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I have always wanted to visit Trieste: it's from Trieste that the heroes of the favourite adventure books of my childhood set on their first journey, it's Trieste that has been the gateway to the truly far away places for those who lived in the mostly land-locked provinces of Austro-Hungarian empire further north, it's in Trieste that the civilised West started to gradually change into the wilder and more mysterious East.
Once the principal port of the Hapsburg monarchy, Trieste's heyday dates to the 19th century, when it was the fourth largest city of the Empire and later on an important cultural centre. It became a part of the unified Italy after World War I, and after WW2 it stayed in Italy (although Trieste and its surrounding area was technically an independent city state administered partially by a joint American and British military, and partially by the Yugoslav army). In 1954, most of the US-British zone was incorporated into Italy, and the Yugoslav zone (plus a bit of the other) became part of Yugoslavia (Croatia and Slovenia).
Nowadays Trieste is a bit of a backwater, apparently with a larger than average proportion of population of or approaching the retirement age. It's more sedate and reserved than other Italian cities - even in the generally less exuberant North (though the Vespa traffic at busy times is as hair raising as anywhere else) - and its architecture is dominated by grand buildings that combine the Austrian monumentalism with the even more grandiose 19th century Roman kind, tempered by older Italian influences and the Slavic touches. Even the train station is truly grand!
It's still a busy port and very much a workaday place; many of the buildings are still covered with the decades of black, industrial grime, although the central, most touristy areas have been or are in the process of being cleaned up.
We spent three days in Trieste, mostly just walking around - and it's by walking around that one can get the best feel for the city. We didn't go to museums (apart from the castle ones) and we didn't go to one of the chief Trieste attractions - Castello Miramare, a 19th century edifice surrounded by extensive parkland, built by Archduke Maximilian for his wife Charlotte.
Most of the central Trieste is of some interest, with little of it being exceptional, but there are some areas that definitely shouldn't be missed.
Piazza dell'a Unita d'Italia is the largest sea-facing square in Italy and is almost ridiculously grand. There are several cafes and restaurants round its perimeter but they seem Lilliputian, dwarfed by by the sheer expanse of the square and the ornate buildings that surround it.
The area round Grand Canal (which isn't particularly grand, being at most a few hundred yards long) is on a more human scale, with the canal banks lined with bars and restaurants and prettily lit up in the evenings. The domes of the Serb Orthodox Church of St Spiridion raise to the left of the canal, competing for attention with the even larger (and also greenish) dome of the church of Antonio Taumaturgo‎ at the end.
A bronze, life-sized statue of James Joyce (who lived in Trieste for over 15 years) stands on the bridge over the Canal, the giant of modernist prose caught during an evening stroll. On another bridge across the Canal, hundreds of padlocks bearing scribbled names of couples are chained to the lamppost in a ritual confirmation of the seriousness of their bond.
The old town rises steeply in a sequence of narrow lanes beyond Piazza dell'a Unita towards the castle San Giusto. We climbed up the steps behind the Commune building and then along Via Della Cattedrale, with a stop at the small Garden San Michele, where teenagers lounged lazily in the midday heat by the modern fountain and small children played in the paddling pool by a small community centre.
We took a bus for the last few hundred yards to the castle, adjacent to the magnificent Romanesque cathedral church of San Giusto and remains of a Roman forum. The interiors of the cathedral are very worth at least a peak: gold and red frescoes with a distinctly Byzantine feel (I know, I know the mosaic in the apse is 12th century Venetian, but a lot of Venetian pre-Renaissance art has this Byzantine feel - just look inside the San Marco!).
The castle offers a perfect set of 16th century battlements, grand views of the city and the whole bay of Trieste and surprisingly green, wooded hills beyond the city. In the dungeons of the castle there is a lapidary with a good selection of Roman remains, including some lovely mosaics.
