Europe Trip Highlights Part 1

Hello everyone! This post has been a while coming- about a month ago, I got back from the most amazing trip ever- probably the best of my life! To back up a bit, Dan and I wanted to take a trip this spring (we usually like to travel during shoulder season and end up going somewhere at the end of April). Dan is very passionate about planning and loves his spreadsheets, so he decided it would be fun to plan an entire trip and have it be a complete surprise to me! In fact, I found out where we were going when we were at the airport of our layover. And our destination?

Ljubljana, Slovenia!!

This is definitely a place I would never think to visit (and when he told me we were going to Ljubljana, embarrassingly enough I had to ask him where that was). When I think of Slovenia I think of the famous lake with the church on an island in the middle, lots of green fields, and mountains. Based on that alone, I was excited!

I have to break up these posts just because we did so much in the 15 days we were there. We ended up staying in Slovenia and Austria, and making trips to Croatia and Italy. We stayed in 5 different cities and did so many cool adventures! Today I'm going to start the posts by talking about our first leg, which was in Izola, a tiny city on the Adriatic coast.

This was such a cute little town and was the perfect way to kick off our trip. Most people stay in a nearby, bigger town called Piran (which we get to soon), but I liked how this was a little smaller and relaxed. We stayed at the Degrassi Boutique Garni Hotel, which is a converted mansion with just a few rooms and great service. We had breakfast there every morning and we really enjoyed the room we got! 

Our first day was spent walking around town and along the water. There was a little beer festival happening at a square right by the marina, so we grabbed some beers and walked around (when we asked how far we could go with open containers, the guy pouring my beer kind of laughed and said "you can keep going to Kazakhstan") and eventually got dinner at Gostilna Sidro along the water and gelato for dessert! The food was great- we noticed a lot of Italian influences in this area with tons of pizzarias and pasta restaurants, and TONS of gelato. Pretty much everyone walking around had a cone!

We woke up early on our first full day in Slovenia and drove down to Croatia. Fun fact- Croatia just joined the Schengen zone earlier this year, so we were able to drive right in. If we did this trip last year we would have had to stop at border patrol (which we drove right through!). Our first stop was a quick hike that was forgettable but a good way to stretch our legs, then we stopped at the Pietrapelosa Castle. The name means "Hairy Stone" because of the moss that grows on the walls (which you can see a little of in the picture above). The castle is now in ruins, but it was really cool to walk around and the views were incredible! The ruins sit atop a hill, so you can really see all around for miles.

Next up was the hilltop town of Motovun. This was such a cute little town with tons of shops and restaurants that served the delicacy the area is known for- truffles! We saw so many truffle shops and restaurants with truffles in every dish. We got some chips as well as Croatian liquor, which we also saw in every shop. It smelled so strongly of the truffles everywhere we walked! Another fun fact- the race car driver Mario Andretti is originally from Motovun. There was a small truffle museum that had a section all about Andretti's accomplishments and his timeline (which seemed to guilt him by marking down the last time he visited the town!).

Next was another hilltop town called Groznjan. You could tell immediately after walking into the main square that this was an artist community. There were little shops and museums everywhere you looked! I could definitely tell why- this is one of the most quaint and picturesque areas I've ever seen. Brightly colored houses mixed with cobblestone streets and flowers of every color, with hillside views everywhere you looked- it definitely inspired me to want to paint immediately. We ended up buying some art while we were here, and visiting was a highlight of this first leg for me.

After all that exploring and walking, we needed some sustenance. We decided to head to San Servolo. This is a brewery that is also home to a hotel and beer spa. You read that right! When Dan was planning this trip he originally had us staying here, but it didn't end up working out with the timelines. I was happy to stop by and would definitely stay here in the future. There were so many types of lodging options here, from camping areas to glamping cabins and regular rooms and tiny houses. It was such a neat area! We had pizza and beer, which really hit the spot.

Our final stop of the day was Piran! The town is just down the coast from where we were staying, but felt so different. Most of the city is made up of pedestrian streets, so you have to park outside of the city walls and walk in. The walls themselves were really cool to explore- you had great views of all of the city and the water around it. Really beautiful!

Once we got into the city, we just wandered around for a while. I loved the marina area and all of the big squares. We also had dinner here, but it was pretty horrible (luckily it was our only bad meal of the trip!). By this point we were pretty beat, so we headed back to Izola for a nightcap at a tiny wine shop called Manzioli Wine Bar that we loved!

Our final full day in Izola was a rainy one, so we changed our plans to spend our morning in a cave. We drove up to Grotto Gigante and had a guided tour (in Italian- so we just hung back and took in the sights). The cave was incredible and, like the name implies, gigantic! There were 500 steps down and 500 steps up, so it was a great morning workout! 

It was still raining a bit when we got out, but we decided to brave the weather to visit Miramare Castle right outside of Trieste, Italy. The grounds were PACKED with a long line to get in, so we decided to stay outside and just visit the castle gardens (which are free). There were so many cool paths to explore with amazing views of the castle.

After exploring the castle, we headed into the city of Trieste. We heard mixed reviews of the city but we both really enjoyed it! Even though it was a dreary day outside, it was fun to duck into cafes for some capuccinos, do some browsing at stores, and wander the streets. One of my favorite stops was at Al Ciketo, which looked a little dive bar-y from the outside but ended up having some of the best spritz we had on the trip for an amazing price!

Another fun stop was at Piccola Vineria, which is a tiny little wine shop with cute seating outside. The workers were so friendly and helped us pick out wine, and there's nothing better than sitting outside, on vacation in Italy, drinking wine. This was one of those pure bliss moments!

We ended the first leg of our trip with another spritz (this is a Hugo which is quickly becoming a favorite) at one of the cute water-front bars in Izola. We kept walking by this one ( Bar Vitamincek) and loved the atmosphere. It felt so tropical and reminded me of beach bars in Hawaii- loved it!

Our next leg was probably my favorite, and I can't wait to share all of the fun activities we did there. Stay tuned!


  1. Oh, my goodness, not knowing the destination before I go would send me into an anxiety/panic spiral for WEEKS beforehand! I admire your trust of Dan to take you somewhere fun that you would also ENJOY! He clearly knows you well. :)

    1. He's probably the only person I would trust! But I also love surprises so it was just fun for me all around! Everyone else in my life thinks I'm crazy for letting him plan it all lol


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