It’s no secret to their European neighbors that both Slovenia and Croatia have a rich culinary landscape. They are quickly becoming synonymous with the foodie culture and slow-food movement and their wines are now bringing home awards and accolades on a regular basis. Many of these wine making traditions go back centuries, some to Roman times. In all corners of the land one can taste family recipes made with locally-grown produce, fresh in-season ingredients and served up with a lot of love.
While running small group tours to Slovenia and Croatia for the past 6 years, I routinely heard from guests how undersold the food and wine was. This new tour is designed to showcase the best food, wine and culinary traditions that these small yet diverse regions have to offer. And there’s no better time of year to immerse in this culinary utopia than the harvest season.
Most of the tourists have gone home, the leaves are turning color, vineyards are being harvested and the smell of wood stoves and heavenly aromas float through the cool air. This unique tour features a variety of slow-food meals and home-cooked dinners, walks in Slovenia's beautiful wine country, nearly a dozen wine tastings and an array of truffles, olive oils and melt-in-your-mouth pastas. This tour takes guests to numerous micro-regions where we pair culinary traditions and wine making. Places include the Slovenian regions of Jerusalem, Goriska Brda, Vipava Valley and the Karst. Croatian regions include Istria, Kvarner and the island of Krk.
Eleven days of stimulating one's taste buds can be a bit much. That’s why there will be time for curious guests to back away from the kitchen table and go explore castles, stroll through old Venetian towns, discover colorful frescoes in tiny churches and make a personal connection between the food, the land and its people. Like with our other tours, a maximum group size of six guests lends itself to a more intimate travel experience served up with a genuine, personal touch. Featured wines: Sipon, Beli Pinto, Jeruzalemcan (blended). Featured food: Bograc (Slovenian meat stew similar to goulash), Ajdov Krapec (buckwheat flat cake).
Day 1: Jeruzalem, Slovenia. Our tour begins with a transfer from Ljubljana airport to our hotel, tucked away in the small town of Jeruzalem. This small hill town surrounded by vineyards is located in the middle of Slovenia’s most scenic wine growing regions. Drive time between airport and here is around 2 hours. Guests will be enjoy a tasting of many of the local white wines before sitting down at the hotel’s cellar restaurant to enjoy a hearty welcome dinner with the tour leader and each other. Featured wines: Sipon, Beli Pinto, Jeruzalemcan (blended). Featured food: Bograc (Slovenian meat stew similar to goulash), Ajdov Krapec (buckwheat flat cake). Overnight at the hotel (4-stars). Includes: (D).
Day 2: Jeruzalem, Slovenia. Start off the morning with a easy walk through the terraced vineyards of Jeruzalem where we’ll see the unique Klopotec (16th century wooden windmills). They are a symbol of this area and scare away birds and even snakes as the local legends have it. Then we will pay a visit to Slovenia’s oldest town of Ptuj, founded by Romans in the first century AD. We will have a walking tour of the old town also its castle. We will have lunch in the countryside then visit a family-run winery that has had vineyards planted since 1542. Whites are the predominate wines in this part of Slovenia. Our last stop of the day will be a visit to the bee keeping museum where guests will get to try home made gingerbread, honey liqueur and different sorts of honey. A delicious slow-food dinner should leave everyone happy and no one hungry. Featured wines: Samling, Yellow Muscat, local ice wines. Featured food: Pork in white wine sauce, home-made sausages, Gibanica (Slovenian multi-layered cake). Overnight at the hotel (4-stars). Included: (B, L, D).
Day 3: Goriska Brda region of Slovenia. Today we leave the east and head west to another of Slovenia’s premier wine regions. On the way there we’ll pay a visit to the castle of Predjama, tucked away in a honeycomb of limestone caves. Then it is off to the vineyards, orchards and winding country roads of Goriska Brda. This stunning but small pocket of wine country sits right on the border with Italy and despite its size, it is one of the foremost wine producing regions in the country. We’ll start our time in Brda with lunch at a nearby 17th century Renaissance castle. Featured wines: Ribolla Gialla, Sivi Pinot, Chardonnay. Featured foods: Baked pork chops, chestnut dumplings, pasta with arugula. Overnight: Kabaj Morel guesthouse. Included: (B, L, D).
Day 4: Goriska Brda region of Slovenia. Following breakfast we will take a tour of the largest winery in the region, a co-operative serving over 500 private vineyards. Our hosts at the guesthouse, Slovenian Katja Kabaj and her French husband Jean Michel, will then present us with a a very special 5-course ‘slow-food’ lunch. This meal includes wine tasting - a different wine with each course They offer a selected range of Mediterranean dishes and Brda specialties, with a mixture of flavors and aromas of rosemary, lavender, wine and sage, providing a true gourmet experience. In the late afternoon guests can tour the family’s vineyard and cellar. The Morels have been making wine since 1993 using old traditional methods including the use of amphoras. A modest dinner at the guesthouse. Featured wines: Golden Rebula, Cuvée Morel (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend). Featured food: gnocchi with prsut and fennel sauce, wild boar with white polenta in a red wine sauce. Overnight: Kabaj Morel guesthouse. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 5: Karst region of Slovenia. We leave Brda region and drive south about an hour to the Karst region. Guest will enjoy a walking tour at Stanjel, the region’s most captivating hill town, with many lovely old stone houses, an art gallery in a refurbished castle, pretty gardens and views over the Karst. Lunch will be provided in the courtyard of the Stanjel castle. In the afternoon we’ll pay a visit to the Lipica horse farm. Enjoy a Lipizanner carriage ride through the pretty back country. Overnight and traditional dinner with local wine, prosciutto and other regional specialties at the Skerlj farmhouse which has been in the family for over 400 years. Just make sure to save room for their honey ice-cream! Featured wines: Teran. Featured food: Beefsteak w/Kraški pršut in teran wine sauce. Overnight: Skerlj farmhouse. Included: (B, L, D).
