If you are an outdoors and adventure lover and wine and food enthusiast, this itinerary will be perfect for you! We combined this trip with an additional stop in Bosnia to see the family in the summer of 2019 and enjoyed it immensely. It is packed for 15 days, and if you can squeeze in a couple of rest days, it would be great and give you time to rejuvenate. Unfortunately, we only had 15 days, but if you are lucky enough to have more time, we will suggest additional things to do.
This itinerary starts with a visit to Italy, a ferry ride to Croatia, and driving to Slovenia. It is packed with adventurous things to do as well as relaxing days by the water or visiting wineries. We have also provided maps to help with the planning.
Things to know before visiting:
How to get here
We flew into Venice, Italy, and flew out of Zagreb, Croatia. When you arrive at the Venice Marco Polo airport, you can either take a bus to Piazzale Roma and then hop on the Vaporetto (Venice’s water taxis) or take a water bus to the city. There are a few different lines you can take that stop in different parts of the city so you can pick the closest one to your accommodation.
There is still a high probability that you will have to carry your luggage across at least one of the bridges at some point while in Venice, so keep that in mind when packing.
Another option is to hire a private water taxi that will take you as close as possible to your accommodations. Private water taxis are the fastest way to get to Venice and at the same time, much more expensive than the other options.
The main reason for flying out of Zagreb, Croatia instead of Ljubljana, Slovenia is that for part of our trip, we rented a car in Croatia and used it while driving around Slovenia. If you return a rental car to another country, the fees are astronomical. Plus, there are more options for flights to the US from Zagreb than there are from Ljubljana, and it’s only about a two-hour drive between them.
How to get around
In Italy, trains are the best way to get around from city to city. In the town, most of the time it’s best to see everything on foot, or in Venice, you have the option of using the vaporettos.
There are buses and trains in Slovenia and Croatia, but they are terribly slow. However, this itinerary is truly only possible in this time frame by renting a car, check out our blog post about Tips for Renting a Car in Europe.
All three of these countries are part of the European Union, but Croatia has its own currency – the Kuna. Slovenia and Italy use the Euro.
Credit cards are widely accepted in all three countries. Make sure to use a credit card that does not have foreign exchange fees.
All three countries are safe for tourists, but like everywhere else, be respectful of the local ways and traditions.
This Itinerary is Good For
- City lovers and explorers
- Nature lovers and hikers
- Adventure seekers
- Wine and food lovers
- Scenic drives
Italy, Slovenia and Croatia Itinerary
Day 1 – Arrive in Venice
Day 2 – Venice
Day 3 – Venice to Verona (by Train)
Day 4 – Day Trip to Emilia-Romagna Region
Day 5 – Verona to Bolzano
Day 6 – Bolzano Day Hike
Day 7 – Bolzano Day Hike
Day 8 – Bolazon to Venice To Porec, Croatia
Day 9 – Porec
Day 10 – Porec
Day 11- Porec
Day 12 – Porec To Ljubljana, Slovenia
Day 13 – Lake Bled
Day 14 – Lake Bohinj
Day 15 – Ljubljana to Zagreb
Day 1 – Arrive in Venice
Coming from the US, the chances are that you will be arriving in Venice in the morning or early afternoon, which still gives you plenty of time to explore the city.
After checking in to your accommodations, make your way to St. Mark’s Square for some refreshments and real food (not airplane food). We booked a visit to the St. Mark’s Campanile ahead of time online to skip the line and did that as soon as we arrived. The bell tower gives you great views of St. Mark’s Square.
In the same square is the Doge’s Palace, where you can learn about Venice’s art, culture, and history right after visiting the Campanile. Save the evening for visiting St. Mark’s Basilica.
We booked a walking tour that takes a couple of hours to see the inside of the basilica, mainly for its world-renowned gold mosaic artwork, but also to learn about the Venice floods and how they have impacted the square.
One thing you are going to learn quickly about Venice is that when the sun goes down and the day tourists leave or go back to their cruise ship, and the true magic of the city comes out. The best time to explore the city is early in the morning or late in the evening. However, the town closes down pretty early (around midnight) since most people in the hospitality industry do not live on the island, and the vaporettos do not operate very late into the night.
