Piran has been settled since ancient times, and it is thought that the town’s name comes from the Greek word for fire (pyr). In those days, fires were lit at Punta, the very tip of the peninsula, to guide ships to the port at Aegida (now Koper). The Romans established a settlement here called Piranum after their victory over the Illyrians and Celts. They in turn were followed by the early Slavs, the Byzantines, the Franks and the Patriarchs of Aquileia.
Venetian rule began in the late 13th century and lasted in one form or another for more than 500 years. Unlike Koper and Izola, whose citizens rose up against the Venetians time and time again, Piran threw its full support behind Venice in its struggles with Aquileia and Genoa. (The fact that Venice was Piran’s biggest customer for the salt it produced was certainly an incentive.) The Venetian period was the town’s most fruitful, and many of its beautiful buildings and its fortifications were erected then.
Economic stagnation under Austrian and then Italian rule from the early 19th century until after WWII meant that Piran was able to preserve – at a price to the affluence of its citizens – its medieval character. Today it is one of the best preserved historical towns anywhere on the Adriatic and is protected in its entirety as a cultural monument.