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Fabulous vacation to Slovenia, Italy & Croatia!

Fabulous vacation to Slovenia, Italy & Croatia!

Old Oct 6th, 2023, 03:20 PM
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Fabulous vacation to Slovenia, Italy & Croatia!

Our first visit to Croatia was in 2017 and we loved it so much that we knew we would soon return. Croatia isnít a country that has a great train system so we had hired Private Tours Croatia to take care of all our transportation and accommodation needs in 2017. They did such an excellent job that we used them again for our second visit and used them for 2 weeks for private tours and drivers for Slovenia, Italy and Croatia visit. It was a fabulous trip where we didnít have to stress about anything.

We left on September 14, 2023 for 16 days- 2 days flying and 14 nights. Ljubljana, Slovenia Trieste, Italy was new places for us. Our flight from the West Coast was on Lufthansa Airlines that flew us to Frankfurt, Germany and then we flew into Ljubljana, Slovenia. Our driver was there waiting for us at Ljubljana airport so it was a beautiful drive through the country side.

I was a bit skeptical since Slovenia had suffered severe rains that cause flooding earlier in the summer but it didnít affect Ljubljana. It is very green with lots of trees and it was about 30 min drive to the Hotel Grand Union (4 stars) which was located in the pedestrian only area. Our driver had to drop us off a few yards away so not far at all to walk to the hotel. The hotel was in a great location and served an excellent breakfast.

Ljubljana is a beautiful place and the Capitol of Slovenia. Lots of bridges and baroque architecture reminded us of Prague. There are lots of young people in the city as there is a University so lots of energy. The food carts and cafes on one side of the river is where more of the young people hang out and then on the other side of the river is for older people as our tour guide mentioned. I guess we fit the older group. LOL.

There was a castle where you could either hike to or take the tram up. Beautiful views from the top. A nice surprise is that there a couple of restaurants here. One is a Michelin rated restaurant but they werenít open yet so we found a wine tasting place called Grajska Vinoteka. It has an small outdoor patio, as well as rooms inside and on the bottom floor is where you could get wine, coffee or snacks and sit outside and have a terrific view of the city. We didnít discovered this bottom floor until after our wine tasting inside. The wine tasting was 30 euros each and it included a charcuterie board and the prosciutto was being sliced off from a ham on a spindle. Slovenia has some very good wines and it went well with the tasty cheeses and meats.

One day we went to Bled which is one of Ljubljana touristy spots. It was about an hour drive from the city and beautiful landscape. We took a boat across the lake and went to visit the church that sits on top of a small island. There is like about 100 steps going up to see the church but it was manageable. We also drove to visit the castle nearby. We loved Ljubljana and could have spent more time here.

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Old Oct 6th, 2023, 04:09 PM
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More soon, please portobelloB!
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Old Oct 6th, 2023, 05:03 PM
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Fabulous Vacation to Slovenia, Italy & Croatia 9/23

Hotel Grand Union

Ljubljana Main Center

Ljubljana Castle

Wine tasting at Grajska Vinoteka on top of Castle.

Food carts

Bled - Boat trip to a little island Blejski otok where you can make a wish at the church bell.

View from Bled's Castle - Julian Alps

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Old Oct 6th, 2023, 05:21 PM
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Stunning shots, portobelloB.
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Old Oct 6th, 2023, 05:46 PM
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Trieste, Italy

Trieste, Italy was our next stop. On the way here, we stopped at Postojna Cave. It is impressive karst phenomenon where it was about a 2 hour tour. You ride an open electric train half way and then walk the rest. I think my walking app said I walked 1.7 miles. The floor can be wet in certain spots so it advisable to wear good walking shoes (no sandals). I thought they would give us an audio as we got closer to the train but they didnít. I would grab an audio as soon as you go through the front entrance of the cave.

