Italian
The Parenzana rail was an old narrow gauge railway that connected the city of Trieste to Buje and Poreč, Parenzo in Italian (whence the name Parenzana!). Built by the Austrian-Hungarians in 1902, it was the longest narrow gauge railway on the 760 mm. Ruins of the railway are still visible today and one of the most interesting tourist activity in the area is walking through the track (entirely or partially) by bike!

Map

 

Data

Italy-Slovenia-Croatia - Parenzana railway trail

ITINERARY DETAILS
Start/Finish Trieste/Porec
Time 1-2 days
Elevation gain 702 m
Length 123 km
RATING
Difficulty Facile
Panorama Molto Bello
WHEN TO GO
AprileMaggioGiugnoLuglio
AgostoSettembreOttobre

Elevation chart

Parenzana Cycleway

Foto

Parenzana cycleway on old rail trail
Parenzana cycleway on old rail trail
Parenzana cycleway on old rail trail
Parenzana cycleway on old rail trail

Parenzana railway trail

The Parenzana Railway started working in December 1902. Strongly supported by the Emperor Francis Joseph, this engineering work connected Trieste and other 13 intermediate stations to Poreč, in the current Croatia. Trieste is 2 meters above sea level and the highest station, in Grisignana, is 293; trains had to go through an altitude difference of about 700 meters. The old convoys traveling on this railway line were initially steam trains. Lighting was provided by oil and passengers (the trains also transported goods) had only 30 seats. Carriages were built without toilets but had balconies.
The arrival of bus, cheaper and faster (a train took more than 7 hours from Trieste to Poreč) determined a serious decline of the Parenzana railway and the last day of August 1935 the train stopped forever. The story tells rails were dismantled to be sent in Abyssinia, but ended up on the seabed with the ship. Other sources says the 180 wagons and locomotives were sold to other railways (maybe Val Gardena and Sicily).
parenzana cycleway 01

General informations

The old track of the Parenzana railway, which has celebrated its 110th anniversary in 2012, has been largely converted in paths and bike lanes: today many enthusiastic bike travelers can ride through 80 km by skirting the rails, and in some cases even riding on them. From Visinada, Croatia, up to Slovenia and then other 20 km over the border, riding a bike (we hardly recommend a MTB) or by feet, the most adventurous could follow the entire path! The altitude difference is almost 700mt then quite challenging: we advise to train before leaving for this adventure. For a detailed description of the Croatian stretch, we refer to the Istria bike website (Parenzana by bicycle). For the Slovenian stretch, I personally confirm that from Portorose to the Sicciole natural reserve the road is very easy and relaxing. Portorose, until June, is quite a calm town. The road leading to the saline is entirely asphalted and, after an initial country stretch with some easy upand- down, it goes through the Mount Luzzan gallery – that with its 544 meters was the longest of the whole old railway. The Austrian-Hungarians built it between 1900 and 1902. A brief slope leads to the entrance of the Saline that can be safely visited by bicycle.
parenzana cycleway 02

When to go

The most interesting season for an outdoor on the Parenzana railway is that between May and June when weather is not hot yet and, while going through the  Secovlje Salina Nature Reserve, you can see many nesting and migratory birds. September and October are also good months for a bike trip in Croatia and Slovenia. If possible, avoid July and August when tourists crowd the coast, prices are quite higher and weather is unbearable. 
parenzana cycleway 04

What to see along the Parenzana

Slovenia, with its few kilometers of coast has many things to offer to visitors: spas from “A thousand and one nights”, wonderful towns like Piran, with its alleys and its castle, to visit by feet, actually deserve a visit, and then its magical landscapes. Baredine cave, in Villanova (Croatia) has been opened in 1995 and in its 132 mt of deepness keeps many interesting rock formations and underground lakes. Inside the cave lives the Proteus, a rare endemic amphibian to these karstic areas. Along the path you'll also meet some kazuni, a sort of huts hardly attributable to a precise historical period. These shelters was used to mind livestock and fields. In Visinada you can see a full-size reproduction of an old Parenzana locomotive and get a sense of trains in the early 20th century. If in your trip you decide to continue until Poreč, Parenzo in Italian, don't miss a visit to the Euphrasius's Basilica, an early Byzantine building actually well preserved that since 1997 is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
 

Curiosities

  • On some particularly challenging climbs of the Parenzana railway, due to the low speed of the trains, passengers were forced to get off the vehicle and help the driver by pushing the train.
  • Along the path, when it's season, you can find a lot of fruits ready for the harvest. At that time, children enjoyed themselves by oiling the rails with fig pulp so in that point the train began to skid, and sometimes the driver was forced to get off and clean the rails!

For more information about the Slovenian stratch, please also refer to Portroz and Piran tourism office website

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Leo

Slow bicycle traveller with a passion for writing and photography. If he's not traveling he loves to get lost along the thousand paths that run through the beautiful mountains of Trentino and Lake Iseo surroundings where he lives, both on foot and by mountain bike.
Eternal Peter Pan who loves to realize their dreams without leaving them too long in the drawer, has devoted much of his life to cycling, traveling in New Zealand, the Balkans, Norway Argentina and many other countries. Lately he spent ten months by bike in South East Asia and crossed the Andes by bike.

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