Štanjel is one of the oldest settlements in the Karst Region, known for its old village centre. It was named after the patron saint of the church, Saint Daniel. Due to its strategic location, the hill was already populated in prehistoric times and was fortified in antiquity.
The Karst region boasts the greatest number of sunny days per year in Slovenia. This climatic characteristic enables plants with special aromatic features to grow here. Hospitable caterers use them in dishes prepared in accordance with old recipes and they can also be found in protected products and crops spicing up the culinary offer.
Bora wind which also creates a special climate has left a strong mark on the landscape and people. In winter it’s a cold, dry and gusty wind and in summer a pleasant, refreshing intermezzo in the period of Mediterranean heat. The genuine Karst prosciutto which is appreciated home and abroad can be dried and cured only with the Bora wind blowing across the Karst.
The first written mention of the area dates back to 1402. The characteristic defensive wall from the 15th century protected the inhabitants during the Turkish invasions.
The settlement reached the peak of its development in the 16th and 17th centuries, most of the architectural features of the buildings also originate from this period. Between the two world wars, the architect and then mayor of Štanjel Max Fabiani left his mark here. During World War II, the settlement was partly destroyed by fire and the castle was heavily damaged. The revitalization of the village centre started in the 1960s and has continued to this day. After World War II, a new part of the settlement developed on a slope below the old village centre.
The Štanjel castle was built in the Middle Ages and was the property of the Counts of Gorizia. After their extinction, it became the property of the Habsburg family in 1500. The Habsburgs handed it over to the Counts of Cobenzl, who gave it the present Renaissance appearance and extended it towards the centre of the settlement. During World War I, the castle was used as a military hospital. In the period between the two World Wars, the architect and mayor Max Fabiani transformed it into the municipality seat; it also included a school and a kindergarten. The castle was severely damaged during World War II.
The main entrance to the fortified part of the settlement used to be a part of the defensive wall. The monumental portal bears the coat-of-arms of the Counts of Cobenzl.
To enter the castle courtyard, you hace to go through a Baroque portal mentioned earlier. The most outstanding element of the courtyard is a staircase connecting the two levels and a castle fountain with the engraved year 1694.
Tower of Kobdilj
The Tower of Kobdilj (Stolp na vratih) used to guard the access to Štanjel from the Vipava Valley. In the 1930s, the architect Max Fabiani transformed it into a summer dining room, which was a part of Ferrari’s villa. The tower was partly demolished during World War II.
Lojze Spacal (1907–2000), one of the most prominent Slovenian artists in the post-war period, is best known for his graphic work. He was born in Trieste where he also lived and worked. He is buried in Škrbina, a nearby village where one of his studios was situated.
Church of St Daniel
The Church of St Daniel was built in the mid-15th century and is one of the most important monuments of Gothic architecture in the Karst region. It got its present Baroque appearance in the 17th and 18th centuries. In 1609, the lemon-shaped bell tower was added to the church, giving the silhouette of the settlement a distinctive appearance.
The Succursal Church of St Giles
The Succursal Church of St. Giles (Sveti Tilh in the local dialect) in the centre of the village belongs to the Parish of Komen. The church is listed among the most important monuments of sacral architecture on Slovene soil. It’s unique because of the octagonal shape of its nave built in 1576 which is covered by an umbrella roof construction supported by just one column (which in the past was wooden).
The interior got its present-day appearance during the Baroque period when the main presbytery was added and the altars were made. The main altar originates from a subsidiary church in Gorizia/Gorica and it was, at least partially, made by Angelo Putti (Pozzo), designer of the doorway for the Ljubljana theological seminary. The statue of St. Giles is older. The side altars are dedicated to St. John Nepomucene and St. Janez Nepomuk (the altar piece was made by A. Parolli) and to St. Jeremy (altar piece made by J.M. Lichtenreit). The altar of St. Francis Xavier stands on the former main presbytery which is of Gothic origins. On the western part an independent belltower bearing the year 1599 once stood, but it was later connected to the church building by means of an arch.
Štanjel Hill or “Turn” lies on the edge that separates the Karst Plateau and the Vipava Valley. Therefore, it used to be an important strategic observation and control point. You can also find the remains of a Roman fort here. Since they carry the local name Gledanica (from a Slovenian verb “gledati” that means “to watch”), it is very likely that it was later used as an observation and signal tower as well.
Ferrari’s Garden (Ferrarijev vrt)
Ferrari’s garden was constructed in the interwar period according to the plans of Max Fabiani as a part of Ferrari’s villa. The estate was owned by Enrico Ferrari, a doctor from Trieste, who wanted to build a rural villa and sanatorium for lung diseases in Štanjel. The most recognizable part of the garden is an Art Nouveau oval pool with an island, which received water from the complex plumbing system.
Count’s Cave (Grofova Jama)
Grofova Jama (Grof’s cave) is situated in the immediate vicinity of Spodnja Brestovica, below the peak of Grmada Hill. This fossil cave, located on the slope, has five entrances and it’s more than 350 metres long and 50 metres deep. The cave got its name after Grofovi Hribi (Grof’s hills), which were owned by the Counts of Duino/Devin. The cave was set up as a shelter for Austro-Hungarian soldiers.
Four purpose-built trenches were dug and the upper part of the cave was transformed into nine platforms for bunk beds. This part has lighting and is open to visitors. On the bottom, the trench expands into a precipice which leads down to the lower chamber. In the surrounding area are remains of many prehistoric hill forts, trenches and underground chambers.
Fabiani’s Path is a network of walking trails between Štanjel and Kobdilj. At the marked points, you can admire the works of this great architect.
When you’re planning the trip there, certainly don’t forget to bring a bike with you, because the entire region is amazing and surely worth of discovering all around. It will remind you of the Tuscany in Italy, and because it’s not overcrowded like the Italian one, your stay there will be even more magical. I thoroughly recommend you the Nassa Dessella apartments, managed by amazingly nice owner Marija Jela. The owners even sell homemade products, such as wine and honey, so don’t miss this lovely little accommodation out!