Two Millennia, Countless Traces
There aren’t many finds that would indicate that the Valley was settled in prehistoric times. However, there is a number of younger archaeological finds, mostly from the early centuries of the Common Era, which paint a lively picture of the Vipava Valley. Acting as a corridor for many important transport routes, the travellers, armies and peoples passing through, have left valuable traces. Numerous finds are mere fragments of the intriguing stories from the lives that helped create today’s genetic makeup of the Valley. Visit the reminders of the past and get to know fascinating stories of yore.
Castra – the Roman Fortress
Ajdovščina is one of the most extensively researched Roman settlements in the Vipava Valley. Perhaps this is down to the fact that of all the Roman settlements in Slovenia, only Ajdovščina has managed to retain its Roman enceinte with 14 towers almost fully intact.
When the Romans founded Aquileia in the early centuries BC, they had also built a road through the Vipava Valley through what is today the village Razdrto to Emona. Ajdovščina grew from the postal and freight station called mansio Fluvio Frigido (by the Frigid River, today the Hubelj River) that was set up on that route. Later, in the first century AD another road was constructed toward Emona through what is today Col and Hrušica (then Ad Pirum). The second half of the 3rd century and early 4th century saw the construction of a new fort called Castra as part of the defence system on the east frontier, next to Fluvio Frigido. This fort acted as an important military centre with a permanent military crew and command. In the vicinity of Castra, on a plain between Ajdovščina and Vipava, the famous battle between the Roman Emperor Theodosius and the usurper Eugenius took place in 394 AD. The victory of the Christian Theodosius over his pagan enemy paved the way for Christianity to become a state religion.
The antique poet Claudian wrote: "In the decisive moment of the battle, a forceful wind came up that blew the spears back to Eugenius's men who had thrown them, deciding the battle in Theodosius favour."
For centuries, Ajdovščina did not expand beyond the fort. Castra was populated until the early 5th century, and in the 6th and 7th century the natives set up simple dwellings among the fort’s ruins. The 9th century saw the Slavs settle in this area definitively.
Legend has it that the Slavs, upon seeing the magnificent ruins of Castra, attributed its construction to giants in human form, so-called Ajdi. Hence the name Ajdovščina.
Roman Fortress Ad Pirum
In the second half of the 3rd century AD, the Romans built a fortress they came to call Ad Pirum at the highest point (858 m) of the Roman road from Aquileia via Hrušica to Emona (present-day Ljubljana), on the site of the former postal/guard station. The fortress had a key position as part of the defence system in the east of the empire, protecting the main transport route between the Balkans and Italy. Archaeological findings from that era, dating mostly from the 4th century, indicate heavy settlement. It is very likely that a permanent garrison was stationed here.
Based on the finds made in the course of the archaeological excavations the following video reconstruction of the Ad Pirum fortress was made.
The fortress was presumably abandoned somewhere around the year 400. The transport via Hrušica continued for well over two hundred years, although less lively. However, the ancient Roman route was again revived in the Late Middle Ages. From the 17th century and up to the extension of the railway route Ljubljana–Trieste in the mid-19th century, it was used as the regular postal connection between Gorica and Ljubljana. The building of the present Stara pošta Inn (Gostilna Stara pošta) on the Hrušica Plateau acted as a post station at that time and was later converted into a hunting lodge owned by the Counts of Lanthieri.
In the immediate vicinity of the old post building, which is a Slovene cultural monument in itself, the vestiges of the wall and towers of the Roman-age Ad Pirum still captivate visitors’ imagination. The “Stara pošta” Inn displays an archaeological collection of artefacts that were excavated on the site of the once vital road post.
Information and guided tours: Gostilna Stara Pošta, +386 (0)31 624 390, TIC Ajdovščina
Sv. Pavel over Vrtovin
The Late Antique settlement of Sv. Pavel (St. Paul) overlooking the village of Vrtovin was established on a naturally protected hillock strategically dominating the central part of the Vipava Valley. In Late Antiquity, when the migration of barbaric peoples forced the populace to abandon their settlements in the valley, this refuge was additionally fortified to provide greater safety. Water was drawn from the water tower constructed above the spring. The settlement atop the hillock was accessed via stairs that were carved into the rock. The water tower is a unique architectural monument and the highest-altitude Roman construction in the country.
After the Second World War the locals built St. Paul’s Church on the site of this protected settlement, where according to oral tradition a chapel was built as far back as the 3rd century, to commemorate the war casualties from the Vipava Valley. The restored Roman water tower and the little church are popular hiking destination. Across the hillock of Sv. Pavel a loop hiking trail was set up, following the route Črniče–Tabor–sv. Pavel–Črniče.
Information and guided tours: TIC Ajdovščina
Tabor over Črniče
The Tabor settlement is located on a hill overlooking the village of Črniče, which has a strategic advantage of being a natural vantage point toward the east and west part of the Vipava Valley. This made for effective defence against potential enemy attacks. The Romans operated a reconnaissance and signal point on this hill. In 1413, the fortified settlement Tabor was built to provide shelter against Ottoman incursions. A village and chapel developed within the fortification. Tabor played a big role in the fights between the Republic of Venice and the Habsburgs, as well during the First and Second World War.
The well preserved remnants are a popular hiking spot.
Are you impressed with the archaeological heritage of Slovenia, and need an idea for your next trip? The Vipava Valley offers a great experience.
Information and guided tours: TIC Ajdovščina