Koper - a charming medieval town on the Adriatic coast in Istria, approximately 5 km from the border with Italy.
Koper is a Slovenian port town on the Adriatic Sea, belonging to the Obalno-Kraki region of Slovenia. Koper is the country's largest, indeed only, commercial port. It also has a convenient and accessible rail link with the capital Ljubljana. The city is the destination of a number of Mediterranean cruise lines. The port of Koper is undoubtedly the most important place in the city. Originally, during the Roman Empire, the port played an important role in the development of the area. It is among the largest in the region and is one of the most important transit routes for goods from Asia to Central Europe. Unlike other European ports, which are managed by the port authorities, the activities of the Port of Koper include the management of the free zone, the management of the port area and the role of terminal operator.
Koper is also one of the main entry points into Slovenia from Italy, which is located north of the municipality.
Before World War II, the area of present-day Koper was inhabited by many Italian-speaking people who were expelled or left on their own in the early 20th century. Koper is a bilingual town, with Slovenian and Italian as official languages. The town is unique for its biodiversity and is considered an important national natural resource.
Speaking about the history of Koper, it should be mentioned that it began its development as an ancient settlement built on an island in the southeastern part of the Koper Bay in the northern Adriatic. Later, the settlement became known by the Latin names of Capris, Caprea, Capre or Caprista, from which its modern Slovenian name is derived.
In 568, Roman citizens from nearby Tergestum (present-day Trieste) arrived in Capris, fleeing the heavy raids of the Lombards. In honour of the Byzantine emperor Justinian II, the town was renamed Justinopolis.
From the 8th century, or more likely as early as the 6th century, Koper was the seat of a diocese. One of the bishops of the city was the Lutheran reformer Pier Paolo Vergerio. In 1828 his diocese was merged into the diocese of Trieste.
Trade between Koper and Venice began to develop in 932. In the war between Venice and the Holy Roman Empire, the city sided with the German side. As a result of this bias, in 1035 Koper was awarded city rights by Emperor Conrad II . After 1232 Koper was under the Patriarchate of Aquileia, and in 1278 it was annexed to the Republic of Venice. At that time the city walls and towers were partially destroyed. In 1420 the Patriarch of Aquileia ceded his remaining property in Istria to the Republic, uniting the Venetian power in Koper. Koper later became the capital of Venetian Istria.
In the 16th century, Koper's population declined drastically due to recurring plague epidemics. Not only that, but Trieste became a free port in 1719, because of which Koper lost its monopoly on trade and its importance declined further. Annexed to Italy after the First World War, at the end of the Second World War Koper became part of the free territory of Trieste, which was controlled by Yugoslavia. With the independence of Slovenia in 1991, Koper became the only commercial port in Slovenia, as it remains today.
Among Koper's landmarks stands out the Praetorian Palace, located on the square and dating back to the 15th century. The palace building is composed of two 13th century buildings connected by a loggia, rebuilt many times, and then completed as a Venetian Gothic palace. Today the palace is home to the tourist office of the town of Koper. Another architectural masterpiece of Koper is the city's Cathedral of the Assumption, which was built in the second half of the 12th century and has one of the oldest bell towers in Slovenia (dating from 1333). The upper terrace of this temple of faith is periodically open and offers a wonderful view of the Gulf of Trieste. Inside the cathedral you can see the Sacra Conversatione painting from 1516, which is one of the best Renaissance paintings in Slovenia, by Vittore Carpaccio.
The list of sights and must-visit places includes the Lodja Palace, the Rotunda of the Ascension (12th century) - the oldest building in the city, the Cathedral of the Assumption (15th century), in the church to which is the tomb of St. Nazarius - the patron saint of the city.
Speaking of palaces, of interest are those of Armerigogna, Belgramoni-Tacco, Toto and of some other noble Venetian families.
Of particular interest is the Old Town of the Venetian era. The main street Sevljarska leads tourists to the central square Tito Trg, where the Cathedral of the Assumption and the amazing building of the Praetorian Palace, seat of the governor of the city during the Venetian Republic, are located.