Trieste has a heritage tramway, with handsome carriages climbing up the steep hills to the north of the city to a small village of Opicina, cooler, quieter and - just like Slovenian Koper on the other side of the border - bilingual in its official signage, but with no particular interest apart from being the tram terminus. The ride itself is fun (at least for the children and more childlike adults), the slope so steep in places it feels like a funicular rather than a normal tram.
The best stop to get off is actually a bit before the terminus in Opicina, at the obelisk marking the beginning of what's known as Via Napoleonica, a never-completed engineering attempt to provide road access for the troops during Bonaparte's invasion. A viewing terrace shaded with trees and with a water tap / drinking fountain (Trieste is full of those) provides a restful stop, but the city below is enveloped in a haze that often develops on hot days in the Mediterranean.
Several walking routes through the woods start at the obelisk (the hills around Trieste underwent an extensive re-forestation programme in the 19th century) and if it wasn't for the children we might have been tempted by the path shaded by the fragrant pines, but as it was we caught the next tram down for an ice-cream and a nap in an air-conditioned room of the pensione.
I liked Trieste despite - or maybe because - it not being among the top-list Italian destinations. It's a strangely fascinating city, and another one during the whole trip that seems to stand on the cross-roads, where cultures and influences meet, clash and mix to produce something uniquely of its own.
On 5th March 1946 in Fulton, Missouri, Winston Churchill, then Leader of the Opposition in Great Britain, declared 'From Stettin on the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the continent.' Until I had cause to visit Trieste last year that is what Trieste meant to me - a quote I learnt at school. It was fitting, then, that Trieste should be an overnight stop on my way to Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia and until the early 1990s behind the 'iron curtain' and firmly within the Soviet sphere of influence as defined by Churchill. Trieste lies right on the brink of the "Iron Curtain".
Trieste is situated in the far north western corner of Italy in the region of Friulli-Venezia Giulia, which borders Slovenia and Austria. It is a former Habsburg city and this influence is apparent from the architectural styles of its more recent buildings, its cuisine and in its spirit. Trieste has the relaxed atmosphere of somewhere like Vienna, rather than the hustle and bustle of Rome or Naples; it is more coffee house than trattoria.
Arriving at Trieste's central bus or train stations, the first thing you notice is a kind of faded grandeur. While it is a city of striking buildings, it is essentially down at heel and, in the main, neglected. The sad sight of the now almost ruined dock buildings is testament to the fact that in contrast to former times, Trieste is in some respects now surplus to requirements. The Habsburgs developed Trieste as their empire's southern port as it was the most northerly place to land cargoes from the Meditteranean. However, after the First World War Italy absorbed Trieste into its terrritory and had other, bigger and more conveniently situated ports to use instead.
Luckily I arrived in Trieste by air and enjoyed a thirty minute coach ride, the route, for the most part, hugging the Adriatic coastline. Despite it being the middle of February the sun was shining, making the sea seductively twinkle and glisten. Close to the city was the wonderful sight of hundreds of little sailing boats moored for the winter, all neatly tied up creating a blue and white chequerboard just off the narrow, rocky beach.
Closer still to the centre of the city stands the castello at Miramare, more of a folly than a true fortress but picturesque nonetheless. From here your view of the sea begins to be obscured by a strip of pine woods between the road and the sea. On this particular day people were taking advantage of the unexpected warmth, strolling arm in arm or walking dogs through the woods.
The neighbouring bus and rail stations are five minutes walk from the centre of Trieste and, alighting from your chosen mode of transport, you are immediately struck by how well sign-posted things are in Trieste! All the major hotels are sign-posted by name rather than just the word 'hotels' and a graphic indication of a bed. There is also a plethora of signs indicating the museums and churches and just so that you realise that you really are on the edge of western Europe, signs point out the routes to take for Zagreb, Vienna and Ljubljana.
Visitors arriving without accommodation can enquire about rooms at the tourist information office situated on via San Nicolo, where the staff speak good English and can also provide you with a wealth of information on the area.
