The Vipava Valley, the mesmerising natural beauty flowing into the Gorizia Plain on the West, cradled by the steep and high mountains on one side and by the delicate wine-growing hills on the other, will take your breath away. Vineyards, orchards, and fields laid unevenly one after another to form marvellous green patterns, villages resting on mounds and belfries serve as tasteful embellishments to this pristine portrait of Paradise.
Only when your eyes catch all the gifts of Mother Nature you can embrace the charming settlements, singular buildings and incredible details the landscape has to offer. Visitors can also discover a very special architectural gem hidden under the surface: the Vipava Valley wine cellars. Architectural features reflect the millennial tradition and the harmony local inhabitants enjoy with nature.
As far as the eye can see, small clustered villages are scattered across the landscape seemingly without rhyme or reason. However, there is good reason why so many of them are perched on hillsides. In the Middle Ages settlements were safer against raids if they were built on higher grounds. In later, more peaceful times, settlements were mainly founded where natural features were the most favourable. The villages were set up on the less fertile ground skirting the fertile land, and clustered together to leave more room for arable land. Clustered settlements also had another function: to protect the buildings from the strong local wind called bora that can exceed speeds of 200 km/h. The villages in the Vipava Valley were often built next to riverheads, rivers and brooks, but also along ancient transport routes.
The natural features of the Vipava Valley and the prudence of its people gave rise to a peculiar type of settlement. Consisting of a single or several house clusters, the village houses are built in strings that make up streets of varying width. Streets that come together expand into squares of various sizes. The biggest square, which is the meeting point and the heart of the village, is normally next to the village church. Despite their small size and economic building design, all villages in the valley bear the traits of an urban construction pattern.
The houses are made from locally sourced stone and decorated with skilfully crafted stone door portals and window frames. Just as whole villages are constructed to provide the best protection against the bora, individual homesteads are built with intent as well. The fronts face towards the south and the courtyards are enclosed with high walls. The entries to the closed courtyards feature highly ornate portals or kalone that display superior craftsmanship and are considered to be the piece de resistance of the rural architecture in this region.
A vital part of the rich culture of wine-growing and wine-making in the Vipava Valley are the typical wine cellars. The architecturally sophisticated room for storing wine has always been the greatest source of pride in every homestead. Traditionally, the cellars are made from stone and boast an arched ceiling. Normally built underground, a special room called faladur is set up directly above, where grapes are processed. Humbler homesteads had smaller cellars, but the craftsmanship was always exceptional. The wine cellars built in this way provided ideal conditions for storing exquisite wines year round. Modern cellars continue the traditional legacy but will occasionally use material other than stone.
Castles and Mansions
The Vipava Valley is noted as the valley of mansions and castles. The advantageous transport location, mild climate and fertile soil attracted many aristocratic families to set up their estates and households in the valley. From the Middle Ages and up to the first half of the 20th century many wealthy families first built and then maintained a number of representative buildings. Some are still well kept, while others unfortunately fell into dereliction.
Castles and mansions in the Vipava Valley read more
In the idyllic landscape, towns are few and far between, but they make up for it with their fascinating character. The medieval settlement of Vipavski Križ, an erstwhile town, boasts a castle and a monastery which was built a few years later. The settlement is the most exceptional cultural monument of the Vipava Valley. This picturesque settlement is carefully restored and never ceases to amaze with the myriad of intricate architectural details. Unlike Vipavski Križ, Vipava never had town privileges, although its medieval centre interestingly displays many urban design elements. Reigning supreme on the lovely main square is the Baroque Lanthieri Mansion. The bridges over the springs of the Vipava River are an eye-catcher, and the fortified settlement of Tabor never ceases to amaze newcomers. The town of Ajdovščina, today the centre of the Upper Vipava Valley, grew from the foundations of the Antique settlement within a Roman fort. The old town centre that for centuries stayed within the safety of the wall is a maze of narrow alleys. The well-maintained residences of wealthy families from the 18th and 19th century are a testament to an era of economic prosperity. The youngest town of the Vipava Valley and Slovenia, Nova Gorica, has a particularly noteworthy architectural design. When in the aftermath of the Second World War the town of Gorica stayed in Italy, Yugoslavia commissioned the construction of a new town from scratch right next to the border. The town plan was designed by the Slovenian architect Edvard Ravnikar who was a student of Jože Plečnik and Le Corbusier.