Just this past weekend I took off on my very first road trip now that my car has arrived here in Italy, I am not bound by limits of a rental car contract. This 4 day trip to Slovenia was planned out over a month ago at the recommendation of a few other local base contractors who had been there and shown be pictures of the sights and the cuisine of this neighboring country whose border is just an hour away from me in Aviano. Let me take you on a journey through my first of many, many more road trips near and far alike to come each month from here on out.
I left on Thursday evening April 25th and had plans to make 1 stop in Gorizia Italy to hit up a fantastic restaurant known for massive portions of family-style Italian and Slovenian classics. The venue is located just 2km from the IT/SLO border and made for an ideal stop before finishing the 3 hours and change long drive (157 miles from Aviano to Bled Slovenia(SLO). Sadly due to the Italian liberation holiday, I found the place very much closed! I was bummed to say the least. I walked around and looked for a plan B and after half an hour just randomly chose what was closest to me. This turned out to be a fantastic choice. I found the neatest little pizzeria/bar called Elliot Bar Gorizia
It looked a bit iffy as a small spot in a back road away from the main piazza but the crowd of vocal locals laughing out front with beer and appetizers lured me in. I came in and checked out the joint and met the owner. He spoke very little English but we managed fine. I told him what I like most and wanted to try and he went to work in the kitchen as he is also the cook besides manning the bar. I sat outside and conversed with the whole group of 7-8 Italians and one younger teen. I got to work on my Italian big time let me tell you. One of the men spoke decent English and between he and I were able to communicate fine with each other and the group. I loved every minute of it. My meal was fantastic as well. The owner whipped me up some Ljubianska, the pasta of the day, fresh baked bread, house wine, and grilled veggies. Tell me this doesn't look dang good!
|red & white house vino|
|pasta della casa|
|sauteed celery & eggplant|
|cafe and biscotti|
I would have stayed longer but with night approaching and 90 minutes of drive time ahead, I had to scoot out and be on my way. This will however e a return spot for a bite anytime crossing into SLO from IT(Italy).
I got into Bled about 10pm Thursday night to my hotel located just a block away from the infamous Lake Bled. I unpacked and chugged a shake with some fruit and almonds for dinner and got my butt to bed as the next day had big plans!
Day 1: Lake Bled perimeter walk (6km) and Vintgar Gorge (10-minute drive from my hotel in Bled. It took me ~90 minutes to complete the gorge by parking by the restaurant nearest the gorge entry to the end waterfall and back with stops for lots of pics. Cost 9 Euro per person. Dinner was at Gostlina Pri Planincu where I scored some great wine and amazing meat & veg grubs. Take a look.
|mixed grill plate|
|mixed grilled veggies|
Day 2: Day trip to Ljubljana 35 minutes away from Bled. Hit the gym near the town center at Alfa Gym.
Free use for visitors on their first visit. Talk about an old school badass, true lifter kind of gym! This was it! Crushed a good leg workout, showered up and then it was on to Ljubljana town center.
From noon till 9pm walking all over town getting pictures, sampling food, drinking wine and then making the requisite stop at the famed castle. During my castle tour, I grabbed lunch at the Na Gradu restaurant/bar to tide me over before dinner time.
I spent 3 hours in the Castle and did the audio guide tour which I suggest anyone else going also do to really appreciate what your seeing.
Then after the tour and some more walking around town, got some more sips in at Cacao Cafe Bar with a trifecta of wines on the waterway with the triple bridge crossing in my view. Postcard worthy I tell you!
I then caught dinner at Hisa Pod Gradom where I had 1 of the top 5 meals of my life and I suggest anyone in Ljubljana also go here but be sure to have an RSVP! I saw 10 groups get turned away after my 8pm arrival due to a packed house. So glad I made an RSVP myself, normally I do not dining as just one.
|meat and cheese appetizer|
|mixed meats plate & house tartar sauce|
Day 3: On this day I started early and found a gym just a few miles outside of town called TOP Gym Fitness. It's small but has all the basics one needs and at just 6 Euro for a day pass, a bargain as well. The lead owner and trainer was on vacation but his staff on site were spectacular none the less. Super kind people! Turns out one of the guys in the gym was a former silver medalist for the SLO Olympic row team and he looked the part of one too I must say. Intent to take a pletna (small flat bottom boat) over to the 17th century Island church and visit that first hand. Sadly due to the rain, we had nearly all day the boats did not run so no trip to be had. However, perhaps a good thing as many say that the 12 Euro boat ride and 6 Euro admission for 30 minutes time before your boat leaves...is not worth the cost. I can't say for sure but that does sound expensive for such a short experience.
In place of the Bled Island Chruch visit, I went on the tip from the gym owner and went to the 1 of 5 local museums actually open on a Sunday during the spring season (they start longer hours May 1st for summer) which was the iron forging museum in Krop. The largest producer of nails in the country and one of the' most notable areas for iron ore mining, large foundries, iron smelting, and production of nails of every kind you can think of.