I had pre-booked a single room at the Hotel Alabarda where the staff were friendly and welcoming and cheerfully indulged my questionable attempts to communicate with them in Italian. The hotel is situated on a quiet street close to the main shopping area and a stones throw from the sea. It was spartan but clean and my room had an ensuite shower room although I did have to go along the corridor to use the toilet. However, at around £25 for the night this seemed to be a small price to pay.
Conscious that I had only a short time inTrieste, I went staright back out onto the streets which quickly led me to the Piazza Ponterosso (home to James Joyce and his wife in the early twentieth century), here a small yacht basin cuts in from the sea and on either side cafes and pizzerias overlook the pretty scene. At the head of the basin stands the church of San Antonio Thaumatrugo, a somewhat overbearing and solemn building which is certainly imposing if not aesthetically appealing.
Much more impressive is the city's main square, the Piazza Unita Italia which is bound on three sides by magnificent edifices constructed in the late ninteenth century from which proudly hang Italian tricolores. The final side is open with views onto the Adriatic.
If you are willing to risk life and limb crossing the busy road, you will be rewarded with a delightful walk along the sea front and from here you can better appreciate the beautiful facades of some of Trieste's grandest buildings including the Bank of Italy and the Teatro Verdi. It is hardly surprising that the citizens of trieste choose this route for the evening 'passegiata' on warmer evenings.
With the temperatue dropping as night closed in, I crossed back into town and did some window shopping on the Corsa Italia. Designer stores abound and this is a shoppers' paradise. Well-heeled Italians, towing along immaculately groomed toy dogs could be seen deliberating over exquisite leather goods and wonderful shoes but, considering the price tags, I made sure my purse stayed in the depths of my bag!
My thoughts turned to my growing hunger so I headed back towards the marina. On the way two children wearing white outfits with embroidered waistcoats jumped in front of me and showered me with confetti. I later learned that this was part of the celebrations for Valentine's Day which in Italy last several days in some towns. I chose to eat at Il Barattolo where a large number of seafood dishes sit alongside the enormous number of pizza options on the menu. I plumped for a wonderfully dressed octopus salad followed by the 'frutti di mare' pizza wich was generously covered in fish and shellfish. After such delights I could not manage a dessert but the complimentary local digestif which appeared with the bill was much appreciated. At around 14 Euros this was not the cheapest place to eat but the food was fantastic! Pizzerias abound and I only spotted one Chinese restaurant to represent the food of other cultures. Italians are justifiably chauvinistic about their cuisine and who can blame them?
Conscious of being a lone female in a strange city I did not want to go into a bar alone but I did fancy another drink so I found a pleasant looking cafe and settled in on a high stool at the bar. The great thing about cafes on the continent is that you can as easily order a coffee as a beer and nobody bats an eye. After a night cap I ordered an espresso to see me on my way and was given a deliciously strong shot of Illy. You see the Illy brand all over Trieste and its hardly surprising given that the family are from Trieste and Riccardo Illy is aprominent figure in local politics.
Breakfast the next morning was simple but filling, jam-filled brioche, croissants and yoghurt (more coffee, Illy of course!) and when I said farewell to my hosts I was presented with a lovely cloth shopping bag bearing the name of the hotel and a line drawing of the building.
I deposited my bags at the station and took myself off to see how much of the city I could pack in to a couple of hours. My first stop was the Revoltella which is the city's main musuem. It is a Viennese-style palazzo in which you can see a vast array of nineteenth century furniture and paintings of Trieste and the surrounding area. In an adjoining palace there is a collection of much more recent works, one of the most impressive modern art collections I have seen. For an entrance fee of about three Euros, this was money well spent.
I could have chosen from a diverse selection of museums and galleries in Trieste. Others include the Museo Morpurgo, another late nineteenth century palazzo left to the city by the merchant Mario Morpurgo and the Museo Civico di Storia ed Arte (the Municipal Museum of History and Art which contians the usual eclectic mix of Roman artefacts, Egyptian relics and arms and armour that you find in most major cities around Europe.
