Italy-Slovenia-Croatia - Parenzana railway trail
|Time||1-2 days |
|Elevation gain||702 m|
WHEN TO GO
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).
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.
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.
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.
- 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