Slovenia and Northeastern Italy
The Last Undiscovered Corner?
Our holiday begins with several delightful and relaxing days just over Italy’s eastern border in Slovenia, one of the newer members of the European Union. Slovenia offers gently rolling hills and lush valleys, tucked between Austria to the north, Croatia to the south and Italy to the west.
Barely the size of New Jersey, Slovenia was spared the destruction suffered by the other republics of Yugoslavia during the 1990s civil war. During our stay in Slovenia, we will have a chance to:
- Learn of its history – including the tragic losses along its Soca River valley during World War I and memorialized in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms;
- Discover small villages and local crafts (especially lace-making);
- Sample local dishes (beef and pork are specialties) and undiscovered wines; and
- Explore Slovenia’s charming capital Lubljana and stroll along the shores of romantic Lake Bled (pre-tour clients only)
The second half of our trip takes us over the Italian border to Friuli-Venezia Giulia, a jewel of a region in northeastern Italy. Our home for three nights is in a lovely auberge in a small town amongst the rolling hills known as “Collio.” A highlight during our stay will be a visit to Trieste, the regional capital. Trieste’s geographic location has resulted in a historical heritage and a diversity of cultural influences unmatched by other Italian cities.
Our stay in Friuli will give us ample opportunity to:
- Chat with our Italian guide while strolling along the cliffs above the Adriatic Sea;
- Learn regional cooking tips from a local chef;
- Visit the imposing Rocca Bernarda villa;
- Sample Italy’s finest white wines in the nearby hills; and
- Visit the magnificent Basilica of Aquilea. Many would say the mosaics here surpass even those of Ravenna. Certainly together with Ravenna, Aquilea is the most important archeological site in Italy.
Day 1 (Monday) – Embark on an adventure to a different land. . .
Early afternoon transfer from the Ljubljana airport or downtown Ljubljana hotel to the lovely baroque Kenda Manor Hotel in the Slovenian town of Spodnja Idrija. After unpacking, we meet Franz, who is acknowledged as one of the country’s top chefs. He leads a lively cooking lesson where we’ll learn to make the local potato-stuffed pasta, zlikrofi. End the day with an aperitif with our hotel manager and welcome dinner at our elegant restaurant. Overview of the trip’s highlights during dinner tonight. D
Lodging at Kendov Manor Hotel for the next 3 nights.
Day 2 (Tuesday) – Discover a Slovenian town
After a leisurely breakfast, we visit a local maker of the exquisite handmade lace for which Idrija is known. Then don your miners’ helmets and descend Anthony’s Shaft into the world’s oldest mercury mine. Now a museum, the Idrija Mine offers a genuine trip through the origins of the 500-year old town.
Mid-day finds us in the vicinity of local bakeries and cafes, where we can gather snacks for a light lunch. This afternoon we can continue to discover the town (including the City Museum, which is housed in the Castle) or relax back at Kenda Manor. Dinner tonight is preceded by a wine tasting, featuring selections from the nearby Vipava Valley as well as the now famous Gorica Hills, which border Italy. The glassware used is from a leading Slovene designer and is made at the Rogaska Slatina Glass School. Another wonderful dinner at our restaurant tonight. B, D
Day 3 (Wednesday) – Kobarid Museum and the town of Caporetto
Departure after breakfast for the scenic drive to the the little town of Kobarid (Caporetto in Italian). The museum here is one of the finest WWI museums in the world, with an emphasis on the events on the Soca Front between 1915 and 1917. Our guide will take us through the sobering collection, enlightening us on the tragic battle fought here nearly a century ago. Those who prefer to skip the museum tour may walk the 5-km Kobarid Trail, which has many points of historical, cultural and natural interest.
After lunch in town, we return to the Kenda Manor in time to pack our bags. Dinner on your own tonight, with the opportunity to order a la carte from the restaurant’s varied and elegant menu. B, L
Day 4 (Thursday) – Drinking and driving through the “Brda” Hills
This morning is dedicated to a visit to Belica, a 100-year old winery in “Brda”, Slovenian for “Collio” or hills. The Collio is the most important wine-producing area in Italy’s northeastern Friuli region, and it extends just over the border into neighboring Slovenia. We will taste a panoply of Belica’s wines while learning about the Slovenian approach to winemaking. Lunch at the winery will include homemade products like olive oil, vinegar and bread baked in the wood burning oven. Over the border after lunch and mid-afternoon arrival at the lovely Vinnaeria la Baita, an intimate auberge owned by the local wine-making family, Jermann. Optional stroll to the neighboring Castello di Spessa before aperitifs and dinner in our hotel’s unique octagonal restaurant. All breads and desserts are homemade. B, L, D
Lodging at the Vinnaeria La Baita for the next 3 nights.
Day 5 (Friday) – The Rocca Bernarda Winery
Breakfast each day offers an ample selection of coffees and freshly squeezed orange juice, home baked pastries and yogurt. We’ll journey a few miles through vineyards and small towns to the magnificent 16th century Rocca Bernarda villa. Bequeathed in 1977 to the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, a charitable organization active in over 100 countries, the villa will be opened today for our private tour. Afterwards we will enjoy a tasting of the Rocca’s wonderful wines (Rocca Bernarda is famous for picolit, the rare wine produced from grapes that only grow in this tiny corner of the world) paired with local olives, hams and cheeses.
This afternoon we enjoy a cooking lesson back at our hotel. The chef’s creative dishes are a joy to behold as well as consume, and have the advantage of being easy to recreate at home. Dinner in our beautiful octagonal restaurant (or, weather permitting, under the stars!) B, light L, D
Day 6 (Saturday) – Trieste, Friuli’s Capital
Trieste has a fascinating past, dating back to early Roman times. For nearly 400 years, it was an important Adriatic port for the Hapsburg Empire. Claimed by both Italy and Yugoslavia after World War II, Trieste was a center of intrigue during the Cold War. The city also has attracted a number of writers and artists, including Irish author James Joyce, who lived there for several years, writing and teaching English. We will spend the day here with a local guide, returning to the Vinnaeria for packing and dinner. B, D
Day 7 (Sunday) – Aquilea and Departure
Early departure for Aquilea, famous for its entrancing mosaic floors, which have only recently been restored. The origin – sacred or profane? – is an ongoing topic of debate among scholars. Our guide will present both arguments during a lively guided tour. Aquilea is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Transfer to local train station after our tour, with loads of warm memories in our hearts. B
*B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner provided
Pre-trip Stay in Ljubljana, Slovenia’s Capital
Turn this lovely sojourn into a relaxing 10-day trip with three nights at the boutique Antiq Hotel in Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana. We always recommend flying in a couple of days early to ease into the local time zone. For this trip, Adagio is offering a pre-trip extension in an “untour” format: we will book your hotel and two half-days (two to three hours each) of locally-guided walking tours, and leave the rest of your time up to your imagination and energy level. The tiny Antiq Hotel was renovated just a couple of years ago and is located right in the center of pedestrian Ljubljana, surrounded by museums, shops and restaurants.
We will offer many suggestions, but encourage you to wander and take advantage of the friendly, largely English-speaking population of this sophisticated little city! Don’t miss the funicular ride up to the imposing Ljubljana Castle, where on Saturday you’re likely to witness a local wedding. Sunday morning features Ljubljana’s fun and famous (at least among locals!) Antique Flea Market, sprawling along the shores of the Ljubljanica River in the center of town. We also recommend that you arrange your day tour of Lake Bled from Ljubljana, as it will NOT be included in our itinerary.