Although I didn't have enough time to visit the Castello on the hill of San Giusto, I was struck by its impressiveness and would certainly make this a priority if I ever visit Trieste again. Several locals recommended it for the best views over Trieste. The Castello itself is a fifteenth century Venetian fortress and from downin the city you can appreciate why the site was chosen for this purpose.
I had just enough time to dive into the city's cathedral, San Giusto. There has been a structure here since Roman times but what stands today is a Romanesque building with magnificent vaulting and an attractive Gothic rose window.
Heading back to the station I took the opportunity to buy some provisions for a train picnic, stopping at one of the traditional food stores where I bought some local cured ham, some cheese and some delicious crusty bread. The streets around the Via Roma are a delight - small speciality shops are crammed with all manner of goods. One of my favourites was an old-fashioned chemist's shop where all the medicines were stowed tidily in a vast antique cabinet, occupying the space from floor to ceiling behind the counter.
My impression of Trieste is of a port which has seen better days but also of a city which is doing its utmost to adapt and find a new status. I saw industrial parks on the edge of the city with units taken up by multi-national companies and the large number of young people in the city belies any idea that Trieste is a dying and forgotten city. On the contrary, Trieste is a city in which the old and the modern sit comfortably together. The mix of traditional but thriving specialist shops and stylish international boutiques is testament to this.
Now that I can fly directly to my beloved Ljubljana I am less likely to revisit Trieste but I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different in italy or just for a city break in general. Trieste is very much its own city, a curious blend of its neighbouring cultures and that famous Italian style and arrogance. Easily accessible from Stansted thanks to Ryanair, Trieste offers an opportunity to see a remarkable and surprising little bit of Italy.
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Jason and the Argonauts were said to have stopped in Trieste in the hunt for the Golden Fleece. With this being Italy I had been expecting this to be a case of the Golden Fleecing of a stupid tourist... Read on to see if I got fleeced... --- During my recent trip to Slovenia, I decided to take a day trip to Trieste, especially as it was only just over an hour away by bus from Piran, where I was staying. It also gave me a chance to try and complete a set of Italian Euro coins or two for friends (demanding friends I have!). The other recent was to be able to say that I had visited both ends of the where Churchill's "Iron Curtain" stood. Churchill's quote was as follows: "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an Iron Curtain has come down over Europe", a quote which has of course descended into history. Well of course the iron curtain is now consigned to history, and indeed the border crossing from Slovenia, even though it is not an EU country into Italy and out was pretty lax to say the least. Trieste can also be reached easily from Austria, and for people wanting to save money when heading to Venice, Trieste has an airport where a lot of budget carriers (RyanAir included) fly to, so it could make the ideal starting point for a voyage of discovery. Added to the fact that it is a very busy port, apparently only second to Genova (Genua) in terms of size in Italy, and hey presto! One thriving city. Well, a thriving industrial city! With approximately 400,000 inhabitants, Trieste is a sea of buildings, with very little of note other than the around the centre, of what is a very historical city. If you have more than a few hours in Trieste then it is well worth heading out to the Castello Miramare, about 5 miles out of town, as the Castello was built by Empire Maximillian of Austria (Trieste was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) for his wife and is apparently well worth a visit wit
