The story of returning to one’s roots

Family moments captured in a building again brought to life at Memento B&B Piran

The Municipality of Piran, one of the spots most popular among tourists, has seen a significant increase in tourist visits. However, due to its natural spatial limitations and priceless cultural heritage, the town of Piran cannot afford to be a mass tourism destination. The few locals that have remained in the town are well-aware of this.

In fact, no one exactly knows how many descendants of the original settlers, who were mostly Italians, still live in Piran. Many of them moved from Piran after World War II, when Piran became part of Yugoslavia. The question of who is supposed to be a true citizen of Piran (Pirančan or, as some would say, Piranež – from the Italian “Piranese”) has become rather beside the point. Perhaps this is because this town grows on you and makes you be[1]lieve that you have become Piranež in all respects. According to Natalija Planinc, the president of the “Anbot” society of lovers of cultural and natural heritage, Piran has never been a town that one visits or moves to just to vegetate; quite the contrary, the town encourages you to be active and enjoy life to the fullest.

The story of a family in the kaleidoscope of Piran Life in the medieval town of Piran

Life in the medieval town of Piran has never been easy and ev[1]eryone who has moved to Piran has had to live and survive there somehow or other.

This is where the story of the Tomšič family, who made their home in Piran at the end of the previous century, begins.

The spouses Pavla and Ivan and their three children, Pavla, Marjan and Ivan, moved from Lucan to Piran. The oldest son, Marjan, soon started a family and began to work as a photography assistant in a studio that was at that time situated in the picturesque Benečanka, Piran’s most famous house. Anamarija and Marjan had a son, Marjan, and a daughter, Klavdija. To earn a better living and because of their father’s zeal for football, the family temporarily moved to Velenje. But they did not stay there long because of their strong love for Piran and so they returned to the Slovenian coast. Marjan again found work as a photographer in a photography studio located in the Trevisini Palace. After several years of diligent work and gaining experience, he and his wife decided to open their own studio: Foto Piran. The studio was the only photography studio in Piran for a long time. Anamarija and Marjan captured many of Piran’s citizens’ stories and moments on camera. Their house, which was only a few streets away from the studio, was always full of cheerful visitors who shared their extraordinary stories. Anamarija and Marjan passed on their love for photography to their daughter, Klavdija, who, together with her husband and their two sons, Jaka and Anže, stayed in Piran. In the family house’s basement they opened a video rental shop called Šterna, which was quite a brave thing to do in those times. The shop got its name after a water well – “šterna” – which stood in the inner yard of the family house. The stone well still embellishes the renovated house. These same premises were later also used as a gallery to show the works of artist Marko Jezeršek. In 1993, the Tomšič spouses sold their house and the new owner also bought the neighbours’ house. And this was the start of the several-year-long agony of the Tomšič homestead. Due to careless renovation work and dwindling resources, the two houses were in decline until 2014, when Tomšič descendants decided to buy back their homestead, together with the neighbours’ house. Daughter Klavdija and grandsons Jaka and Anže Šoba were determined to save the two houses from the grasp of decline and make their own tourist story. They and their family members have again breathed life into the house by turning it into a tourist accommodation, where visitors can feel the authenticity of Piran and the homey atmosphere of the Tomšič house. Thus began the story of the family bed and breakfast Memento B&B.

Renovation that preserves the past

Nekoč družinska kuhinja, danes hotelska soba.
Once a family kitchen, today a hotel room.

The renovation of houses in a medieval town is an exceptional task and a challenge for architects and in terms of protection of cultural heritage. The family invited architect Matjaž Suhadolc, who has demonstrated an extraordinary understanding of the complexity of such renovations in his previous work, to take on this project.

His belief, namely that the best architecture is that which com – bines the charm of the past with the modern dynamics of life, while remaining open for future upgrading, can be felt at every step in today’s Memento.

The renovation was carried out under the watch – ful eye of Dr Mojca Marjana Kovač, a conservation adviser for the regional unit of Piran from the I n – stitute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage. A preliminary design for the renovation of the build – ings on Bolniška ulica was drawn up in 2015 with the aim of turning the two interconnected build – ings into a small family hotel. The two houses are situated in the central part of the medieval town centre, right behind the Tartini Square, along the street that connects the square with the Minorite Monastery. The concept features the two medieval buildings with a yard, connected by staircases; the renovation did not affect the buildings’ original height. The diversity of the buildings’ floor levels has also been preserved, reflecting the original gothic style, as architectural fragments have been found within the wall structure and these frag – ments are now visible. This is an excellent example of preserved authenticity in each of the buildings, which have been interconnected in a modern way. The modern building elements that have been added are minimalist and aesthetic. The architec – ture is complemented by a display of interesting photo cameras, giving a snapshot of the once-family business.

A genuine experience

Memento B&B is a long-needed addition for Piran. The eleven stylishly decorated rooms at an excep[1]tional location offer their guests the genuine Piran experience and treat them to a piece of history through the personal story of the Tomšič family.

Tourism as that offered by Memento always pays off, and not only in financial terms. Such tourism products are of immense value to the town, as they have a multiplicative effect on both tourism and locals’ employment and engagement.

Modern tourism leaves guests with a feeling that they have been taken special care of and provided with an experience tailored specifically to their needs. They are very interested in learning about the stories of local people and their way of life. At Memento, all this is captured in the beautiful story and the renovated family home, where love was and still can be felt in every corner.

The modern elements that have been added are minimalist and aesthetic.

The best architecture is that which combines the charm of the past with the modern dynamics of life, while remaining open for future upgrading. Its content, internal structure and organisation may go beyond the realm of known possibilities and may surprise and impress visitors. Traditional architecture, with its calm presence, brings us down to earth and slows down the pace of modern life. On the other hand, due to its simplicity, it is a perfect environment for adding fresh ideas. An environment that combines a pleasant visual experience with a rich experience for all other senses.” Architect Matjaž Suhadolc, u. d. i. a., Arhitekturna kolumna, 50. MOS
Petra Ložar