Another thing you will learn about Venice is that you will get lost at some point. Everyone does!
Tours and Prices:
Basilica Tour – Takewalks.com tour St. Mark’s Basilica After Hours €89 per person
Campanile tour – Booked through basilicasanmarco.com website €13 per person
Pallazo Ducale – VisitMUVE.it ticket for just Doge’s Palace is €26 per person, or a Museum Pass that includes 10 other museums is €36 per person
Where did we Stay? We stayed at an Airbnb apartment close to St. Mark’s Square, just over one of the canals.
Where did we Eat? We had dinner at Ristorante De Carletto and came back to St. Mark’s Square after dinner for some music.
Day 2 – Venice
If you can make this an early day, before the crowds flood the city, do! That is the best time to visit Ponte Rialto for some fantastic photos.
From there, jump on one of the vaporettos and make your way to Giudecca, a quiet island that rewards you with great views of Venice.
If the day is still young, you can make your way to Lido Beach to relax and sunbathe. Unlike most American beaches, you can drink on European shores, and depending on where you are, they may even have servers that come up to you and take your orders. What more can you ask for?!
Where did we Eat? We had lunch at Latteria2465 (great sandwiches!) and dinner at Ristorante Antica Sacrestia.
Day 3 – Venice to Verona (train)
In the morning, we made our way to the train station and took a train to Verona. It takes a little over an hour.
PRO TIP: For a helpful post on how to figure out Italian train system check out our post – Italy by Train.
From the train station, we took a cab to our Airbnb apartment in the historic downtown. After checking in, we went out to explore the city.
The first thing we did was hike up to the Piazzale Castel San Pietro for great city views. There is a restaurant at the top for some refreshments that were badly needed after hiking in 95⁰F heat. From there, we made our way back to the city to check out Juliet’s house, the Arena, and Piazza delle Erbe.
Where did we Eat? We stumbled upon Tre Marchetti for dinner.
Day 4 – Day trip To Emilia-Romagna Region
Renting a car early in the morning and getting on the road is key for today. Verona is where we rented our car for the rest of our days in Italy.
PRO TIP: Once again you can check out our post about renting a car in Europe – Tips for Renting a Car in Europe.
Today’s road trip is to explore the food capital of Italy – the Emilia-Romagna region. The first stop is 4 Madonne Caseifico dell’ Emilia – a Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese-making factory. Here you will learn all about how the world-famous cheese is made and get to taste it with some local Lambrusco wine (sparkling red wine).
The next fascinating part of this region is learning how authentic balsamic vinegar is made. We toured Acetaia Leonardi in Modena. We actually got a private tour for just the two of us since we arrived between large tours. At the end of the tour, we had a great lunch spread of cured meats, cheese, balsamic vinegar, and wine. All included in the price of the tour.
It was an excellent tour where we learned that it takes decades to make an authentic balsamic vinegar of Modena.
We finished the day with a tour of Salumificio Conti in Langhirano, to learn how Proscuitto di Parma is made. At Salumificio Conti, a mother and three daughters are at the helm of the company. We enjoyed a small tour with just two of us and another family of four.
We were able to make all the reservations online.
PRO TIP: It is necessary to make all reservations for these tours in advance since they are only offered at certain times for a limited number of people.
People who are in the wine and food production businesses have such an intimate relationship with the land they work for, which always fascinates us.
PRO TIP: If you are not interested in driving in Italy and don’t mind having everything planned for you, there are many day tours from Verona that will take you on a similar adventure. It will be little pricier.
Where did we Eat? Once back in Verona we dined at Antica Bottega del Vino. This place requires a reservation of at least a day ahead, and if you don’t show up within 15 minutes of the reservation time, they will happily give it to someone else. It is in high demand and rightly so! The food is excellent and the wine is plentiful. We highly recommend the Braised Beef Cheek in Amarone Wine Sauce, but if beef is not your thing, everything is delicious here.
Don’t make a mistake and ask for a wine list, it is the most extensive wine list we’ve ever seen, just go with either what’s on the board or what the waiter suggests.
