The Adriatic Sea is where Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian sailors as well as today’s sea-lovers have all appreciated its luminous waters. The Adriatic is a large inlet of the Mediterranean; the west coast runs through Italy and San Marino, and the east coast includes the shores of Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro. Eye-popping landscapes and historical sites and the famously warm Mediterranean hospitality will linger in your memories long after your holiday on the Adriatic.
The Adriatic at-a-glance
The western seaboard of the Adriatic tends to be gentler than the eastern side, with sandy beaches and gentle seas that are favored by families with small children. The eastern coast is famous for its dramatic, craggy shores, which beget crystal clear blue water and is perfect for an island-hopping cruise. At the top of the sea is a large delta where the River Po empties into the Adriatic and forms the islands surrounding the most famous island city, Venice, seat of an empire.
From Puglia, “heel of the boot”, all the way up to Trieste, the Italian Adriatic shore is a long stretch of interesting cities and alluring beaches. Near Bari see megalithic monuments and the UNESCO-listed 13th century Castel del Monte. Pescara features excellent Roman ruins and the National Park of Abruzzo, where bears and wolves still thrive. In Urbino, visit the birthplace of the painter Raphael. Ravenna is home to the dazzling mosaics that bridge the East and the West, and while you’re in the area, wonder at relics of the mysterious Etruscans. Venice alone can enthrall you for days, between the city itself and the neighboring islands. All along this coast are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy when you’re ready to stretch your legs.
San Marino commands a panoramic view over vineyards and villages to the Adriatic Sea. Step inland to visit this ancient republic and attend one of the festivals or arts events always taking place in its picturesque town centre. Imposing monuments offer ample opportunities to clamber on old fortress walls, peer into dank dungeons, and walk through majestic city gates, feeling the imprint of centuries of life between the three towers protecting the city.
Slovenia touches the Adriatic for a mere twenty miles or so, but they are unforgettable ones. Piran is a tiny Venetian jewel that evokes the height of the empire, the air imbued with some kind of magic. Relax in the square after watching gleaming white horses go through their paces in nearby Lipica at the stud farm of the Lipizaners of Vienna’s Spanish Riding School. Walk the edge of a salt collecting pool to understand the basis of local beauty products renowned for their rejuvenating powers. In neighboring Portoroz, enjoy a constant parade of holiday-makers and shoppers on the promenade beneath the villas nestled in the forested hills above.
The Croatian coastline is simply stunning, with more than 1,000 islands scattered along its length. Think you can pick a favorite? Start on the lovely Istrian peninsula and work your way south, visiting fantastic historic cities such as Trogir Split, and Dubrovnik - rightfully called “the pearl of the Adriatic”, Ensconced in city walls curving along the shore, it makes a striking contrast between the brilliant blues of the sky and the water. Plitvice Lakes National Park is a beautiful place for lush scenery –and when you’re ready to exchange natural beauty for some urban buzz, head for the capital city of Zagreb.
Sapphire sea, bright blue sky, brilliant white beach, deep green forests… you’re in Montenegro. In a country of ever so manageable a size, you can peer at the bottom of one of Europe’s deepest canyons, scan the sky to see the residents of one of Europe’s largest bird sanctuaries, or take up your own spot on a beautiful beach and gaze at the horizon. History goes way back here: the city of Budva is thought to be the oldest settlement in the Balkans: its founding is described in Greek mythology. The ancient city of Kotor has particularly well preserved city walls and medieval monuments – a perfect place for a stroll between delicious samplings of Montenegrin specialties.