Trieste, “Little Vienna on the Sea”
Trieste is an important seaport in the Gulf of Trieste at the head of the Adriatic. It is the capital of the Friuli Venezia Guilia region of Italy bordering on Slovenia and Croatia. It was not part of Italy until 1954 having previously being a city state, and before that, a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for four centuries until 1919.This central European influence is everywhere. The architecture is solid with no flights of fancy. Besides the local Triestine dialect, you may hear Slovene as well spoken outside the city center.
Here are some activities and sights to consider for your Trieste visit, many of which are free.
Visit the Churches
There are may churches and of different denominations. Maria Theresa of Austria in the 18th century encouraged social and religious diversity. You’ll find Jewish synagogues and orthodox churches alongside Roman Catholic. The Cathedral of San Guisto was built on top of Roman ruins and was the product of two existing churches brought together in the 3rd century by erecting a central shared section. (See if you can spy the re-cycled Roman building materials if you visit here.) San Antonio Nuovo is one you will readily recognise as it is often pictured in photos of the Grand Canal. For entirely different architecture, the Temple of Monte Grisa, a modern Roman Catholic church, was erected on a hill, Monte Grisa, above the city as a monument of thanks for the preservation of the city during WWII, and is dedicated to the Holy Mother Mary.
Grand Canal with with San Antonio Nuovo Church (Image: Bigstock)
Cathedral of San Guisto Interior (Image: Pixabay)
Temple of Monte Grisa (Image: Simone Mascellari on UnSplash)
Take Your Walking Shoes
Take a stroll through the city center. Many are pedestrian-only and lined with outdoor cafes and, in some areas, the market stalls of the Ponteroso Market. And there are the huge piazzas to explore. The main square is the Piazza Unita D’Italia with the City Hall with its clock tower on one end, hotels and other stately buildings lining the other two sides of the square, and with the fourth side open to the sea. It is the largest square open to the sea in Europe, and often is the site of live concerts and events. The second main city piazza is the Piazza Della Borsa with the beautiful business regulatory building in tones of cream and pink dominating the square.
Wander along the Grand Canal which once brought merchant ships to the center of the old town. Now it is traversed in several places by busy city streets. From there, continue along the waterfront to the Molo Audace which is a long pier stretching out into the gulf and a favourite of citizens and visitors alike for an evening walk. Further away from the city center, you can also navigate the promenade along Barcola beach. Here, folks sunbathe on the paved promenade, take shade under the nearby trees, or watch their children in the playgrounds. It is not a beach as most beach lovers would define a beach.
During your stroll watch for the various interesting statues through out the city, especially the one of James Joyce who called Trieste home for fifteen years. Notice also the motorcycles and scooters which appear to vastly outnumber four-wheeled vehicles – it reminds one of the abundance of bicycles in Amsterdam!
If you are ambitious, you can walk (or cycle) the 8-mile round trip up the nearby Monte Grisa to the afore-mentioned temple at its peak. The path, called Napoleon’s Walk, is gravel, and pavement in parts, pedestrian-only, and sometimes cut out of the hill with sheer perpendicular sides rising high above your head, and drops to the sea on the other side. On the sections with the rock walls, you may encounter rock climbers testing their skills. The view at the top over Trieste and the gulf is well worth the walk. (If such a walk for a spectacular view is not your cup of tea, you can cheat and take the funicular/rail or bus to Villa Opicina for an equally great vista.)
Piazza Unita d’Italia with the City Hall(Image: Pixabay)
The Molo Audace Pier(Image: Thomas Wheatley on UnSplash)
Promenade Along Barcola Beach (Image: Bigstock)
Explore the Castles
Not far from Trieste are two castles worth visiting: Castello di Miramare and the Castello di Duimo. The latter is a popular venue for weddings. Both are perched on outcrops into the sea. If you have time for only one, Miramare should be your choice as it is a grand, but not huge, white marble castle built in 1860 by the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, the same unfortunate Habsburg royal who died in Mexico. The castle requires admission, but a stroll of the surrounding gardens is free – and they are enchanting. The Archduke even sent some specimens home from the New World to his beloved castle.
Appreciate the Cuisine
Trieste does not boast your typical Italian fare though you can certainly enjoy pasta, pizza, etc. Think central European when it comes to the food: meats, cheeses, hearty soups, sauerkraut. A special is sauteed sardines.
What you must not miss on a visit to Trieste is the coffee. To encourage trade back three centuries ago, the Empire made Trieste a tax-free zone for the importation of coffee. The area still boasts several world-renowned coffee importers and distillers, and Trieste is known as the coffee capital of Europe. If you are a coffee lover, you can frequent a few cafes that have been around for centuries serving the very best coffee in all its various iterations.
Castello di Miramare (Image: Daniele Bucciarelli on UnSplash)
Cafes by the Grand Canal (Image: Bigstock)
Coffee Break (Image: Pixabay)
Other Attractions At or Near Trieste
- Risiera di San Sabba (Rice Mill) museum/attraction commemorating the concentration camp/crematorium once on site during the Second World War.
- Ruins of a Roman Theatre found in the heart of the city.
- Vittoria Trieste Lighthouse which is the 10th highest lighthouse in the world. It is also dedicated to the memory of the mariners who perished in WWI. (See header image.)
- The Barcola Regatta is the largest sailing race in the world and takes place on the second Sunday in October.
- Scala dei Gigante, the 17th century “stairs of the brothers” connecting the busy area of shops and restaurants with San Guisto Hill.
- Grotta Gigante, the world’s largest tourist cave. It is five hundred steps to descend and unhappily, the same to ascend. But if you love viewing the impressive innards of caves, it is worth the effort!
Ruins of Roman Theatre (Image: Bigstock)
Sailboats (Image: Valentina Currini on UnSplash)
Cliffs Above, Sea Below (Image: Pixabay)
When and How To Go
Trieste is not as popular with tourists as other cities of Italy so there is no particular time of year you should book to avoid crowds. The best time to plan your visit is probably the spring and summer months up to the end of September. It never gets unbearably hot and the precipitation seems to be evenly distributed through out the year. There are various winds every season but the bora of autumn are the most well-known. These particular and famous Bora sweep down on the city from the mountains: handholds of rope or chain are erected by the city to aid pedestrians in their travels. During the winter months of December through March, it can be seasonably cold and snow.
You can visit Trieste as a side trip from Croatia, Slovenia or Venice being only a few hours away by bus or train. Several cruise lines also call on Trieste as part of their Adriatic itineraries.
A view over Trieste. (Image: Tom Wheatley on UnSplash)
The feature image is of Faro Della Vittoria lighthouse courtesy of Bigstock.
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