h a visitor's centre-cum-museum. Unfortunately I didn't get out there - and I would advise checking opening times before heading out - Monday can be a bad day to go! There are also some caves fairly close, but according to people we spoke to they weren't really anything that outstanding - I find caves tend to be all a bit the same really and a childhood spent going on annual trips to Wookey Hole probably jaundices my view somewhat. The railway station and bus station are right next door to one another and it is also only a ten minute walk to the city centre, or more accurately to the main piazza. The Piazza dell'Unita d'Italia, which is the largest square in Europe is certainly well worth a look at, with various municipal buildings surrounding the piazza, which also looks down towards the Adriatic. During the summer there are frequent concerts on the piazza and the buildings are certainly very impressive. Close to the piazza there is a roman amphitheatre, although this is really pretty disappointing - if you are travelling further into Istria, you are better off going to the Colloseum-like amphitheatre in Pula, as the Trieste one is not particularly big and not so well preserved as the one in Pula, and nor is there really any information for tourists there. The amphitheatre was excavated in the 1930s and was built during the reign of Augustus in around AD33. The cathedral (Sacello di San Giusto) and the castle (castello) are perched on top the San Giusto hill, with the castle offering excellent views and with admission very reasonable (about EUR 1.70 if I remember correctly). From the castle there are views down over the city, with most of modern Trieste sprawling out behind the castle. There are various cannons as a testament to less peaceful times and next to the castle there are the remains of the Forense Basilica, which dates from the 2nd Century AD. The Sacello di San Giusto is one of the oldest Christian churches
, and whilst nothing outstanding - being of modest proportions it is worth taking a look inside, with the adjoining Basilica dell'Assunta which dates from the 14th century forming the Basilica di San Giusto. The rose window, which dates from this time is worth a closer look at. As with many places around Italy, the bell tower (campanile) is separate from the church. The San Giusto hill also contains a memorial to the city's war dead from the First World War (built in 1935) which offers an eery glimpse of fascist patriotism from its design as well as the Ara della III Armata built around the same time. There are buses around the city, although really it is pretty pleasant to walk instead, unless of course you are there when the weather is somewhat inclement. There are lots of small cafés - we found a great one where the waitresses kept on giving me free vol-au-vents (I didn't ask for them) and coffee is cheap and not as pricey as traditionally it can be in Italy. Rather than heading to the first café nearest the piazza, I chose to find a small café in the newer part of the city, admittedly the language barrier was a problem (I could speak English, German, French but not more than a smattering of Italian) but the pasta we had was very reasonable and the Birra a la spina certainly revived me! All in all I would say that Trieste is a good place to come and visit for a day or to break up a longish leg of a journey, but I was not that over-convinced that it merited a trip on its own - although perhaps a trip to Miramare might have convinced me otherwise! And no I didn't get fleeced!
Trieste must rank as one of Europe's most under-rated cities. Lying in the forgotten north-eastern corner of Italy, for years almost cut off from the rest of the country by the so-called Iron Curtain, the port city of Trieste (Trst in Slovene) is neglected by the tourist crowds in favour of its better known and more beautiful sister venice. I must admit that passing through Trieste by train five years ago en route to Slovenija, there did not seem much to stop for. It seemed ordinary, nondescript, industrial, consisting solely of factories, cranes and mist. A town made to be forgotten...and forget it I did, until I happened across Ryanair's website offering flights to Trieste Airport for a ridiculously low sum. A quick glance at a map, and my head was filled with ideas of a short trip to Slovenija, a country I had wanted to re-visit for some time. Trieste would just provide a convenient and cheap gateway, nothing more. Arriving at Trieste's tiny airport, the idea was to get myself to the city bus station as quickly as possible, leaving on the first bus to Koper, a medieval town just over the frontier. Quick and easy, so I thought...at least that was the plan. The fact that it was Easter Sunday and that Italy was a religious country had not entered my mind! I had also not bargained for the uselessness of the airport bus system, so when finally a bus dropped me off at the bus station, it was too late to move on any further. No reservation at a hotel, hardly any Euros, and absolutely no idea where to start looking for a place to stay. As for my Italian linguistic skills, well I could remember how to ask for a francobollo (a stamp) and find out where the nearest bar was, but that wasn't going to help me find a bed for the night! After walking around the station area for an hour or so, trying to figure out my next move and cursing the city, the airport, the buses, myself, life in general...I jumped into a taxi asking for "ostello" on th
