Thank you to everyone on this forum who provided great advice for our trip! In the interest of paying it forward, I hope some of the information below will be useful. We like active vacations; this gives you some idea what’s possible in 17 days by train, hired transfer and mostly by rental car. We dropped our daughter off mid-trip in Ljubljana, which is why our route loops. We left on August 30. The highs ranged from high 80’s in Croatia, mid 80’s Venice, low 70’s with rain in Ljubljana, high 60’s and chilly winds in the Julian Alps. We had brilliant sunshine except for 3 days of intermittent downpours mid-trip in Istria and Slovenia.
Day 1: Depart Columbus OH, Newark, Venice
Day 2: Arrive Padua late AM and nap, Scrovengni Chapel, St Anthony Basilica & St George Oratory, Botanical Garden of Padua, walk up dinner in Piazza dei Signori @ La Laterna
Day 3: Padua city market, city walk to Prato delle Valle and piazzas, English tour at University of Padua, train to Venice, Ca’ Rezzonico, Venice Bites chichetti tour
Day 4: Doge’s Palace Secret Itineraries, Campanile Skip the line, St Mark’s Cathedral Skip the Line timed for when the lights are on, Naval Museum and the Ships Pavilion in the Arsenale area, Like A Venetian topa tour, dinner at Anice Stellato in Cannaregio, vaporetto to St Mark’s
Day 5: Accademia, Fish and veg markets, Scuola Grande di San Rocco and Frari, meet MyDayTrip at 16:00 in Piazzale Roma for drive to Rovinj, arriving 19:00. Border crossing was quick.
Day 6: Enterprise rental car pick up, Grožnjan, Hum, long lunch at Humska Konoba, Chiavalon olive oil tour, stroll Rovinj
Day 7: Istria Kayak canceled due to bad weather, walked seaside at Cape Kamenjak, Pula Arena, Bale, strolled Rovinj
Day 8: north to Slovenia and Skojan cave, arrive Ljubljana and stroll city, castle
Day 9: laundry at apartment, Ljubljana city museum, Plecnik House, Slovenian Evening of music and dance
Day 10: Ljubljana market, scenic drive to Bled through Skofja Loka, Jamnik, Radovljica Bee Museum, Vintgar Gorge, Bled castle
Day 11: Gondola up to Vogel and explore, Mostnica Gorge hike, dinner in Bled
Day 12: Watched ski jump practice at Planica, Vrsic pass, 5 hour hike at pass, late lunch at Tonka’s Hut
Day 13: Alpine lake, Lunch and stroll Kranjska Gora, drive to Novo Mesto, evening at Otocec castle
Day 14: Novo Mesto archeological museum (great Hatllstadt exhibit), arrive Plitvice mid-afternoon, tour upper lakes
Day 15: Plitvice lower lakes, drop off car Split airport, Split tour with Maja Benzon includes Diocletians’ palace and the old city
Day 16: Split Marjan hill, Ethnology and city museums, Riva, repack
Day 17: travel home
• Vaporetto passes allowed us to hop between different areas of the city efficiently and was fun.
• Skip the Line tickets for St Mark’s Basilica and Campanile.
• Using MyDayTrip to avoid expensive fees for pickup/dropoff of the rental car in different countries. For three of us the price was comparable to a regional flight but so much easier than airport hassles. Conveniently picked us up at Piazzale Roma in Venice and dropped off in Rovinj near our B&B. Offers a chance to have an extended conversation with someone ‘local’.
• Visit Vintgar gorge early or late to avoid crowds. We chose to walk the gorge in both directions since the crowds weren’t bad. Shorter hours in Sept than in summer.
• Getting a rental car with sufficient torque to pleasantly handle the steep road inclines in the Julian Alps (6 speed manual, diesel, Renault Kadjar).
• Walking the Plitvice upper lakes starting at 16:00 (uncrowded!), about 2 1/2 hours for trail E, and spending the night in the park. Starting Entrance One at 7:00 AM opening; by 9:15 the tour groups were getting thick but we were ready to leave. Hotel Jezero will pack a to-go breakfast if requested the day before.