Parenzana was a 123.1 km long narrow-gauge railway line, connecting 33 places in Istria.
From Trieste to Poreč; today it would pass the territories of three countries: Italy 13 km, Slovenia 32 km, and Croatia 78 km.
Opening the railway
The railway line was opened on 1 April 1902 when, in spite of many problems and postponements, the first train started from Buje to Trieste; in December of the same year, also the section from Buje to Poreč was completed to the pleasure and satisfaction of the inhabitants in the hinterlands of Istria, impatiently waiting for the completion of the long-promised project.
History of the name
Although the builders named the railway Parenzaner Bahn (Poreč Railway), the Slavic population called it Istrijanka and Istranka (after Istria) or Poreška and Porečanka (after Poreč), and the Italians called it Parenzana. Regardless of what it was called, the railroad meant life for the region it ran through; on its 123 km long route, the small, slow train was puffing every day through hilly and diverse karst areas, carrying passengers, salt from the Piran and Sečovlje salt pans, olive oil from Buje and Motovun, fruit, vegetables, Istrian stone, lime, flour, and wine.
The railway line was closed in 1935, but although it only operated for 33 years, it has left an indelible stamp on the entire region. At the 100th anniversary of the railway’s opening, an initiative arose to restore this unique railway, which was connecting people and nations at the beginning of the 20th century.
Although until recently it was but a romantic ruin, in some parts almost unrecognizable, sunk in the greenery of the hilly landscape, Parenzana, the old narrow-gauge railway, running through a picturesque terrain between Trieste and Poreč, is like the heart line on the palm deeply imprinted on the map of the destiny of the Istrian Peninsula.
Perhaps nowhere else in the world there exists a similar railway which rails, locomotives and wagons were sold at public auctions a long time ago or are now slumbering in museums, while its imaginary trains are still quietly and steadily running through the landscape of Istrian consciousness, strongly resisting the oblivion brought by time’s passing.
Aware of the amazing beauty of the route outline, intertwined with the Istrian landscape, numerous passionate hikers, researchers, cyclists, and nature fans have always been emphasizing its potential if the route were properly revived.
The various ideas had been moving from the complete reconstruction of the railway and purchase of new locomotives to asphalting of the route and turning it into a walking and cycling path; however, it was not until the centennial of its opening, in 2002, that the first concrete ideas appeared, leading to an invitation to tender for the elaboration of landscape valorization/planning project for the Parenzana Railway.
Parenzana – the route of health and friendship
Thus the Istria County, its Department for Tourism and the newly established Association for the Reconstruction of the Poreč-Koper-Trieste Railway laid the foundation for the future project designated as “Parenzana – The Route of Health and Friendship”.
Parenzana Magic project
Following the implementation of two previously successful projects, the Parenzana Magic 2014 project continues, with EU co-financing, creating a Parenzana tourist destination to combine natural and cultural heritage into a common tourism product and strengthen cycling infrastructure to develop Parenzana as a cultural and sporting destination.
Today, Parenzana is the most famous and most visited cycling and walking trail in Istria.