EXPLORE

The former fishing town of Izola boasts a rich cultural heritage, resulting from an extremely long and tumultuous history, since this area had been inhabited as early as the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, due to its favourable position. Izola lost its island status in the early 20th century. The former salt fields became wetlands, which were then gradually meliorated, thus blurring the main characteristics of the island. Still, the town kept its medieval design with a church on the hilltop, a net of narrow streets, and high buildings with their own harbours, protected against the waves. There are numerous cultural and historical sights in the old town centre.

 


THE LEGEND OF THE WHITE DOVE

In 1380 the Genoese fleet sailed towards Izola convinced of their chance to prevail over the Venetians and dominate the maritime trade in the Mediterranean. Saint Maurus, the patron saint of the town, sent a white dove to fly over the Genoese fleet that could not see the shore due to a miraculous fog, with witch St. Maurus hid the town. The Genoans followed the dove, knowing that doves never fly far from the coast. Yet this dove took them to the open sea and returned to the church. There it dropped an olive branch from the beak as a sign of peace and security.

A dove with an olive branch is now represented on the town’s coat of arms. To this day we celebrate this historic event every October. The celebrations are accompanied by cultural and sporting events.

THE REMAINS OF A ROMAN HARBOUR IN THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK IN THE SIMONOV ZALIV BAY

After the foundation of the Roman colony Aquileia in 181 BC, a great part of Istria fell under the Roman rule. The Romanization processes are especially apparent due to the intensive colonization of the coast and the inland region. The Roman seafront villa with its port in the Simonov zaliv bay is one of such settlements. The archaeological sites were identified within a four-hectare area where the remains of the coastal residential Roman villa (villae maritimae) with an outbuilding and the largest port of that time were discovered. Together they represent one of the largest estates in this part of Istria.

The archaeological site in San Simon was proclaimed a cultural monument of national significance. In the park, visitors can see the restored walls of the residence that archaeologists uncovered in the 20th century. There is a partial reconstruction of a floor mosaic in the northern section of the residential part of the estate, and the remains of a walkway (portico) connecting the villa to the harbour in the southern section. The remains of a waterway, supplying water to the residence, were discovered behind the villa.

Guided tours of the site are available in Slovenian, English, German and Italian. More information.

A HISTORY OF FISHING, SHIP MODELLING AND FISH PROCESSING AT THE IZOLANA MUSEUM

Izolana, the House of the Sea, is dedicated to the history of Izola, emphasizing its maritime and seaside character through documentary photographs depicting fishing as one of its main economic activities. Up until the mid-20th century fishermen used wooden boats that were built and mended in the local shipyards and smaller workshops. Shipbuilding is also presented at the museum and since the authentic traditional vessels are nearly all gone, the exhibition features models of sailboats and traditional vessels from the three coastal towns – Izola, Koper, and Piran. The ship models were created by different modellers. One of them, Izola native Marcel Blažina, created a series of true masterpieces.

The Izolana museum is open on weekends during winter, and every day in the summer months.

THE SINKING OF THE SS REX

During World War II, the SS Rex, the biggest and fastest Italian ocean liner of its time, sank right in the bay between Izola and Koper. It was 40 meters high, had 12 stories and could accommodate 2032 passengers.

During World War II Rex was used to transport soldiers from the battlefields in Northern Africa to Italy. On the 8th of September 1944 the Allied air force spotted the SS Rex in the bay between Izola and Koper, hiding from a possible attack on Trieste. Due to her size, the ship ran aground about 200 m from the seashore, becoming an easy target for the attack of the Allied air force. The Rex burned for four days.

Following the war, the locals scavenged the ship for any valuables, while the remains of the metal structure were broken apart and reused by the local government.

THE BESENGHI DEGLI UGHI PALACE

The Besenghi degli Ughi Palace is one of the most well preserved Late Baroque monuments in Slovenia and among the most beautiful historical buildings in Istria. Given the historical circumstances, the construction of the the three-storey palace took a relatively short time, from 1775 to 1781. The distinguished and wealthy Istrian Besenghi family commissioned the project to Filippo Dongetti from Milan, one of the most important architects of the time. The stone lion, placed on the corner of the building, was found beneath the ruins of the building that stood there before the Besenghi Palace and dates back to the 13th century. The family owned an extensive library and more than 3,000 of their books and manuscripts from the 16th and the 17th century are still preserved.

Nowadays the Besenghi degli Ughi Palace hosts the Izola Music School and is the preferred venue for wedding ceremonies.

THE STONE LION FROM 1212 AND THE FORMER CITY HALL

The former city hall was built in 1325 in Gothic style. Today it boasts a Baroque façade, remodelled in the 17th century. The interior of the building has been changed several times according to the various styles of later periods. The building is adorned with a stone lion overlooking the old harbour of Izola.

