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Goriška Brda: Slovenia’s Tuscany

Covering 72km2 of rolling hills between the Soča River and Italian border, Brda is one of Slovenia’s foremost wine-growing areas and only an hour’s drive from Ljubljana. Often described as a miniature version of Tuscany, every hill seems to be topped with a large church surrounded by a charming little village, while the hillsides and valleys in between are blanketed with vineyards, orchards and winding country roads.

Aside from a few larger estates and one cooperative, most of the vineyards are smaller family-run operations, and almost all offer some combination of wine tastings, tours, meals, accommodation and of course wine sales. The region is also known for its traditional Italian-influenced cuisine, and a trip to Brda without enjoying a slow multi-course meal on a terrace overlooking the vineyards almost defeats the entire purpose. The tourist information office at Dobrovo Castle is well-stocked with multi-lingual maps, brochures and other literature, and a great place to start for first-time visitors.

We’ve included some additional highlights from Brda below, but you can find lots more information on the region in the newest edition of The Slovenia Book: Top 100 Destinations.

GRAD DOBROVO:  If you’ve never been to Brda before, Dobrovo Castle is a logical first stop on your tour. The region’s well-stocked and extremely helpful tourist information centre is located in the courtyard, where you can also find the Briška Butiehca shop, packed with handmade gifts and souvenirs crafted by local artists, artisans and farmers. Info: Grajska 10, Dobrovo v Brdih, +386 (0)5 395 95 95, tic@brda.si, www.brda.si.

ŠMARTNO: If there’s a more picturesque village anywhere in Slovenia (or Italy for that matter), then we have yet to see it. Surrounded by medieval walls with five preserved towers, the entire crescent-shaped hilltop village has deservedly been declared a cultural monument. The largest church in all of Brda can be found in the centre of the village and is naturally dedicated to St Martin, the patron saint of wine.

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GONJAČE LOOKOUT TOWER:  In this region of extraordinary views, perhaps the very best can be found just to the northeast of Šmartno in the small village of Gonjače. On clear days, the 23m lookout tower offers unobstructed views in all directions, with the Dolomites and Julian Alps to the north, the Friulian plain to the west, the Gulf of Trieste to the south, and the forests of Trnovo and Vipava Valley to the east.

MEDANA:  Located on a hilltop in the southwest corner of Brda, just several hundred metres from the Italian border, the small village of Medana has an outsized reputation for both wine (obviously) and art. With gorgeous sweeping views of the Vipolže plain below, it’s no surprise that Medana’s most famous son is the prolific poet and polyglot Alojz Gradnik.

SABOTIN PEACE PARK: When coming to Brda from Nova Gorica via the famed Solkan Bridge, the only road quite strangely requires that you first pass through several hundred metres of Italian territory before reaching the village of Podsabotin, which lies below and takes its name from Sabotin Hill. Part of the front lines during WWI, following the conflict the Italians designated the hill as an open-air museum and memorial park.

HIKING & CYCLING: With its beautiful hilly landscape and abundance of picturesque village and settlements at which to stop, Brda is a perfect destination for hiking and cycling enthusiasts, and the local tourist office has prepared helpful brochures covering eight suggested hiking trails and nine cycling paths through the region.

CHERRY FESTIVAL & BRDA WEDDING: Despite its reputation as Slovenia’s premier wine growing district, it’s not all about viticulture in Goriška Brda. In fact, the largest annual event in the region is held in celebration not of the grape, but the cherry. Attracting some 30,000 visitors, the festival offers a diverse programme of events and activities.

To discover other unique places in Slovenia, check out THE SLOVENIA BOOK – AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO THE BEST OF SLOVENIA

Texts by Yuri Barron, Edited by Jana Studen
Cover photo courtesy of  www.brda.si.