The second half of my day was to go see the 600' high cliffside, 11th-century Bled Castle. Despite the unending rain, I did go for it (it was a 0.5-mile walk from hotel up a hill) and spend the 11 Euro to get inside and see for myself what the scoop really was. The rain certainly killed my chance to get the good shots I wanted to and really spend more time on the outside open spaces. The castle museum was pretty neat IMO. I was not a fan of the 3 souvenir shops in the castle with overpriced items for tourist to feel compelled to buy. A restaurant with a great lake views sure but pricey as heck was also available which took away from the realism of the castle as I see it.
Dinner was then just across the road almost from my hotel as Gostlina Murka. Again, landed myself a good pick with great wine and spectacular local, authentic SLO cuisine with great service. Take a look and see.
Day 4. Out Early but not done yet! I had to be out of the hotel by 10am so I slept in (it is vacation) and got up at 8am, packed up and then walked around town for a bit since the sun was back and the rain is gone. I had a quick but amazing breakfast at Zima Cafe just down from the hotel for s taste of the famous desserts of SLO. For Under 9 Euro I scored these 3 must have sweets if ever in SLO. All less than 8 Euro at that.
Well fed and content as can be I was on the road head back to Italy but not before 2 more awesome stops to round out my vacation/road trip.
The city of Triest, the capital of the Triest province (same as a state in the US) was my next stop. Almost on my route home anyway, it begged a debut stop and I had 3 hours to burn before my 2pm tour group in Prepotto for an Osmiza visit to Skerk to sip, sample and savor some wine and wine facts. Lucky me, also got to not just explore the city of Triest but also found an EATALY store 2 blocks from where I parked! I spent a good hour in the store and another hour plus walking around the city and talking in views if the Gulf of Triest. I will absolutely be back here for a full day trip if not overnight. Being just 90 minutes or so from Aviano it's an easy journey to make.
|downtown waterfront piazza in Triest|
|looksy what i found in Triest!|
25 minutes NW of Triest is the small village of Prepotto where 3rd generation vineyard and Osmiza is located. I joined a group of 4 other Italian guys without guide Tina at 2pm for a 1 hour tour of their estate, vineyard, wine cellar and then of course wine sampling. We tried all 4 of the wines they make and bottle (25k a year). I enjoyed all 4 of them very much but really enjoyed learning about winemaking and grape growing just as much to be honest. Tina was a great guide giving it in both Italian and English for me the sole American on the tour. I lucked out big on this as the Osmiza closes for the spring season May 1st and will not open again until late August for its 2nd and final 3 weeks touring period to the public. I should note that food items produced from the Skerk Osmiza are also available for purchase during open hours and days.
Before drinking too much (it was a tasting after all) I was back on the road to finish my final 75 minutes of drive time to get home and settle in to wind down my trip. Let me now offer a spark notes listing of comments anyone going to SLO and these sites particularly should consider:
1. make Ljublana your home base and then a day trip from there be it Bled or elsewhere. You need to pass Ljubljana anyway to and from IT so this would shorten your drive time by 35 minutes to and from SLO.
2. Do not go to Bled Castle on a rainy day. You miss 90% of the perk of going for pictures of Bled from outside lookouts.
3. Do be sure to go to the viewpoint on the west end (campground end) of Bled Lake to get the same quality and vantage point pics of Bled Lake at no cost at all.
4. Do try the famed cream cake from Kavarna Cafe or Park Hotel as these both started the dessert to begin within 1953 and have never changed it since.
5. Do go check out the iron forging museum in Krop, a short 20-minute drive from Bled and for 3 Euro it's worth it. Plan for an hour to really take in everything.
6. If outdoors and hiking is your thing, I am told the sister lake 30 minutes drive or 45 minutes bus ride, in Bohinj is as good or better than Bled Lake since 0 hotels line the perimeter, it is true nature all by itself. Another but longer Gorge also sits nearby this lake as well with equally good shots to be taken. I did not have time to make it to this location and even so it rained the day I would have gone anyway.
7. SLO does a fantastic job of putting almost anything you would read, hear, see for information needs in SLO, IT, ENG and GER if not more. Locals often speak more than one language as well with ENG being a primary second language.
8. Be sure to check the Ljubljana open kitchen market calendar! I missed this as they did their normal Saturday market on Friday due to the local holiday! I was ticked about this but it was my failure to check and be sure. Every Saturday a massive open kitchen market takes place with dozens of local food vendors opening their kitchens into a street food paradise with cheaper samples of their menus in a grab n go fashion. A foodies dream spot. Let me lack of foresight save you the same disappointment.
Please go check out my new IGTV channel on Instagram as well for some video recaps and insights to the trip. Also check out my facebook page for tons more photos of the sites, places and eats/sips I got on this trip. Always feel free to comment or contact me to ask questions or offer insights to travel and food hotspots.
Arrivaderci a presto mio amici.