Why Visit Trieste
If you plan to visit Italy for the first time, you may not have Trieste on your list. That’s quite obvious. Most people want to go with the classic itinerary and see the main attractions. But if you are a curious and active traveller who loves to spend time exploring the lesser-known places, then Trieste is worth visiting.
Being on the border to Slovenia, no other Italian city shows such a profound historical and cultural transformation that saw it suspended between time and places, for many years before and during World War II. Trieste only came back to Italy in 1954. Thus, its culture is the result of influences from the Austro-Hungarian and Slavic cultures that reflects in its daily life, its dialect, its architecture, its traditions and most of it in its multicultural cuisine.
I know Trieste as a traveller and as local because I used to work for illy coffee and lived there for three years. I love to return for a short break. But for me, it’s also an ideal stopover when travelling from Italy to the Croatian islands.
1. The Carso Triestino or the Triestine Karst
Trieste is nestled in the “Carso Triestino“; a limestone plateau of rock formations that at times may remind you of a lunar landscape. With caves, sinkholes and the typical harsh vegetation. You can visit the Grotta Gigante, a giant cave 100 mt high, 65 wide and 167 long, that makes it to one largest cave in the world. I had visited it, and it is awe-inspiring. But the best part is the walking trails that the city offers. Take a walk on the Napoleonic way, that skirts the hills for a breathtaking view of the town and its majestic harbour. Or if you love a coastal trek, start the Silke Trail in Sistiana, a small coastal town, famous for its bay and the nudist beach. From there you can walk the Karst hills, admire its unusual vegetation and stop at the six lookouts overlooking the Adriatic sea. The trail ends at the Duino Castle.
Moreover, if you are into walking, the Val Rosandra on the border to Slovenia is another excellent place for an outdoor adventure, where the forest merges with the mountains and a beautiful waterfall amidst the valley.
2. The Miramare Castle
Probably the no. 1 iconic attraction in Trieste, the Miramare Castle is often referred to as the Trieste Castle, but there are three castles in the city and its surroundings. The San Giusto Castle is in the city heart near the Trieste Cathedral, and the Duino Castle lies about 20km on the south-east Coastal drive. The good thing about the Miramare castle is that you can walk there. Take the bus to Barcola, the most beloved among all Trieste beaches and walk the paved promenade to reach the white-washed castle. Perched on the Grignano promontory, this is one of the best places to visit in Trieste.
This is a real example of a unique architectural merge of Gothic, Medieval and Renaissance architecture. Built by order of Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg, they completed it in 1860. The surrounding park is a delight for taking photos, the ideal place to escape the heat and the crowd on a summer day. Avoid weekends as it gets too crowded, go for a walk in the park, drink a coffee and enjoy a walk around the castle to marvel at sunset colours with a view of the Adriatic sea.
3. The Trieste coffee
As a free post since the 18th century, Trieste was a critical place in the Mediterranean and a hub for trading which made the city grow economically and historically. But coffee is deeply rooted in the spirit of Trieste not only because of the economic and historical growing importance but also because it reflects the transitional spirits of its people, its cultures, its language and its locations. The locals are very proud of the locally roasted Trieste coffee brands that gave the city its glamorous shine. Illy coffee is the emblem of the town, and you can say that coffee is the real soul of Trieste. If you are a coffee lover, Trieste must be high on your list, as this is, in my opinion, no. 1 Italian city to savour premium coffee in all its facets, from production to preparations.
Ordering a coffee in a bar in Trieste isn’t easy though. Also for Italians from other regions. This is the only place in Italy where you need to order a Caffelatte if you want a Cappuccino. Because if you do it wrong, you will get an espresso with milk in a small espresso cup. The strong connection with their local coffee made the Triestini create their coffee names and ways of serving coffee.
Here are a few coffee names: CAPO is an espresso macchiato, CAPO in B an espresso macchiato in the glass, the most typical Triestine coffee. CAPO DECA an espresso macchiato and decaffeinated. GOCCIA is an espresso with a drop of frothed milk. And finally, a CAFFELATTE is the most known CAPPUCCINO!
Literary and historic cafes in Trieste are also must-visit places. There are many, but my favourite are: San Marco Cafè, Cafè Tommaseo and Cafè Degli Specchi, where you can sit and enjoy the nostalgic time of when intellectuals and poets gathered. All these places often host art exhibitions and on-site concerts of newbie musicians. As you know, Trieste was home to many writers and poets like W. Rilke, James Joyce, Italo Svevo, Umberto Saba, Eugenio Montale and more.
4. The Trieste Cuisine
Because of people migrating to Trieste since the 18th century, Trieste cuisine reflects a blend of most varied cultures and traditions from neighbouring countries. Austrians, Slovakians, Hungarians, Jews, Greeks came over to mix with the existing Northern Italians, Venetian, Istrian and Mediterranean people.
So be prepared to taste delicious food. Fish-based dishes are the highlights in Trieste. All over the city, you will find beautiful places to eat fish, from simple osterias to high-end restaurants. Try Al Bagatto Restaurant for fish and Trattoria Nero di Seppia.
If you travel in summer, you cannot miss out on a typical meal at the Osmize. A farmer’s place, where you can eat their farming products and wines. They are only open in summer, and not all the time. Each one has its opening times. My tip: get a list of all Osmize from the Tourist Office in Trieste.
5. The Trieste Architecture and its Buildings
Trieste stands out for its architecture, and you will be amazed by the beautiful old buildings, churches and cathedrals. The best way to discover them is to go on a self-guided walking tour. From Piazza Unità d’Italia admire the Palazzo Strozzi on the northern corner. Stroll through the Gran Canale where small sailboats are moored to reach the Sant Antonio Church, to proceed to Piazza Della Borsa’s magnificent building. While exploring Trieste on foot, watch out for the bronze statues of James Joyce, Saba and Svevo and more potes and writers who made of Trieste their home town. Don’t miss out to walk uphill in the city centre and visit the Roman San Giusto Cathedral and the nearby castle.
6. A Getaway to Croatia
If you are planning a road trip to Croatia from Italy, Trieste is likely to be a stopover before going through the Slovenian border and further south to the smaller islands like Losinj Island, Krk Island, and Cres. Being well connected by the superfast trains The Frecce, from Venice or Milano, or to the Ronchi de Legionari Airport, it’s easy to get to Trieste. If you love hiking with almost no crowds, these two islands are the best for a hiking adventure. From Trieste it’s an easy 1,5 hours drive to Krk Island, through the bridge, you don’t even need to take a ferry. This is a favourite place for a weekend getaway, a swimming holiday or and hiking adventure. The famous coastal town of Baska is a popular destination between June and October. And in September I will be co-leading a hiking trip to Baska.
More reasons for visiting Trieste
Not many know that Trieste is a leading hub for technology and science research. And Trieste will be the European capital of Science in 2020., as it will host the ESOF 2020. After Palermo and Matera gaining the European Cultural Capital in 2018 and 2019, Trieste has won this vital reward too. , thanks to its University and scientific institutions, such as Sissa, Sincrotrone, the Oceanography Institute and the Genetics and Biotechnologies Center. Following the slogan: Freedom for science, science for freedom Trieste is aiming to become a focal point in Central-Eastern Europe for technology, science, political and social discussion.
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