Our hotel in Trieste was Savoia Excelsior Palace (4 stars) which was across from the water. We have been to Italy many times and been to Venice which is close by. Not much really happening on the pier except the US Aircraft Carrier Gerald Ford was in the port. Lots of US Navy personnel in the city. Funny that one shop owner who learned I was from America quickly associated that I was with the US Aircraft Carrier. LOL. The hotel was near the main plaza where historic government buildings, hotels & restaurants are. We spent a couple of evenings at Harryís Bar and enjoyed drinking ďCampari SpritzersĒ feeling very Italian. A couple of restaurants didnít have it on their cocktail menu but happily served us whenever we requested the drink. There is a canal in the middle of town where there was a water polo match happening on our first day.

We walked over to see the Roman theatre at the foot of the St. Giusto hill. Walked up to see the Baroque Church of St. Mary, built by the Jesuits. Also, another reason coming here was because my DH had the best tasting beer called ďTheresianerĒ (named after Empress Theresa) in Milan one year and it was from Trieste. Needless to say, we were on a mission to find it and finally on the last day was able to enjoy this wonderful cold beer. We stayed each location for three nights but only 2 nights in Slovenia. This is where I would have spent more time in Slovenia.

Postojna Cave
Impressive Karst phenomenon and where we saw the rare Proteus Anguinus who can exist without food for up to 10 years!

View from our hotel Savoia Excelsior Palace

Harry's Bar

Water Polo

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Old Oct 6th, 2023, 07:35 PM
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Beautiful Croatia

Our next country was Croatia, where we visited Rovinj on the Istrian Peninsula. This was a place in Croatia that we didnít visit in 2017. It reminded me of St. Tropez, France as the main town sits around the harbor in an almost pedestrian free area. They only allow necessary delivery trucks and taxis through this section and our driver has to go and obtain a keycard for the kiosk first to drop us off at Hotel Adriatic (4 stars). I'm not sure how tourists with rental cars can navigate these towns if they are first timers. There is also lots of tolls on the roads. This was a beautiful town and #1 destination in Croatia, 2nd is Dubrovnik. Lots of tourists from Italy, Germany and Austria come here as it's closer for them to be near the Adriatic Sea.

We did day trips to visit small hilltop villages. One day we went to Groznjan (small artisan place) and then to Motovun. There is a wonderful restaurant called Mondo where we enjoyed a 3 course Istrian meal. I love these charming little villages with shops selling mostly truffles, olive oils and Mistletoe brandy! We also visited the smallest town in the world called Hum (Only 18 people live here.) It was a tiny charming place that our driver took us to.

Istria region is known for their truffles so one day we went truffle hunting at a family run farm. They use dogs for their truffle hunting and the Italian Waterdog found three black truffles in the nearby woods. We sat down to have a 4 course truffle meal afterwards. I bought some truffle honey, truffle balsamic and truffles to bring back home to recreate our Croatian meal. Also, later we did wine tasting at Matosevic Winery. That is the nice thing about having a driver is that you don't need to worry if you want to enjoy some wine. Honestly, it was too much to do in one day.

After three nights in Rovinj, we headed for Split. We stopped at the National Park Plitvice (Unesco sight) which was about 3 1/2 hours drive. We didnít see this place on our first trip so I wanted to see it. I didnít realize how far of a drive it is from Rovinj to Split and this seemed out of the way. We got to the park at noon which was good because it took us about 2 hours to go see most of the 16 lakes and waterfalls. The lakes are beautiful as they are every shade of turquoise from the minerals in the water. However, later in the afternoon, there were huge tour groups so it was a bit challenging to get around them on the narrow wooden paths.

We started at the first entrance as it goes directly to the main waterfalls and probably the most scenic part of the park so if you have limited time, I would recommend this entrance. We thought of taking the boat to the upper lakes (second entrance) but the lines for the boats were a long wait so we skipped it as we still had another 3 hour drive to Split from the park. It was a long day.

Split was a welcomed sight as we had stayed here before at the Hotel Cornaro (5 stars). It is right next to the Diocletian Palace so very convenient to everywhere. Plus, the hotel has a wonderful rooftop bar where the view is amazing!

It was fun browsing through the shops and having drinks on the promenade. I love hard cider and found a wonderful Sommersby hard cider that was served over ice. It is much lighter than beer or wine and just refreshing so it almost was a requirement before we sat down to make sure a place had it. It was warm weather in Croatia so it was necessary to have cold drinks in the afternoon. We didn't have one bad meal on this trip but our favorite places in Split was Favola Konoba and Portofino.

