdoors – in nature, among village streets and squares. You can feel the authentic pulse of the hinterland in the following video, where we reveal the secret dialect of Korte.
Nevjo Škrlič and the youth from Korte
Seagrass for eternal youth
The sea is relaxing in all seasons, but especially in summer when we can swim … If you have ever gone swimming in the area of the coastal road, you have run into Posidonia oceanica. It is a sea plant that resembles grass, so some call it seagrass. This seagrass, however, is very special: it is present only in the Mediterranean Sea, absorbs carbon dioxide (even more than trees!), and releases oxygen. That’s why we also call it “lungs of the Mediterranean.” Posidonia protects a large number of marine microorganisms. The underwater meadow of Posidonia in the area by the former coastal road between Izola and Koper is part of the European Natura 2000 network. It is an important ecological area with a natural value of national importance.
Dr. Ana Rotter is a researcher at the Marine Biological Sation Piran - NIB, and in her work, she encounters various secrets of the sea and marine life. She’s particularly interested in microorganisms, as this is a relatively unknown area, especially regarding their positive effects on human life. She believes that thorough studies of microorganisms may lead to new medication, better active ingredients in cosmetics, and even dietary supplements.
Ana let us in on a special Posidonia secret: not only is this seagrass an oxygen factory, but it’s also becoming more popular in the beauty industry …
A while ago, researchers from Sicily collected Posidonia that got washed up on the shore. They sent it to laboratories and began using it to create cosmetic products. “I’m using a cream made from Posidonia right now!” Ana told us with a smile.
Watch the video.
Dr. Ana Rotter
Giving new life to the wires of the old Izola vineyards
Take a walk through the old town centre of Izola and you will be impressed at every step by the unique charm of the narrow stone-paved streets and many attractions. One of the more charming places is undoubtedly Ljubljanska Street, where you can feel the artistic atmosphere of Izola. Sandra Kocjančič, a jewellery designer who has created a crossroads of tradition and contemporary art in this street, welcomed us in her gallery named Drat.
“The word »drat« in our dialect means wire. Wires are used in vineyards. The wired that I have used for the installation in the gallery are from vineyards. They were old and useless, and I gave them a new look.”
The jewellery in the gallery is closely related to the environment in which Sandra lives and tells stories about people, the sea, and nature. According to her, Izola is an inspiring place where everyone finds something for themselves. It was recognized as such also by world-renowned jewellery designers who visited Izola during the Filo Rosso project. Among them was the fashion icon Agata Ruiz de la Prada, who is used to the hustle and bustle of Paris and New York, but was fascinated by Izola.
Sandra Kocjančič, jewellery designer
For a good harvest, you need love
Izola is characterized especially by the sea and delicious seafood. Its obligatory accompaniment is also the fresh local vegetables, grown by farmers on Istrian soil. The seasonal market Ruba sz moje njive (Stuff from my field), which is part of the Zero Kilometre initiative, has been present for several years. The initiative encourages local restaurateurs to use locally-grown seasonal produce. You might even run to chefs from your favorite restaurants while shopping at the market.
However, you will meet Brigita from the Barbo Farm as she is there every week. She let us in on the secret of a good harvest. The Barbo Farm has been dedicated to agriculture for years. They are happy to have a good location with a favourable climate, they would just like to have a little more rain in the summer. They are extremely happy to produce enough food for themselves and to be able to sell it, as home-grown fresh vegetables are an indispensable part of a quality diet. She and her husband hope that the new generations will continue to nurture the love for the land.
Support the initiative of Kilometre Zero: »From field to plate« by visiting the seasonal market Ruba sz moje njive (Stuff from my field) until the end of this month.
Do you want to know Brigita's secret? Watch the video.
