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October 2020

Fall excursions

Discover the charms of Vipava Valley

Early fall days are perfect for laidback excursions, especially when the sun is out and about. The landscape is changing colours from one day to the next, providing a scenic backdrop for amazing fall photos everywhere you go. Meanwhile, everything else remains the same: the cycling and hiking trails are as inviting as ever, and foodie hot spots are scattered all over the region. Do you like to venture out and explore new places? Are you keen on discovering local highlights and extraordinary stories? Satisfy your wanderlust with us. Vipava Valley and Nova Gorica are a veritable paradise when it comes to a different kind of travel experience.

Stories from a unique conurbation

Nova Gorica, the youngest city in Slovenia, was built on the border to Italy immediately after the Second World War. The newly created state border between Italy and Yugoslavia cut off “old” Gorica (today Gorizia, Italy) from its natural hinterland, completely disregarding its historical background. Today, after the abolishment of political borders and following tumultuous decades of separation, the two cities – one in Slovenia and one in Italy – have merged into one settlement with two languages and two cultures. This unique conurbation is full of amazing stories just waiting to be discovered. You can start in Europe Square (Trg Evrope), a piazza shared by the two towns, which is dominated by the hundred-year-old railway station that was built at the same time as the famous Bohinj Railway. The Kolodvor Museum showcases an exhibit about the fateful state border demarcation. In the wake of border closures due to COVID-19 this seems to be more relevant than ever. The Pristava museum collection presents an exhibition about smuggling in the Goriška Region, shedding light on another aspect of life along the border.

When you’re in Nova Gorica, a trip to the Franciscan Monastery Kostanjevica is a must. Make sure to visit the crypt of the Bourbon dynasty, holding the remains of the last descendants of this French royal family who died in exile. Much older stories can be discovered with a guide in a tour of the Škrabec library housed in the monastery. Outside, the monastery garden features the largest collection of Bourbon roses in the world. After you step out of the past, take in the modern vibe of Bevk Square and its hip urban bars. The best way to end a tour of Nova Gorica is with a culinary journey in one the city’s top restaurants.

Rich legacy of millennia

On a little hillock amidst the Vipava Valley sits Vipavski Križ, a medieval fortified settlement with a castle. In the 16th century, this used to be the smallest market town (having obtained the right to host markets) in the whole of the Hapsburg Empire. A walk through its narrow alleys and a stop at the piazza for a glass of local wine is a charming experience in itself. For more tidbits of local history, a guide will take you to see the Capuchin Monastery with a number of valuable artworks and a rich library of precious old books and incunabula.

If you are headed toward east, have a stop in Ajdovščina which grew from the foundations of an important Roman military fort. Uncover the town’s Roman heritage, walk along the perimeter of the longest surviving Roman wall in the country, past the fort’s restored towers and recently unearthed foundations of important Roman buildings. Back in the day, the banks of the torrential Hubelj River in Ajdovščina have seen the birth of the local industry. As you visit the river’s picturesque spring make sure to stop at the intriguing remnants of the ironworks. The local industrial heritage also inspired renowned painter Veno Pilon who was born and bred in Ajdovščina. An extensive collection of his paintings, graphic art and photographs is exhibited in the Pilon Gallery, which regularly hosts well-attended exhibitions.

Vipava springs and bridges

Stories of another type are to be discovered in the ancient town of Vipava which amazes travellers with the delta-shaped source of the eponymous river, its scenic bridges and castles. A particularly attractive point of interest is the grand Lanthieri Mansion on the main square. Viewings take place with a local guide and can be combined with a trip to the Museum of Winemaking in the same building. More information is available in TIC Vipava, which is also set in the Lanthieri Mansion, and where one can book guided tours of the region. The Vipava wine country has always attracted wealthy aristocrats who went on to build castles in the area. Zemono, situated fairly close to Vipava, is one of the finest examples and today hosts one of the top fine dining restaurants in the country.

An absolute must stop on your journey of exploring this wine country is the delightful village of Goče. Believed to be one of the oldest villages in the valley, its houses are huddled around the village church. It is famous for its wine cellars of which there used to be more than there were houses. A great way to end your fall excursion is to stop in Goče or the surrounding villages, particularly Slap pri Vipavi, in the wine cellars owned by the local winemakers who will gladly accompany you on your wine tasting journey. What better way to wrap up the stories you discovered on your journey than with local flavours?