THE MANZIOLI AND LOVISATO PALACES

The Manzioli Palace, standing on the Manzioli square, is one of the oldest buildings in Izola. It was constructed in 1470 as a typical Venetian-Gothic townhouse. It was named after Tommaso Manzioli, the former mayor of Izola, who contributed to the construction of the old harbour. The Lovisato Palace, the historical building leaning against the Manzioli Palace, is known as the birthplace of the scientist Domenico Lovisato.

Both buildings were restored and modernized in 2003, but the remains of the Roman villa that once stood in their place can still be seen. Today, the renovated palace hosts the seat of the Italian Self-Governing National Community as well as occasional art exhibitions. Wine bar Manzioli operates on the ground floor of the palace.

THE CHURCH OF ST. MARY OF HALIAETUM

The Church of St. Mary of Haliaetum is the oldest church in Izola and it celebrates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Due to its specific Romanesque design, it is believed to be dating back to the second half of the 11th century. There are three altars inside, as well as a wooden chancel and a pipe organ built by Petar Nakič, one of the greatest Venetian organ builders. The main feature of this church, however, is its architectural composition, characterized by an octagonal plan form and a groin vault, which sets it apart from any other church in the area.

THE CHURCH OF ST. MAURUS AND THE BELL TOWER

The Church of St. Maurus is the most visible church in Izola, as it stands on the top of the medieval island, giving the town its recognizable skyline. The original church, built in 1356, was considerably smaller than the present church, which has been built in 1547 and significantly reconstructed several times in the past centuries. The last modifications were made in the early 20th century, but the original Renaissance design and its later Baroque modifications, as well as other historical elements were preserved. The entirety of the restoration work has been carried out from 1980 to 1982. Its Baroque interior boasts ten altars, a pipe organ, built in 1796 by Gaetano Callido, and wonderful paintings, dating back as far as the 15th century.

The Gothic bell tower standing beside the church was built with Istrian stone in 1585 and is more than 30 meters high. There are 99 steps leading to the top of the tower. Ask in the church to access the best viewing point in Izola.  Guided foreign-language tours of the church and its frescoes are organized throughout the summer months.

THE SCUOLA BATTUTI ORATORY

The building beside the Besenghi degli Ughi Palace on Gregorčičeva street, the chapel of the flagellant order of Scuola Battuti from 1451, is one of the oldest buildings in Izola. While the interior has been remodelled several times, the exterior has preserved its Gothic style.

ART GALLERIES AND STUDIOS

Experience the authenticity of this small Mediterranean town through its artistic image. The old town centre is full of galleries and art studios, offering a different kind of souvenirs. Visitors can observe the artists at work directly from the streets, which is certainly a unique experience that adds value to the art they sell. Take a stroll down Ljubljanska and Koprska street and check out the artwork of local artists.

Koper

The historical buildings reveal the millennial history of Koper, Capris, Iustinopolis, the era of the Venetian Republic and the golden age of Gothic style and the Renaissance. Intertwining narrow streets wind towards the main square that boasts one of the largest cathedrals in Slovenia. A diverse palette of cultural experiences enriches the town streets and squares, especially in the summer months.

Visit the finest palace of Koper right on the main square – the Praetorian Palace, present home of the town hall. The town tower now serves as a bell tower and a viewing point. The buildings of Foresteria and Armeria, which date back to the 15th and 16th century, are now hosting the University of Primorska. Built in the 15th century, the Loggia Palace currently houses a café, where you will enjoy a splendid view of the entire square. Numerous treasures are kept in the Cathedral of the Assumption.

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Piran

This beautiful town on the Slovenian coast grew on salt. The historical Piran salt pans, where the world-class fleur de sel is still produced according to ancient traditional methods, were the reason for the prosperity of this picturesque Mediterranean walled town, with its hilltop church and many cultural attractions.

The old port town and the remains of its medieval wall are protected as a cultural and historical monument. The narrow streets bellow the closely grouped houses descending from the church hill towards the seafront main square, emphasize the Mediterranean character of the town. The worldly coastal town that developed under the influence of Venice is considered one of the most authentic and scenic towns on the Adriatic coast. Besides architecture, the Maritime Museum, the aquarium and other attractions, visitors can enjoy many cultural events, the gastronomy, and the nearby natural attractions.

THE SALT PANS OF PIRAN, SEČOVLJE AND STRUNJAN

The Piran salt pans, established in 804, encompassed the salt pans in the area of today’s marina (Lucija, Portorož), the smaller salt pans of Strunjan and the larger salt pans of Sečovlje. The areas of the two preserved salt pans are now landscape parks. In the Strunjan Landscape Park you will find a breath-taking cliff towering over the sea, while the Sečovlje Salina Nature Park offers guided tours of the salt pans and features a museum of salt making, where you will learn all about the traditional techniques of the craft.

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