Izola is a small fishing town on the Slovenian coast, which retains much of its Venetian character. It boasts a picturesque marina affording stunning views across the Adriatic Sea towards Venice, and some great restaurants serving up local delicacies and of course the freshest of seafood!
History of Izola
Like Koper, the town of Izola was originally an island (the name itself being a Slovenian spelling of Italian Isola, meaning ‘Island.’) The island of Izola was originally inhabited by refugees from the Roman city of Aquileia after it was sacked by Attila the Hun in 452 AD, although the neighbouring lands had already been settled by the Romans as early as the 2nd Century AD.
Izola became part of the Venetian Republic in 1267 and remained so until 1797, when it came under Germanic and later Napoleonic rule. It was during this time that the town’s walls were torn down and used to fill in the channel which separated the island from the mainland. From 1813, Izola became part of the Austrian empire but retained its Italian population, and the territory was assigned to Italy at the end of the First World War. The Germans took control of Izola from 1943-1945 until the town was liberated by a naval unit from neighbouring Koper. It then became part of the Free Territory of Trieste until 1954, when it was incorporated into Yugoslavia. At this point, much of the native Italian population re-located to Trieste and other nearby Italian towns. Nevertheless, the town has a large Italian minority population to this day. All road signs and public information is bilingual, as in the rest of Capodistria, and Italian is taught alongside Slovenian in local schools.
A Tour of the Town
Izola is a delightful little town to take a walk around on a clear day. Start your tour at the resort of San Simon close to the marina. From here, when the light is right, you will have stunning views of Triglav, Slovenia’s highest mountain, as well as the other high mountains of the Slovenian and Italian Alps. It is often possible to make out Venice Island on the other side of the Adriatic.
Take a walk around the marina to fully appreciate the extensive views on offer from this vantage point, then head for the Old Town where you will find many delightful Italianate buildings with facades painted in all the bright colours of the Istrian palette: yellow ochre, terracotta red and the occasional blue, pink or purple.
It is possible (during non-quarantine times) to climb the old Venetian bell tower, which is open from 11:00 – 13:00 Mon-Fri. It was built in 1585, and there are 99 steps leading to the top. You will be rewarded for your efforts with stunning views over the town and its surroundings.
What to do and where to eat…
When you blend the town’s fishing heritage with the local tradition of Italian cuisine, you have a recipe for culinary success, and you will find many great restaurants all over town. Here are my personal recommendations (either tried and tested by me, or recommended by friends and family):
- For fish and seafood: The Restaurant at Hotel Marina
- For traditional Balkan grilled meat specialities: Gostilna Doro
- For pizza and pasta: Gostilnica Gušt
- For take away food: Fast Food Veni
Fishing trips are possible from the Marina, or you can hire a speedboat, paddle boat or even a yacht and enjoy a unique view of the town, then sail off to a more secluded swimming spot. There is also the small resort of San Simon with bar, waterslides and a designated sea-bathing area. All in all, Izola makes a great stopping point on a tour of the Slovenian coast, perfectly suited to an afternoon’s exploration (the sunsets are stunning too!)
If you enjoyed this Postcard from Slovenia, take a look at my Instagram for more images of Izola. Stay tuned for more Postcards from Slovenia coming soon…