e off chance that there might be a youth hostel in Trieste. The taxi sped off back along the coast road towards the airport, and ten minutes later, just as I was seriously wondering if there was about to be a case of abduction or homicide, the driver pulled up outside a grand yellow-painted building on the seafront, announcing "signor, ostello!". A wave of relief swept over me as I saw the blue triangle logo of Hostelling International, and a second one hit me as I found out that a bed was available. Something else hit me as I walked into the dormitory...the nasty odour of sweaty feet. Even though the one and only window was wide open allowing a slight breeze to come in off the sea, fourteen hot, sweaty, snoring lumps of flesh packed in like sardines, and unwashed clothes draped everywhere, made me suddenly remember why I hate youth hostels! Is there something wrong with me? I mean, I'm 22, I love travelling, can cope with the most offensive of hotel rooms, and have a strict budget to follow,so by rights I should love youth hostels from the bottom of my heart. But there is something peculiar about them, something I cannot stand. Is it the petty rules, the curfews and the lock-outs? Is it the silent breakfasts of stale rolls and "strictly one cup of weak Nescafe per person"? Is it the "no privacy showers"? Well, no, I'm not keen on any of those aspects, but what I find the mostirritating are my fellow guests, particularly the ones who never stop yacking about places they've been on their six-month grand tour of Europe, mispronouncing every place name. Whatever you've done, they've done it better. Wherever you've been, they've always been further. I call them wiwis ("when I was in...", Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Trieste. The following morning, after my one cup of weak Nescafe and stale roll, I gathered up my stuff and set off along the promenade in search of a
bus. Still not in the best of moods, due to lack of sleep and a particularly mundane dialogue with an Aussie wiwi, my mood brightened somewhat with the sight of dawn over Trieste and its seaside suburb of Barcola. Eight kilometres is a long way, and I had intended to take the bus, but as it was such a nice morning, I chose to walk into the city centre. Passing the outdoor cafes and the marina of Barcola, I noticed that it was deathly quiet. Maybe I was just early? So I plodded on, alongside the train tracks into the transport hub of Trieste. Again deathly quiet...what was going on? Hearing church bells in the distance, it dawned on me that it was Easter Monday, quite possibly a public holiday. My worst suspicions were confirmed by the lady at the ticket kiosk. "Non c'e", she replied when I asked about buses to Koper. My first reaction is unrepeatable! What on earth was I going to do for another day in this industrial hellhole? And how could I survive another night at that hostel? I stomped out of the bus station, badly in need of an espresso, so headed into the town centre. The first surprise greeted me five minutes later. Rounding a corner, suddenly there was the Canale Grande before me. Forget any similarities with Venice's namesake...this grand canal is most definitely unpretentious, but arguably more likeable. While it doesn`t even try to compete with Venice`s canals, it is an impressive sight, filled with tiny boats, and surrounded by outdoor cafes, churches, fountains and old palazzos.On Easter Monday morning, the place was almost silent...hardly a soul in sight, until the church bells began to ring, and churchgoers flooded into the waterside cafes. If this was anywhere else but Trieste, I`m sure it would be thronging with tourists, but on that morning, it was just me, a couple of fishermen, some dog walkers, and local coffee-drinkers. At the far end of the canal, there is a large building which I took to be the
