Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy are sharing many things in history, culture, gastronomy and geography. The Adriatic sea, the Istrian peninsula and good wines are just some of the things that are connecting these three countries. One more, not so famous thing, is the old railway called Parenzana. It is a route with many names, such as route of health, route of friendship, wine rail route, etc. The Parenzana wine railway is dedicated to both cyclists and hikers, and it has 11 tunnels, 16 bridges, and six viaducts. So, put your shoes on or hop on your two-wheeler and follow me.
First, let's start the story with this nice and motivational video called "Parenzana: The trail of health and friendship" made by the tourist organization of northen Istria.
In the Croatian part of the Parenzana route (some 80km), one can see beautiful Istrian landscapes accompanied by the inevitable wine and cheese tasting in any of the ex-train stops. The stops you will make in Croatia are: Savudrija (Salvore), Markovac-Mažurija (Mazzoria), Kaldanija (Caldania), Buje (Buie), Triban (Tribano), Grožnjan (Grisignana), Kostanjica (Castagna), Završje (Piemonte D'Istria), Oprtalj (Pòrtole), Livade (Bagni San Stefano), Motovun (Montona), Karojba (Caroiba), Rakotule (Raccosole), Vižinada (Visinada), Baldaši (Baldassi), Labinci-Markovac (Santa Domenica), Višnjan (Visignano), Nova Vas (Villanova di Parenzo), Poreč (Parenzo). Starting from the last one - Poreč (in Italian Parenzo), we can begin this story as well.
On its 123 km long route, the small train linked 33 towns from Trieste to Poreč, so that today it would run on the territory of three countries: Italy – 13 km, Slovenia – 32 km and Croatia – 78 km.
Poreč or Parenzo was the last stop of the Parenzana train and its most important point on the map, but it can be the first stop for you, if you decide to go on this adventure. In Poreč, you can rent a bicycle or you can join some hikers, and together you can conquer Parenzana. In the Croatian language, this railroad is called "Porečanka" or "Istrijanka", that can be understood as a "lady from Poreč"/"lady from Istra" or like a type of wine. Since Istra is famous for its wines, this trail can also be described as the wine trail in search for the best Istrian wines. Poreč is a home to the Euphrasian Basilica, that is UNESCO's World Heritage Site, so among other historical sights, this could be the most impressive one.
Buje is the town in Istria, that, besides, Poreč was one of the biggest stations/stops for the Parenzana train. Today, Buje could be the best place to start your tour on a bicycle or your hike.
In recent years, three big projects between Croatia and Slovenia tried to revitalize and make popular again this part of Istria and Europe as a hiking and cycling destination. As a part of the Parenzana III project, two events were organized: The Wine Run Cross-border Marathon and The Parenzana Day – History on site.
Parenzana as a railroad was active only some 30 years. It was made out of desire of northern Istria's people. This railroad maybe doesn't exist anymore, maybe the train doesn't run through those cities, but the connection once made is still preserved as a wine railway that connects three countries.
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