Completed in 1902 but only operational until 1935, the Parenzana (derived from Parenzo, the Italian name for Poreč) was a 130km-long narrow-gauge railway line that linked the port of Trieste with the growing tourist destination of Poreč. It followed a meandering course across the Istrian countryside, with skilfully engineered embankments and viaducts negotiating the peninsula’s notoriously up-and-down terrain. The process of converting the former track into a foot- and cycle-path was begun in 2006, with a highly scenic 60km section of the railway (“Parenzana I”) in central Istria receiving most of the initial attention. Tunnels and bridges along the route were restored and made safe for visitors. A second phase (“Parenzana II”), revitalizing the stretch from Vižinada, 10km southwest of Motovun, to Poreč, was completed in 2012.
The most breathtaking sections of the Parenzana are those connecting Buje, Grožnjan, Livade, Motovun and Vižinada. Gradients are reasonably smooth, and seasoned cyclists will be able to cover a lot of ground in the space of a day’s riding; walkers should limit themselves to one stage at a time.
Free maps of the Parenzana are available from tourist offices in inland Istria; and more information is available on w parenzana.net.