town hall...I could be wrong, but remember, I wasn't planning to stay longer than a few minutes in Trieste so had no guidebook or map with me. Next to it was a Serbian Orthodox Church, the Chiesa di San Spiridone, and a bit further along is the Palazzo Gopevic, with red and white chequered tiles which reminded me of the Croatian flag. Trieste is where the cultures of Italy, Austria, Slovenija and Croatia merge, and signs of this cultural diversity can be seen in by walking down a single street. A group of Slovene shoppers sit eating Austrian pastries in an Italian cafe opposite a Serbian church and a Croatian palace! You won't find that in many cities... A little further along the seafront brought me to the vast Piazza Unita. Again, the square was quiet, with only a few families feeding the pigeons and sipping espresso in the cafes. To get my bearings, I took a walk down one of the many concrete piers on the sea side of the square. From the end, I saw that Trieste had many more surprises in store for me, and decided that maybe it wasn't such a bad thing, being stuck here for another night. If things had gone according to plan, I would have left Trieste with the same impressions that I arrived with. Instead I had the opportunity to discover a truly unique city devoid of foreign tourists. I decided to head uphill to what looked to me like a castle on the hilltop. Usually, I would have a guidebook to help me find specific sights, so this was a completely new way for me to sightsee. Blundering round the narrow, twisting streets leading off behind Piazza Unita, I stumbled upon a miniscule Roman amphitheatre, just one of Trieste's many Roman remains. Unlike Roma, where ruins stretch as far as the eye can see, Trieste's ruins are interspersed with medieval houses, parks and shopping streets. Finding a trace of Trieste's ancient history is an unexpected event, and for me, this was one of the highlights of being lost in Trieste. I
always say that the best way to get to know a city is to get lost in it, and again this proved to be the best strategy. If I'd have found the tourist office open and picked up a map, chances are I would not have enjoyed Trieste as much. It is much more enjoyable to stumble upon an amphitheatre or a Roman archway by accident than it is to know exactly what is round the next corner. Heading upwards, the streets become narrower and twistier, until you reach the Cathedral of San Giusto on the hilltop next to Trieste's castle. here, I encountered the only sign of tourism in the city...two tour buses with elderly Italian tourists, and a small stall selling drinks and postcards. Still, the hilltop was big enough for two tour groups and me, so i wasn't complaining at all. The park between the cathedral and the castle is filled with some bizarre sculptures, and makes a pleasant place to write postcards, sitting on a wall with a great view over the rooftops below. I happily spent the next few hours exploring the older parts of Trieste, before taking the bus back towards the hostel to investigate an imposing white structure i had spotted from the sculpture park. A five minute walk from the hostel led me to Miramare castle, set in acres of parkland on a headland. Remarkably, the parkland is free to enter, but don`t expect it to be deserted, especially at weekends or on holidays. On Easter Monday, the place was jam-packed...but there was still room to escape the crowds, as there are several paths criss-crossing the cliffside. The castle is open to the public too, for a fee, but if you`re feeling cheap like I was, you can be content with peering in the windows on the ground floor! Probably more impressive on the outside anyway...Miramare really dispelled the myth that Trieste was an ugly polluted port city...the parkland is a nature reserve, while the surrounding coastline is a marine reserve. One problem I found with staying at the host
el was the lack of restaurants nearby. The curfew at 11pm is not such a difficult rule to stick to, as the last bus from Trieste centre leaves at 9pm. But this means that either you have to eat in Trieste fairly early, or face a long walk into Barcola where there are a few pizzerias and fish restaurants. After a full day's sightseeing, the thought of a 3km walk to Barcola is not exactly relished! The following morning, I was actually quite sad to leave Trieste, although I was itching to get to Slovenija. The bus station has, on normal days, several connections with towns in Slovenija (Koper and Piran are very well served), Croatia and beyond, so Trieste makes an ideal gateway to this region. But don't be a fool like me and try to rush from airport to border...you'll miss out on this unusual city if you do. Trieste should not be overlooked. There is more than enough to see and do in the city and its surroundings...who needs Venice and its crowds when you have a fascinating Italian/Slavic city almost empty of tourists (well, foreign tourists anyway) just down the road?!
