Old Goricia, Gorica AND New Gorizia!!
Let's keep things monkey simple here.. There is a town on both sides of a border that doesn't exist any more between Italy and Slovenia, (cos both countries are in the Schengen agreement)..
The Italians refer to the bit on the old Slovenian side AND the new Italian side as Gorica, but the Slovenians call it Old Gorica..
The bit on the new Slovenian side of the "border that doesn't exist", but still snakes and zig zags between the two countries in the middle of the "two towns", is referred to by everyone else as New Gorica, but the Slovenians generally call it Gorica!
We are glad to have cleared this all up for you, so now we can tell you all about the incredible history and sensational geographical location you might be totally missing out on if you don't make time to explore this way!
The current raison d'etre for these two very contrasting towns on either side of a paper border is that after WW2, Italy, shall we say, "borrowed" Old Gorica from Slovenia and Slovenia was now trapped inside the new socialist state of Yugoslavia.. so they pretty much had to build a new town on the Tito side of the line..
Probably the most striking thing to note and observe when visiting these two unidentical twins is that the pretty town of Gorica looks as if nothing at all has been done to alter it's beauty.. whilst in the East, a quite frankly, ugly, new, sprawling socialist metropolis was created where, nowadays awfully bright colours have been painted over the dull communist concrete blocks.. Modern casinos, (including the largest gambling house in Europe), have also been sprinkled around this new carbunkle to entice lucky feeling Italians over that paper border.
Nevertheless, Nova Gorica is still sprinkled with the same special magic dust that any other unique corner of Green Slovenia has and no other country in Europe can claim.. in this particular corner of Slovenia, the hot Mediterranean climate, Terracotta tiles and palm trees will betray your senses and force you to pinch yourself as a reminder that you are actually in Slovenia, not Italy.. Fantastic!
You get that same feeling of pleasant confusion tinged with the satisfaction of being in the most geographically diverse country in Europe in pretty much every other corner of Slovenia.. and there are a lot of corners here!
Whatever you want to call it, Goricia, Gorizia, Nova Goriza, New Gorica, but let us stick with Gorica for now.. it is a little place in the world where the nonsense of war & politics and the confusing, very temporary borders shifted by the sands of time are exposed to the base paint, but where you will see two very different peoples of Europe sipping capuccinos and living side by side, with visitors never being exactly sure which language they will get spoken to in!
Perhaps the most intriguing and magical experience you will get here in this mini Berlin where East met West, (that looks nothing like Berlin) is that everywhere you go here in either town as a visitor you can never be completely sure which country you are in, particularly if you try to drive the maze of American style blocks now dotted with British style roundabouts, where locals still don't really seem to get the rules!
So Why should I Visit Gorica, Nova Gorica or both?
Gorica's geographical position is yet another paradox.. It is in fact, exactly the primary reason why you WILL probabubbly NOT visit here, (sorry for yawning), but it is not entirely your fault that you will probably have allocated way too little time to visit the most beautiful country in Europe and will also very probably navigate the well trodden standard tourist trail from Bled to Ljubblyljana to the Postojna cave to the coast.. all stunning and unmissabubble, but nevertheless the reason you will miss out on Gorica.. and if you miss Gorica, you will miss the unmissable Soca river too!!
But as we are foreigners here, just like you, we thought you might be interested to know a little more about this and many other amazing secret places here in Green Slovenia, which is exactly why we write these cheeky little articles!
Gorica's position is nothing short of sensational.. it is highly unlikely you will actually stay here, you do not need to, but you should certainly drive through and maybe stop off, once you know a little more.
We positioned our Lodge between the mountains and the sea on the cusp of the Mediterranean to get easily to all the well publicised places, but we also recognised how critical it was to be only a short 30 min zip up the Vipava valley directly to Gorica, so our guests could also easily reach the Soca river the Gorica Wine Hills, North Italy and the Alps.
Yep, Gorica is the gateway to all these delights and sits in a critical position on top of the uberstunning Vipava wine valley and exactly at the point where the most beautiful river in Europe, the Soca, completes her Slovenian journey and becomes the Izonso, flowing off into the Adriatic sea.
So cross the river from Gorica with a view of the longest stone arch bridge in the world and you will also go back in time to another of Slovenia's 7 wine regions, called Goriska Brda, or the Gorica Hills, with stunning hill top villages and probably the best cherries and wine in Slovenia and this is saying something indeed!
DO NOT make the mistake that Slovenia's wine regions are all the same.. they are NOT, in fact they are all completely different, some Mediterranean, some central European, some get snow some do not, but each one produces at least one completely unique world wine!
The Gorica Wine hills are no exception and specialise in Rebula wine. It is like arriving at a secret island when you cross the Soca river from Gorica and you might be reminded of a particular favourite French wine region, with fantastic restaurants, secret walks and road signs suddenly appearing by the side of the road for Slovenia.. which means you have unknowingly, but perfectly legally driven into Italy along this border more complicated than a plate of spaghetti!