We took a Cataman over to the Island of Hvar. One of the top ten most beautiful islands in the world. It was a nice sailing and only about 50 minutes away.

Our boutique hotel was Villa Nora (3 stars) and we stayed here before in 2017. We were here for 3 nights.This small hotel is run by two sisters (Natalia & Rosa) who took good care of us. Natalia was there to greet us at the ferry landing. She remembered me from our first visit and that was sweet. We could have found the hotel easily by ourselves as it is only like a 5-10 min walk from the ferry landing.

We were in a different room this time (#2) that was above the restaurant. At night it could be sometimes noisy but we were so tired that I could still fall asleep. It might be hard for some to have the church bells rings all the time but it didnít really bother us. We had a small balcony which was nice to relax and enjoy a glass of wine.

There is a nice rooftop restaurant called Grand Luna which is right next door and so we went over for dinner. They were full but somehow found a table for us after they learned we had eaten here before when they first opened in 2017. This place is always busy so best make dinner reservations. There is a Croatian meal called Pasticada which is like a beef goulash and we love it here.

There is a main path to the right of the main square that goes along the water. A nice walk to watch the boats and yachts squeeze into the tiny harbor. The beaches are rocky and you might find a tiny spot to lay your towel down but there are also comfy lounge chairs you can rent at the beach clubs along the path. Beautiful scenery and the water is so clear.

You can walk up to the Fortica Fortress which you can see from the town. There are stairs that goes right up from the main square until it ends and then you walk along the zig zag dirt trail. The view is amazing from the top. They have a small cafe with tables outside and we enjoyed some drinks here to cool off. They had my favorite ďSommersbyĒ hard cider! Also, check out the cute little gift shop next to the cafe. There were inexpensive souvenirs that cost less then what they were selling on the promenade below.

Our hotel was only a few steps away from a grocery store, fruit stand and bakery. It was also next to the bus location where we took a bus to the other side of the island called Stari Grad.
It was only 5 euros each way per person instead of the taxis that was charging $45-60 euros (one way). The charter bus was clean and had air conditioning which was welcomed during the warm weather.

During our visit, the bus had limited runs. It was 9:45am and 12:30 pm leaving Hvar. The return times from Stari Grad was 2:30pm or 10pm. There is a bus schedule that post the times. It was hard to find the times on the Internet and even our hotel didn't have the right times as September they reduced the runs. Stari Grad is small port town and very few people. My DH really liked this place because itís like Hvar but without the people. I looked around at the little shops and then we had lunch at a shady spot called Rocco overlooking the waters. Leaving at 9:45am and returning at 2:30pm was perfect for us.

Another perk of Villa Nora is they do laundry for which after awhile we were running out of clean clothes. We dropped off our laundry bag in the morning and they came back in the early evening all nicely folded. I thought it was very inexpensive to have our laundry done here. It was 20 euros.

Croatia had changed their currency to the Euros this year. We still had some old Croatian currency leftover from our first visit and luckily we found out that the banks are require to exchanged the old currency we had to Euros. Banks are required to make the exchange through 2023.

The one thing I noticed this time is there were a lot more Americans in Croatia! When we first came here in 2017 I felt like we were one of the few Americans here. I can see why Croatia is so popular now as itís really is a beautiful and magical place to visit.

Along the Rovinj harbor

Charming town

Groznjan (small hilltop artisan village)

Truffle hunting

Plitvice National Park (Unesco site)

Split's promenade

Diocletian's Palace in Split



View from Fortica Fortress, Hvar

Hvar Beach Clubs

One of the beaches on Hvar


Stari Grad on Hvar

Stari Grad

portobelloB is offline  
Old Oct 7th, 2023, 12:11 PM
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Great photos. We were there about the same that you were, September 18-29

You were lucky to see Plitvice Lakes in the sun. Our day was pouring rain so not so good.

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Old Oct 12th, 2023, 04:36 PM
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Love your photos! I recognize the Hvar Beach Clubs. We visited for a day from Split. Wish we had the time to stay overnight.
I wish we had time to visit Rovinj. It looks lovely!
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