Historic Houses - Portorož & Piran

Historic Houses

Town Hall

When the Venetians came to Piran at the end of the 13th Century, they built the Town Hall building near the harbour and outside the town walls present at that time. It was constructed in the Roman-Gothic style; its façade was full of immured coats of arms and inscriptions. It was demolished in the year 1877. Apart from the old Town Hall, they also demolished the overpass that was connecting the building with the ancient Loggia. The new Town Hall was finished two years later. In the central axis on the second floor you can see an immured stone statue of a lion holding an open book as a memento of the Venetian Serenissima Republic and the old Town Hall building. The Venetian lion with the book was immured in the majority of the important town buildings: an open book meant peace, and a closed one war. In the palace atrium there are immured inscriptions and some of the old coats of arms from the old Town Hall, as well as the polygonal stone with quantity measures. There is an interesting legend from many years ago about the painting that has been verbally passed from generation.

The legend goes: “In the 16th century, the Piran parish St. George Church on the hill was seriously eroded by the tooth of time. St. George warned the townspeople about the disgrace. He chose a boy, who at the time was sauntering about the harbour, and ordered him to tell the mayor that he – God’s horseman – was truly outraged, as the church consecrated to him was so ungloriously left to ruin. Only a miracle kept it upright and such a state of affairs could not last forever. Therefore it was high time for the people of Piran to begin work on its renovation. The boy stammered fearfully: 'What if the mayor does not believe me?' The saintly knight replied: 'He will straightaway be blinded!' Alas, he had to make his threat come true. The mayor went blind, and the little mediator vanished into thin air. At this point, the blind mayor pondered deeply about the state of affairs. He summoned the town council, a group of prudent and wise men who always helped in ruling the town, and confided in them his deep concern. They jointly decided to renovate the church into the present St. George Cathedral. In full view of the town, shown in the left corner of the painting, the old St. George Church with its Bell Tower and Baptistery is clearly visible. They had, already at the time of the painting’s creation, decided to build the complex of the parish church of St. George with the Bell Tower and the Baptistery in its present arrangement, together with the supporting arches on the northern and southern sides of the church hill; however, the complex was not completely finished until the first half of the 17th century. In the foreground of Domenico Tintoretto’s painting, a “happy end” had been painted: the mayor regained his sight, the boy reappeared and knelt down before the throne in the centre between the two groups of dignitaries of Piran. All were contented, both those in heaven and on earth.


Old Piran's town Loggia once stood in the place where we can today see the building of the Coastal Galleries. From one side, it was connected to the Town Hall and from the other side to St. Jacob Church. The municipal statutes from the year 1384 state that the keepers (“katavers”) of the municipal property were to have their offices in the Loggia. The town dignitaries also gathered there. Later, the building of the present-day Casino was constructed on the site.

Venetian House

At the intersection of the Street of the 9th Corps and Tartini Square, there is a charming palace, one of the most beautiful examples of Venetian Gothic architecture in Piran. It was built in the middle of the 15th century and is the oldest preserved house on Tartini Square. Exceedingly well-designed architectural elements and rich stone ornaments ornate the exterior. The corner Gothic balcony is the most impressive. Between the windows on the second floor there is an immured stone relief with a standing lion; under the lion, you can read the inscription "Lassa pur dir" (Let them talk).

According to oral tradition, there is a legend attached to the inscription, as follows:

Once upon a time, when Piran was a part of the great Venetian Republic and maritime trade between the European countries and the Orient was flourishing, many a rich merchant could be seen strolling in Piran. They were making bargains in the harbour, waiting for the loading of their merchandise, and in the meantime getting acquainted with the local native population of Piran. One day, a Venetian merchant fell in love with a beautiful young local girl. He would come to town and bring her precious gifts, and eventually even decided to build her a palace near the harbour, next to the Loggia. He wanted to show to his beloved the strength of his love, and to show the people of Piran his wealth and his heedlessness of their gossip. The envious citizens were chit-chatting about the passionate couple, and the resentment spread so violently that they devised a means to stand in their own defence, namely, the inscription still preserved on the façade of the palace: "Lassa pur dir."

Tartini House

This is one of the oldest of the houses encircling the square. Municipal documents from the year 1384 mention it as the Gothic building “Casa Pizagrua”; later, its exterior was renovated in the classical style. Guiseppe Tartini was born here. The house was finally renovated between the years 1985 and 1991, when interesting frescoes were uncovered during the renovation work.

The Tartini House is the main office of the Italian Community and is used for cultural events, exhibitions and various art workshops. On the 1st floor is the Tartini Memorial Room, containing the objects left to the family Tartini by the artist. The most interesting exhibits are the death mask, the master’s violin, the music score pages, the copper engraving depicting Tartini’s dreams and an oil portrait painting of Tartini. Among the manuscripts, the most interesting is a letter to a violinist, Tartini’s pupil Maddalena Lombardini, in which Tartini explains the rules of the violin bow technique.

Court Palace

The Court Palace was built on the site where in the 14th century stood Fontik – a grain and flour warehouse. In the 16th century, a local pawnshop was attached. The construction was conducted by Guiseppe Moso and Enrico Nordio. The inscriptions immured into the portals on the northern façade of the palace tell us about the restoration works.

Theater Giuseppe Tartini

Initially, the town theatre was planned to be built on the location of the former Town Hall or just behind it. Instead, the new Town Hall was built, and the site intended for the theatre remained empty. Today, the vegetable market is situated there. The Tartini Theatre was designed by Gioachino Grassi and Giacomo Zamatti, and painted by Napoleone Cozzi. It opened in the year 1910. The lobby and the theatre hall are adorned by wall paintings representing Greek goddesses, flowers and the like.

Baroque House

One of the most interesting buildings on Tartini Square is Baroque House, which stands on the eastern side of the square. With its liveliness, rich design and the Baroque iron balcony railing, it creates a lively contrast to the classical architectural style of the nearby St. Peter Church.

Its main façade faces towards Tartini Square, where under its semi-circular vault on the ground floor Ulica Svobode ends.

The building was thoroughly rebuilt in the Baroque period, but undoubtedly has medieval foundations. Its main façade is designed in three floors. All the windows are of typical Baroque style with carefully executed stone frames and window ledges. The façade ends with three semi-circular arches. The southern façade also faces towards Tartini Square and is in design similar to the main façade. On the ground floor of the side wall are two larger arches, presumed to be medieval but modified later in history (located at Tartini Square No. 10).

Apollonio (Zaccaria) Palace

The building was generated by amalgamating two existing buildings and additional construction on an empty site facing the sea. The Baroque stone plaque above the entrance with a coat of arms and an inscription tells about the successful renovation of the house in the year 1693. During the thorough research of the interior, a number of neoclassical wall paintings from the first third of the 19th century were discovered.

As in other palaces, you can notice the ambitious nature of the affluent Piran families when it comes to the decoration of their living rooms, as well as the influence of the Venetian fashion trends (located in Župančičeva Street).

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