Brigita Barbo, Barbo Farm
Izola's fishermen have the most luck
The Levante fish market in Isola offers daily fresh fish, caught by the local fishermen, as well as farmed fish and shellfish. They are a family business, led by passion for excellent food. Their story began in 2009 when Tina Steffè Božnik took over the business, while her dad, Fabio Steffè managed the fishing boat Levante – their fish market is named by the fishing boat. The Steffè family is the only old family from Koper with a fishing tradition. Grandpa Vittorio Steffè (Ciacio) was a fisherman since 1925 and his wife, grandma Giuseppina Steffè (Pina) sold fish at the market in Koper.
»The secret of a good catch depends on many factors: weather, sea currents and the temperature of the sea. I think the biggest factor is luck and in my opinion, Izola's fishermen have the most luck.«
You can find out more about the fishing tradition here.
Tina Steffè Božnik, fish market Levante
What matters is the guest's happiness
Hotel Delfin is located by the sea, directly above the Izola Marina, here you can fill your lungs with fresh air and admire the wonderful colors of the sea during the sunset. They have been welcoming guests for more than 35 years and next year they will celebrate 40 years of the hotel's opening. Perfect temperatures and a pool allow the hotel to operate throughout the whole year. In the Kneipp garden of medicinal plants and herbs you will find peace, which we all need in the fast tempo of our lives. Daša Ždrnja from Hotel Delfin told us that their secret is that they have good guests that are happy to return to their hotel year after year.
Do you want to find out more? Watch the video.
Daša Ždrnja, Hotel Delfin
Do you know what the secret of good food is?
Restaurant Gušt is well known in Slovenia, and as the owner Dimitrij Korpnik told us, they are known for their excellent cuisine. One of their best-selling specialties is pizza. On top of that, they are the only ones to take care of locals and visitors at sea. According to the customers, speed is their virtue. In recent years nautical tourism has been expanding, and our vision is to spread delivery at sea to the entire Slovenian coast.
»The secret of our good food is that you can enjoy it in good company and beautiful surroundings.«
Dimitrij Korpnik, Gušt
Izola was calling to him
Upon entering the antique shop on Manzioli Square, one immediately feels the warmth and a sense of mystery at the same time. It is a space where each object carries a story, and Sergio Kraljič is happy to tell them and take you on a journey into another time. Sergio also told us a story that unknowingly brought him to Izola. Years ago, after a difficult life period, he felt the need for a new beginning. He felt an inexplainable attraction to Izola – as if the town was calling to him.
“Izola touched my heart right away. I later found out that my parents got married here in Izola.”
That was how Sergio understood that this secret part of his parents’ life was why he had come to Izola. At Manzioli Square, where he opened an antique shop, a new chapter in his life began. Manzioli Square is a place where something is always happening. It’s a meeting point for the locals and one of the most popular places among visitors of Izola. It’s a place where you can feel the authentic atmosphere and homeliness of Izola. Sergio says he loves the square, and he paid homage to it with poetry hanging on the door of his antique shop.
Watch the video, feel the magic of the square and the nostalgic ambiance of Sergio’s antique shop.
Sergio Kraljič, Antiquarian
Izola's street jam session
Six years ago, Marina came to Izola from Sweden to discover her roots. Her mother comes from Izola, and as a child, she left her birthplace so move to the North. A musician and singer, Marina fell in love with Izola instantly, and her planned vacation, which was supposed to be just several months long, turned to Living in this fishing town. She never again returned to her Sweden home.
"In addition to everything that happens to you in this town – from tastes to the sea, shade and the smell of trees, nice people ... With a little bit of luck, an evening walk along the streets of the old town centre can turn into a genuine jam session with local musicians, who celebrate music, wine and especially friendship!"
Farm instead of a sail boat
At first, Marko lived with his family in a city, and in the eighties, they traded the hustle and bustle of the city for a peaceful life in the picturesque Izola countryside. When his family was deciding where they'd be spending more time together, thus deciding between buying a sail boat or a farmstead, they all voted for the latter. And this decision was the beginning of a beautiful story of the Medijan farmstead.