Day 5 – Verona to Bolzano
Since we didn’t have enough time to dedicate an entire day to the Valpolicella wine country or Lake Garda, we decided to do a wine tour in the morning at the Damoli Winery, a great family-owned winery with a wonderful host Lara. After the winery visit, we drove up the coast of Lake Garda with a stop for lunch on our way to Bolzano.
Once in Bolzano, we just explored the city for the rest of the day. We walked around Piazza Walther, checked out the gothic Bolzano Cathedral, and got some fresh fruit at Piazza delle Erbe. Bolzano is a mix of German and Italian culture, food, and language, and it almost feels like you are not in Italy anymore.
In fact, it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until after WWI and in the spirit of empires there are few castles around Bolzano, the closest one is only about a 30-minute walk from the city – Runkelstein Castle.
Additional Options for Your Itinerary:
Spend a day in Lake Garda
Visit more wineries in the Veneto Region
Visit the Ferrari Factory
Visit Soave Castle
Where did we Stay in Bolzano? We stayed at an AirBnB Condo in the city center right across from Batzenhäusl Brewery.
Where did we Eat? Fink Gasthause Ristorante
Day 6 – Bolzano Day Hike
Bolzano is an excellent location for day hikes. We took about a 40-minute drive out to Odle and hiked the Adolf Munkel loop. It is a very easy hike with the most incredible scenery.
You will also come across a lovely mountain hut with goats and other animals(…but we all know goats are the only ones that matter!), where you can rest, use the restroom, and eat something if you’d like. Or, as a lot of hikers were doing, catch some sun rays.
The loop starts and finishes in the parking lot and takes about 3 hrs to complete.
After the hike, we drove to Villnöss valley for some iconic pictures of the church of St. Magdalen with the Dolomites in the background.
Once back in the city, you can take one of the city’s funiculars for great views of the city.
Where did we Eat? We had dinner at Batzenhäusl Brewery
Day 7 – Bolzano day hike
Tre Cime Di Lavaredo is a classic Dolomite hike that everyone talks about, so expect crowds here. It is a 2 hr drive to get to the trailhead, and the entire loop can take up to 5 hrs which makes for a long day. But well worth the views!
Lago Di Braise
Where did we Eat? We ended our Bolzano excursions with dinner at Löwengrube.
Day 8 – Bolzano to Venice to Porec, Croatia
Today we drive from Bolzano to Venice, stop at the winery in Trentino, return the car in Venice and board a ferry to Porec.
On the way to Bolzano, we drove on the coast of Lake Garda. On the way back, you can drive through the more mountainous eastern side and take a scenic drive from Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo and then onto Venice.
Veneto is the wine-producing region of Prosecco and you can stop at one of the wineries for a tour. We opted to stop at the Cantina A. Martinelli winery in Trentino. This family-owned winery was not used for decades until recently when the owner’s children decided to make it operational again.
It is a beautiful venue and can be rented for weddings and special occasions. The wine wasn’t bad either!
After a winery tour and lunch in town, we drove straight to Venice, dropped the car off, and took a ferry to Porec, Croatia.
Where did we Stay? We rented a condo in the Trg Slobode in Porec. This is a great location for getting in and out of the town, plus Porec is small and you can walk anywhere within the town.
Where did we Eat? Since it was already late when we arrived and we didn’t do any research, we roamed around town until we found a spot outside of the Bacchus restaurant. We ordered seafood and an Istrian platter with a pitcher of house red wine, which in this region is Refosco, and finally decompressed from a long and somewhat stressful day.
See the map below for the route we took around northern Italy.
Day 9 – Porec
At this point, we needed a relaxing day and decided to chill on the beach for most of the day, after all that’s what people come to Croatia for, their beautiful coastline.
A few beaches that you can walk to or take a ferry to are:
Borik Beach – north of the city center and gives you beautiful views of the old town. The beach is adjacent to a dense pine forest which provides a lot of shade when needed. Renting chairs and umbrellas is an option. There are a couple of bars and restaurants in the area as well if you’d like to sip on an adult beverage. Miniature golf, tennis courts and beach volleyball are available in addition to rentals for water sports.