You could easily do a loop from Gorica into the Gorica wine hills to explore and then pop back over another Soca bridge near Kanal to head up the Soca river or back towards the Vipava valley and the Lodge. (Kanal is exactly an hour from the Lodge)!
Or you can just go directly from Gorica up the lower Soca valley to join the Upper Soca valley in one day and get to the sunny side of the Alps that are so tricky to go visit from Bled or Ljubljana.
It is not far up the river to the beautiful towns of Tolmin, Kobarid and Bovec.. it gets more & more Alpiney and you can reach the best waterfalls and gorges in Green Slovenia as part of a spectacular easy & relaxed daytrip from the Lodge..
You simply CANNOT miss at least a glimpse of the Soca river during your Green Slovenian adventures, but so many visitors actually do.. unforgiveabubble!
OK you got me interested, so why would I hang out in Gorica then?
The first thing you will spot when entering Slovenian Gorica is the beautiful old castle flying the Italian flag on top of the hill.. in Italy.
If you want to get the feel of Old Goricia and sip a real Italian cappucino in Italy, then you should visit the castle.. so go under a long pedestrian tunnel leading from the main Italian square and then walk up through a botanical garden kind of stairway packed with palm trees and beautiful flowers.
The castle is really worth a visit, not only for the commanding views across the hills & old town, but inside there are lots of little nooks & crannies and a fabulous completely wooden room at the top. If you like medieval musical instruments then this is the place to come as there is a banqueting hall stuffed full of lutes and all manner of instruments.
Now French people, especially, please pay attention and you might need to sit down now before reading this.. but incredibly, Nova Gorizia is the resting place of the very last French King Charles X, mais oui! We are met with a mixture of gallic shrugs and curious indifference when we tell our many lovely French visitors about this uncomfortable fact, but fact it is!
On the Slovenian side of the town, you should look up to the skies and gravitate to go find a quiet little white monastery on top of a hill, which is unbelievably, the final resting place of the last French king, booted out by his subjects in 1830 and doing the royal version of "sofa surfing" around Europe until he ended up here in little old Slovenia.
This majestic Franciscan monastery was renamed "Little St Denis" in 1836 when the last Bourbon king died and is a fitting resting place for a monarch, unwanted or not.
Indeed the rest of his family were also laid to rest here in later years in a beautiful white marble Crypt that you can visit today. It contains the very last Bourbon claimant to the French throne, Henry V, entombed in1883. (In a little joke that maybe will only be understood by British biscuit eaters, there are more Bourbons here than in a packet of biscuits)!
Make sure you check the timetable to visit as the monastery is still inhabited by Monks with strict, but generous visiting times. Kostanjevica church or Little St Denis has really fantastic views, this time across to Old Gorica. This monastery will surprise you..
In fact it has the best views in the twin town.. From one side of the car park you can look out over Nova Gorizia to the Alps, then dash over to the other side of the car park and in 15 seconds, (depending on how quick you can run), you will see the Italian Gorica and the flatland regions of Veneto & Friuli regions with Prosecco!
So do discover the twin towns of Gorica and Nova Gorizia, but we really wanted to get over in this piece just how key this location is and how you can easily gravitate around it on a daytrip from the Lodge to combine so many secret Slovenian places!
And not far outside Nova Gorizia at the top end of the 40km long Vipava valley is another completely different castle to go visit in the nearby village of Kromberk.
Kromberk Castello is not the kind of castle you might expect to find in Slovenia, but is typical of the immense stock and variety of different castles here from all ages and in all shapes & sizes.. this one oozes Italian rennaisance.. it sits inside a beautiful little garden park with clipped bushes all nestled under green hills lined with vineyards.
Inside the castello there is a rare and chilling exhibition of how the Italian occupation of Slovenia between the two world wars may have actually felt for the local Slovenian population.
There is also a very, very nice restaurant in the Castle itself serving some of the best & imaginative fish options available in Slovenia.. don't miss it.
Whilst Gorica is not geographically in the Vipava valley, it is pretty much the main town serving the Upper Vipava Valley and you could spend the whole day up here too, exploring secret waterfalls,Vipava vineyards, another stunning castle, Rihemberk, with the highest castle tower in Slovenia and other fantastic little local restaurants..
Maybe you will use Gorica as a base to go biking or E biking for the day along the Soca river cycle path that leaves Nova Gorizia up to the picturesque village of Kanal or drive up directly into the hills surroung Gorica, hugging the river to find little churches, viewpoints and sadly, lots of evidence of the worst mountain battle of all time, the WW1 Izonso front, fought in those mountains above Gorica.
So whether you head towards Gorica as part of a daytrip to one or two of Slovenia's unique wine regions, to the stunning Soca river, the Alps or the top of the Vipava wine valley, now you at least know there are reasons to stop off in or near the seemingly unattractive looking town of New Gorica!
Maybe you will straddle the wiggly border dividing the two towns to find those Checkpoint Charlie moments or take your opportunity to pop into Italy for 5 minutes or longer.. you won't need your passport, but you will need a map!