Trieste is a funny old city and the Triestini are mad. Or at least, that’s what many people round here told me when I said I was heading to the border city for the weekend.Of course, I asked for clarification, but was just met with a sad nod of the head or a chuckle. Being assured it was not a malevolent madness, I felt quite comforted by this thought. Anyone the people here think are mad, can’t be all that bad! In fact, this made the thought of Trieste all the more appealing to me and I wasn't disappointed. I didn't really know what to expect of the city before I arrived. Trieste has many 'claims to fame'. She lies by the sea, and for centuries was the main seaport of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, finally attaching herself to Italy after the First World War. She is the capital of the Friuli-Venezia Guilia region, being historically located in and area known as the ‘Guilia’. Trieste is just a few kilometres inside the Italian border and signs of her Slovenian neighbour are just about everywhere. In a way, you feel you are in Central Europe, the cafes seem more Austrian than Italian, the people friendly (and not in the slightest bit mad to my mind, but then, I’m from London!) but not friendly in the open Mediterranean manner, but a slightly more reserved, curious but not over-curious manner. I have travelled around many different cities in Italy, but in Trieste, more than most, the history breathes through every pore of the city. I’ve never been anywhere that has felt so close to the first and second world wars, for a start. It almost seems as if the city is still crying for the blood lost on her land. Most of the Italians who died in the First World War, at least, died in Friuli-Venezia Guilia, the autonomous region of which Trieste is the capital and the memorials to the war flood the city. There is one of the most touching tributes/memorials in the form of a
large ‘Parco della Rimembranza’ clutching the side of the central San Guistanian Hill, which has a mixture of gravestones and monuments to those who died in the wars since 1914. The names are written along with where the person died and where they were from, from as far away as Sicily and Sardinia, and it was quite heartbreaking to stroll around, but more touching was the fact that some of the tombstones had fresh flowers, so people were still coming to remember their own family members. Back on top of the San Guistanian Hill, is the old Roman Forum and the Cathedral. This is reached by quite a long walk up a steep hill, but is definitely worth the effort, not least because walking there takes you through the heart of the old city, which, itself, is a revelation. The castle is also situated next to the old Roman Forum and there is a small museum, which wasn’t open when I was there, but is devoted to the archeological excavations in the area which uncovered the Forum itself in the 30s. Back down in the main part of the city the main things to see would be the Piazza dell’Unita’ d’Italia which is the largest piazza in Europe which faces directly onto the sea. The architectural style is here, definitely more Austrian than Italian and it is a perfectly beautiful area when the wind isn’t blowing too strongly. There are a thousand other places of note which would take too long to highlight so I’ll condense a little and aim for the heart which a guidebook might not tell. Trieste is famous for the ‘Bora’, a sharp wind that rises from the sea and whips the city up from time to time. I never felt it badly, but I have been assured my many locals that this is because I was lucky! It can get quite chilly here, tucked between mountains and the sea. Trieste has a very rich cultural life, with many galleries, exhibitions and teatre, and the people in the Tourist Informatio
n Office were some of the friendliest I have ever come across, and gave me loads of free information (as would be expected!) but also postcards and posters and well, I left that office looking a bit overburdened but thinking ‘well, if this is madness, I’ll take it’, somewhat refreshing after Venice, that they seem so welcoming to tourists. Finally, you can’t go to Trieste or near it without a visit to the Castle Miramare. This is Trieste’s most famous monument/sight, and lies about 6 kms north of the City. It is a beautiful, but small fairytale castle, built by Maximilian of Austria for his wife, and said to be cursed. It is set within a nature park and the grounds are wonderful to explore and not too large. I didn’t actually go inside the castle, but there is a museum there, and it is set right on the sea. Trieste is a treat, I could honestly say, she is one of my favourite cities in the world because there is such character there that you can’t help be affected, maybe a little mad, but to me, that’s always been a bonus!
"City and capital of Friuli-Venezia Giulia regione and of Trieste provincia, northeastern Italy, located on the Gulf of Trieste at the northeastern corner of the Adriatic Sea, 90 miles (145 km) east of Venice. Trieste flourished as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the period 18671918 when it was Central Europe's prosperous Mediterranean seaport and a capital of literature and music. However, the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Trieste's annexation to Italy after World War I led to a decline in its economic and cultural importance. Today, Trieste is a border town. The population is an ethnic mix of the neighboring regions; The dominant local Venetian dialect of Trieste is called Triestine ("Triestin" - pronounced /triˈɛstin/, in Italian "Triestino"). This dialect and the official Italian language are spoken in the city center whilst Slovenian is spoken in several of the immediate suburbs. The Venetian and the Slovenian languages are considered autochthonous to the area. There is also a large number of German-speakers."