Piran is a town and municipality in southwestern Slovenia on the Gulf of Piran on the Adriatic Sea. The origin of the name is uncertain, with some scholars favouring derivation from the Celtic "bior-dun" (settlement on the hill), while others prefer the Greek word "pyr" (fire), a reference to the lighthouse on the tip of the peninsular.
The town resembles a large open-air museum, with medieval architecture and a rich cultural heritage. Narrow streets and compact houses give the town its special charm. Piran is the administrative centre of the local area and one of Slovenia's major tourist attractions.
In the pre-Roman era, the hills in the Piran area were inhabited by the Illyrian Histri tribes. These were farmers, hunters and fishermen. They were also pirates who disrupted Roman trade in the north Adriatic Sea.
The Piran peninsula was incorporated into the Roman Empire in 178 and 177 B.C. and settled in the following years with rural homes (ville rusticae). The decline of the Empire, from the 5th century AD onwards, and incursions by the Avars and Slavs at the end of the 6th century, prompted the Roman population to withdraw into easily defensible locations such as islands or peninsulas. This started local urbanisation and by the 7th century, under Byzantine rule, Piran had become heavily fortified. Despite the defences, the Franks conquered Istria in 788 and Slavs settled in the region. By 952, Piran had become a part of the Holy Roman Empire.
The earliest reliable records of the area are in the 7th century work Cosmographia by an anonymous cleric of Ravenna. Here, the name "Piranon" (Piran) was referred to as a Roman town on the Istrian coast.
Piran is the birthplace of composer and violinist Giuseppe Tartini, who played an important role in shaping its cultural heritage. The town's main square, Tartini Square (Slovene: Tartinijev trg), is named after him.
In 1892, to mark the 200th anniversary of Tartini's birth, the people of Piran decided to erect a monument in his honour. Venetian artist Antonio dal Zotto was commissioned to create the larger-than-life bronze statue of the maestro, which was eventually mounted on its pedestal in 1896. The statue dominates the square, overlooked by the Cathedral of Saint George.
The municipality's festival is on October 15, which celebrates the foundation of the first naval detachment Koper in 1944. The municipality has an international airport and a marina.