Otok Sv. Nikola Beaches – even though pretty much the entire island is owned by the Valamar conglomerate, the beauty of Croatian beaches is that they are all public, so you can set up your towel on pretty much any beach you want to. There is something to do for everyone here, and they have areas designated just for adults if you want some peace and quiet. You have to take a 5-minute boat ride to the island, and it goes back and forth very frequently. On the island is the only man-made sand beach in Porec. All the outdoor and water activities are available here too.
Town and Brulo Beach – located next to each other walking distance from the city center heading south, with a thick pine also that provides natural shade. All the amenities of other beaches are available here too.
Where did we Eat? Our host recommended Restaurant Sv. Nikola for dinner, a beautiful place right next to the water with excellent seafood and Croatian wine.
Day 10 – Porec
This is our day to explore the rest of the Istrian Peninsula, so we rented a car and took a drive to Rovinj, another beautiful coastal town in Istria. Rovinj itself deserves more than half a day and if you have an opportunity to stay longer, definitely do.
Next, continue to Pula where the historic Amphitheater is located at. Pula is about 40 minutes south of Rovinj. You can spend half a day in one city and another half in the other but if you have more time, we highly recommend spending at least a full day in each.
Some Other Places Worth Visiting on the Istrian Peninsula are: Opatija, Rijeka, Umag, and from Zagorje taking a ferry over to the Islands of Cres, Jama – Grotta Baredine (Baredine Cave).
There is a lot more to see and do here than what we highlighted.
Where did we Eat? On our drive back from Pula, we stopped at Istarska Konoba, also recommended by our host, for some traditional Croatian food. Portions are huge and cheap. The staff is extra welcoming and friendly and the house wine is excellent.
Once we were back in Porec we checked out Lapadarium for some live music.
Day 11 – Porec
Initially, we were planning to visit some wineries today, but we knew we had a busy time ahead of us in Slovenia and figured this would be our only chance to relax, so we opted for another lazy day on the beach.
However, if you are up for it, we recommend visiting Istria’s wine country. The first grapes were introduced to Istria in the 6th century by the Greeks however, the Peninsula’s turbulent history has prevented it from becoming one of the classic wine regions.
FUN FACT – In the last 100 years, Istria has belonged to four different countries. Many locals will tell you my great-grandfather was born in Austria, my grandfather was born in Italy, my father was born in Yugoslavia and I was born in Croatia, but all in the same city!
Malvazija Istarska (Malvasia Istriana) is the most dominant white grape in this region producing 60% of total plantings in Istria. Teran and Refošk are the best-known red grape varieties grown in this region.
Some Wineries That are Close By: Ritoša Vina, Vina Banko, Roxanich, Damjanic Vina. The list is endless, and these are just a few. Most of them do not require a reservation.
Where did we Eat? After a lazy day at the beach, we had a beautiful dinner on the rooftop of the Pentagonal Tower where we watched the sunset.
Day 12 – Porec to Ljubljana, Slovenia
Today we set off for Slovenia, and to do everything we have planned it is best to start early in the morning.
Even though both Slovenia and Croatia are part of the European Union now, there is still a physical border and a checkpoint you will have to cross because Croatia is not yet part of the Schengen area. The lines can be long, therefore give yourself at least an hour to spend at the border.
Slovenia may be a tiny country with a population of only about 2 million people, but it is pristine with an endless number of things adventure seekers can find to do here.
Postojna Cave is the first stop after crossing the border, only an hour and a half drive from Porec (not including border delays). Postojna Cave tickets can be purchased online, and you have the option to bundle different adventures together.
You can experience riding on an electric train through the cave, exploring on foot, visiting a mysterious castle in the cliff over the river Lokva (Predjama Castle), and visiting an underground museum, Vivarium, to see over 150 species of cave-dwelling animals and much more.
After the tour, grab lunch somewhere on your way to the next stop, Skocjan Cave.
Skocjan Caves is only 30 minutes away from Postojna Cave. The tour starts at the top of each hour, but plan to be there about 30 minutes before it starts, and you should be able to secure tickets without any issues. The guided tour lasts about 2 hours.