Day 6: Karst region of Slovenia. Today we welcome Matjaz, the owner of Tilia Wines, as our guest tour guide. His father managed the largest wine cooperative in the adjacent Vipava Valley during the Yugoslav years. Now Matjaz has his own private winery which is quickly approaching 10 hectars. His Pinot Grigio is the staple of the line and is heavenly. We will start our day in the small village of Goče village for a tasting and then work our way over to a few more small wineries in the Vipava Valley. Lunch will be picnic style wihtth a view down on the valley. We’ll end our day at Tilia for a tasting of their wines along with fresh cheese, walnut oil and dried meats. Dinner at the Skerlj farmhouse. Featured wines: Pinot Noir, a young and fruity Pinot Grigio. Featured food: Veal with struklji (dumplings), Jota (traditional sour soup of the region). Overnight: Skerlj farmhouse. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 7: Lovran, Croatia. Today our tour moves from Slovenia down to Croatia. We will head into the Kvarner region and visit the island of Krk, the largest of Croatia’s nearly 1,000 islands. We’ll lunch at one of the region’s top restaurants in Vrbnik, a small town perched on a hill overlooking the Adriatic. After lunch you’ll have time to explore the narrow streets, old churches and sample the island’s golden Zlahtina wine. Featured drinks: Zlahtina white wine, Brajdica red wine (indigenous to Krk), Smokovaca (fig brandy).
Day 8: Istria, Croatia. In the morning there will be a short tour around many of the late 19th century Hapsburgs’ villas that line the charming town of Lovran. Then we head into Croatia’s Istria region which is well known for medieval hill-towns, wine, truffles and other gastronomic delights. Guided walking tour of Rovinj, Istria’s most charming seaside town. The Church of St Euphemia’s tower might look a little familiar, it was modelled after St. Mark’s in Venice. After a group lunch the afternoon will be at your leisure to explore art shops and galleries on the well-known Grisia Street, browse the outdoor market or get lost in a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets. Enjoy a coffee or gelato at one of many cafes on the main square or perhaps a glass of wine at a secluded bar overlooking the Adriatic. Featured food (Rovinj): fresh seafood, Manestra (Istrian soup of beans, corn, bacon and potatoes). Featured food (La Parenzana): Ombolo (pork loin),beefsteaks, wild mushrooms. Overnight: La Parenzana B and B. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 9: Istria region of Croatia. All day excursion exploring Istrian towns. villages, vineyards and craftsmen. Enjoy delicious regional cuisine for lunch followed by opportunities to taste and buy local truffles, olive oils and wines. We will have some extra time to browse the charming hill-town of Groznjan. What once was nearly a ghost town twenty years ago has now been transformed into an artists colony. Today it’s bustling with artists galleries, handmade jewelry shops and gourmet food shops. Guests will also visit an olive mill, learn the process of making extra virgin oil and then join one of the country’s finest producers at a tasting in his home. Featured drinks: Wines from local producers, Komovica Brandy (from mistletoe leaves). Featured food: Kobasice (Home made Istrian sausages), Pršut, lamb and potatoes slow-cooked Ispod pekom (under the lid) in the fireplace, extra-virgin olive oil tasting with local producer, wine tasting with local vintner. Overnight: La Parenzana B and B. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 10: After breakfast, guests will have a chance to step into the kitchen and make their own lunch. They will participate in making bread and regional pastas such as fuzi and gnocchi. They will also learn to make Fritule, Croatia’s delicious version of a doughnut. In the afternoon, guests will get another special hands-on experience as we join with locals and their canine friends to hunt for truffles burried under Istria’s fertile soil. Everyone can enjoy a nice view of Istria’s interior from the top of Motovun, the region’s charming hill town. Our last dinner in Croatia back at La Parenzana. Featured drinks: Teran wine, Malvazija wine. Featured food: Home made Fuži and Njoki (gnocchi) with truffles or beef goulash. Fritule (Croatian doughnuts). Overnight: La Parenzana B and B. Includes: (B, L, D).
Day 11: As head to our final destination near Lake Bled we will stop at a stone church in a small village surrounded by vineyards. Here at Hrastovlje lies the Church of Holy Trinity with its magnificent wall-to-wall frescoes including a unique painting of the Dance of the Macabre. Continuing on we will enjoy our last lunch at Bled Castle, overlooking the lake and mountains. Afterwards we will take a gondola ride out to Bled island and have some free time to relax at Lake Bled. A farewell dinner of hearty Slovenian fare in the small medieval town Radovljica will conclude our tour. Transfer to airport the following morning. Feature drink: Slovenian brandy and aperitif. Featured food: pumpkin soup, Žlikrofi (traditional Slovenian ravioli), apple strudel. Overnight: La Parenzana B and B. Includes: (B, L, D).
Price: $3550 based on 4 person minimum.
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