"Immediately after settling in, we started raising cattle, which we switched for raising horses after expanding our land. This also marked the transition to a tourist farm and an equestrian school. Until recently, all the culinary secrets were being diligently kept by my grandmother (locally called "nona"), who gradually started to reveal them to my wife, Marina. By visiting our typical Istrian farmstead, you too can get to know and taste them."
Do you know what emits that light in the sea at night?
The mother of the sister Enya and Amelie comes from Izola, while their father comes from France – that is also where they got their beautiful names from. They live together in Izola, and their favourite time of the year is summer, of course. They favourite beach for swimming is San Simon, where youngsters gather in the afternoons.
"Each year, we get to know new friends with which we enjoy the summer days. We don't just swim at the beach, but also go cycling together, skateboard and generally enjoy our time outside, since the days are longer, and we can be outside longer. Our secret is that we have a special garden together in Korte, just for ourselves – we take care of it ourselves, and we enjoy working it. Not just by the sea, it is also lovely at the countryside. Oh, and there is another secret we just remembered ... We love night-time swimming – do you wanna know why? Because the plankton in the sea glows at night. This is so beautiful!"
Amelie & Enya
From fishing pole to fishing nets
At an early age, when Davor first got to hold a fishing pole, the attraction between him and the sea was born. First, he was a professional fisherman, and during that time, he attended eight World Championship events, where he received no less than four medals. Later, he swapped his fishing pole for fishing nets, and thus his attraction grew into true love which still lasts and has become his way of life.
"The magic of Izola is in its pristine connection to the sea, although this connection is still being maintained by only a few individuals through fishing. I am one of them. I've been fishing for 30 years, and I enjoy the sea and love it sincerely. It is not easy, but the sea is fair and generous to those who have the will and persistence."
Flowers are the soul of a house
Silvestra is a huge flower lover which can clearly be seen when looking at her "blooming" windows on the Tartini Street. She is very proud of her street, and she is very glad that all the neighbours get along nicely and live in the spirit of mutual connectedness.
"Tartini Street is the most beautiful street in Izola, where a lot is going on. Together, we attend the culinary contest "Šalšijada" and similar events in the town, and we also organize joint celebrations and erect triumphal arcs. Apart from our street, I also love flowers, which adorn my apartment, my windows and my field. People are amazed at how I'm able to keep having them, and how I take care of them. During winter, when it seems that the flowers will die, I attentively take care of them, and in spring, they return the love by lush blooming. As everywhere else, love is the most important ingredient when taking care of flowers. And never forget; flowers are the soul of the house."
»Hello, my land!«
Aldo from the Istriana farmstead has been a farmer for many years. First, he was farming in addition to having a job, but now, he is a fully devoted farmer. He takes care that his grandchildren eat healthy food, and in addition, his good will and healthy produce are keeping the visitors to the local Stuff from my field marketplace (Ruba sz moje njive). The main part of his land, where he is mostly growing vegetables and some fruit, is situated beneath Dobrava in Izola, while his olive trees are located in the vicinity.
"A farmer who works the land needs to be present in full – throughout the whole day – it cannot be just a part-time job. Only the right attitude and willingness to work will result in the right products; therefore, I greet my farm with "Good morning!" every morning, and I tell it "Good night!" every evening. Just as a young woman is beautiful, so is my land."
Bread must be made by the right hands
Rozana is the president of the Tourist Association Šparžin as well as a great cultural heritage admirer. She says that all roads lead to Korte, where one is greeted by kind people, local food with the excellent olive oil and tasty wine. She invites everyone to put on their hiking boots and go discovering Korte and the surrounding areas.
"I inherited a lot of knowledge from my mother, Marija Panger, who also shared her secrets of baking good bread with me. But she always said only knowledge was not good enough. Tasty bread must be made by the right hands, and bread dough needs to be kneaded with the right energy. I love nature, meeting others and the right company. Walking in nature is a particular stress-reliever of mine, and it fills me with new strength after a stressful day. I also love the various water sources that hold great value for me and which are quite numerous in Korte and its surrounding areas."