After the cave visits, make your way to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, about 50 minutes north of Postojna Cave. This is where we stayed for the rest of our time in Slovenia, making day trips to different locations from here.
A different option is to make this a road trip and stay at a different location every night, but we just wanted to be luggage-free for a while.
Where did we Stay? We rented a rooftop condo in Downtown Ljubljana
Where did we Eat? We picked a table outside at Gostilna As and indulged in some food and delicious Slovenian wine.
Day 13 – Lake Bled
Based on the traffic, Lake Bled is only about 50 minutes west of Ljubljana and is probably the most popular destination in Slovenia. If you are learning about Slovenia for the first time, most likely, the only picture you’ve ever seen is the iconic island in the middle of Lake Bled. We spent the morning wandering around the lake and taking in the scenery.
For the afternoon we booked a canyoning tour. To this day, this is the scariest adventure we ever did (and we’ve been hang-gliding and skydiving). The water is frigid. Even though we were wearing a wetsuit, we had to wait around in waist-deep cold water for a long time since some people brought kids too young for an adventure like this. A tour that typically takes 2-3 hours, took us a full 4 hours and we were freezing cold by the end.
Despite all the hiccups, it was a great adventure!
The websites are not too descriptive when it comes to physical requirements, and some people backed out of it when they realized what was expected of them.
- Before you sign up for something like this make sure you are physically fit, can swim, and are not scared of jumping into the water or afraid of heights.
- Make sure you can understand the tour guide, a lot can go wrong if you do not speak the language and most common foreign tours are in English.
- Make sure you are comfortable wearing a harness and a lanyard and know how to hook on and hook off a carabiner. If you are not sure what you need to do, ask! We pretty much had to babysit a 9-year-old German girl the entire time since we realized she didn’t know what she was doing and couldn’t understand what the instructor was telling her.
- The last jump is from the top of a waterfall into the river, about 40’ high.
Tours and Prices: Lifeadventures.si – Canyoning Grmecica – €65 per person. In addition to canyoning, this website has a great list of things you can do in Slovenia.
Where did we Eat? In the evening, we drove back to Ljubljana and decided on Mexican food and margaritas for dinner at Cantina Mexicana.
Day 14 – Lake Bohinj
Lake Bohinj is only 25 more minutes from Lake Bled, or about an hour’s drive from Ljubljana. It is more of a swimming and water sports destination than Lake Bled.
If you are not interested in water sports, you can walk around the lake, it is about a 12 km easy hike. Some other highlights here are the Savica Waterfalls, taking a cable car up to the Vogel Ski Center for views of the lake, a visit to the Church of St. John the Baptist, or enjoying some day hikes in the Triglav National Park.
Additional Options to Add to the Itinerary:
More hikes in Triglav National Park
Mount Triglav Climb
Visit Slovenia’s Wine Country
Visit Slovenia’s Coast Line
Where did we Eat? Dinner at Julija with some more delicious Slovenian wine.
Day 15 – Ljubljana to Zagreb
The drive from Ljubljana to Zagreb is roughly 2 hours, but don’t forget you need to cross the border again, so give yourself at least 3 hours, plus returning a car can take some time too. We drove to Zagreb in the afternoon and spent a night there before our flight back to the US the next morning. We didn’t want to stress and rush.
Where did we Stay? Panorama Hotel Zagreb
Where did we Eat? Every time we are in Zagreb, we go to Konoba Didov San for some traditional Slavonian food including ‘ustipci s kajmakom’ (fried bread dough, doughnuts with cream cheese), absolutely delicious!
See below for a map of our route through Croatia and Slovenia.
Three countries and six different cities later we didn’t have any logistical issues, and we are still surprised by that! We enjoyed this trip very much, and hope you do too. For any additional questions feel free to drop us a line below!
Other helpful posts…
The Ultimate Guide to 2-Weeks in Croatia for Wine Lovers
10 Exciting Warm-Weather Winter Vacations
Italy By Train
Tips for Renting a Car in Europe
Things Gone Wrong on Vacation
Italian Wine Classifications