Trieste is an Adriatic coastal city in northeastern Italy, close to the border with Slovenia. The sea in the Gulf of Trieste is very clear and clean, with limestone cliffs and rocky beaches. The centre of the city has a mid-European feel, more Austrian than Italian, Trieste was the seaport of the Hapsburg Empire.
You can enjoy a combination of a sea/beach holiday and the attractions of a cultural city.
It is an ideal destination for a short break but you could easily spend a week here too. The Verdi Theatre hosts an opera season in the winter and an operetta festival in summer. You can swim in the beautiful clear sea, stroll the promenade, and walk along the cliff paths. Take in the wonderful art collection at the Revoltella Museum. You can sip coffee on Piazza Unita Italia with its grand 19th century buildings, which face onto the sea.
Ryanair flies into Trieste from London Standsted. The airport is 35 kms west of Trieste but there is regular public transport on Coach 51 into Trieste.
If you do decide to hire a car, it is worth checking that you can take it into Slovenia and Croatia if you are considering day trips there.
Trieste has a good public transport network.
There is a “Trieste by Bus" city tour in 13 stops. This is available on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm from the end of June to mid October. The two and a half hour trip allows you to see the city's main attractions. The cost is around five euros per person.
You can take the Opicani tram up to the Carso plateau, 348 metres above sea level. This funicular tramway was built in 1902. The tram leaves from Piazza Oberdan in the city centre up Scorolo hill to the plateau above.
According to folklore Trieste was founded by Tergeste, a friend of Jason and the Argonauts. Ancient Tergeste as a Roman colony is dated to around 178 BC. It became more important during the reign of Octavian when roads were improved.
The city has had many rulers during its history: Goths, Byzantines, and Lombards. In the 13th century Trieste was forced to swear allegiance to Venice. To escape Venetian domination, Trieste sought the protection of Duke Leopold of Austria. Trieste was of great importance to the Hapsburg Empire as a seaport and was made a Freeport in 1719. Without customs barriers the port and city flourished.
At the end of the First World War with collapse of the Hapsburg Empire, Trieste was returned to Italy in 1918. Trieste was taken over by the Third Riech when Italy withdrew from the Second World Ward in September 1943. Two years later there was a 40-day Occupation by Tito's Yugoslav forces. After 9 years under an Anglo-American government Trieste was handed over to the Italian government.
Trieste's history may help explain why 70% of Italians apparently did not know that Trieste was part of Italy in a recent opinion poll! With EU enlargement Trieste is ideally placed as the only natural port in the centre of Europe. Trieste is one of three finalists to host the international Expo of Science, Technology and Culture in 2008. If its bid is successful there will be more investment in the area and Trieste will become better known on the world map.
The Irish author James Joyce lived in Trieste during the early part of the 20th century. When he first arrived he worked as a tutor at the Berlitz School of English. He went on to write “The Dubliners", “The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man" and start “Ulysses" in Trieste. The rich mix of central European and Eastern Mediterranean culture in Trieste is said to have had a great influence on his writing.
Joyce was English tutor to Itali Svevo, the Italian novelist. Svevo was born in Trieste in 1861, his Mother was part of a Triestian Jewish family, and his Father was of German descent. Joyce encouraged and praised Svevo's work and Svevo wrote critiques of Joyce's work.
Svevo's book, “The Confessions of Zeno", was virtually ignored in Italy. However Joyce recommended the book to publishers in France, where it was hailed as a masterpiece. The book is an autobiography of Zeno, written for Zeno's psychoanalyst, to help get to the bottom of his smoking addiction.
Svevo is credited by Welleck as “an Italian novelist with permanent appeal as a psychoanalytical psychologist and as a portrayer of the inhabitants of Austrian and later Italian Trieste and their often uncertain national allegiance. "
Jan Morris wrote the book, “Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere". Morris claims this is her final book, a self- examination based in Trieste. Morris changed gender. Jan Morris first visited Trieste at the end of the Second World War as young Welsh soldier. She describes how the city “curiously haunted her" . She revisited the city as an elderly woman.
Morris describes Trieste as “natural capital of the nation of nowhere". By this she means a home for the so-called “Fourth World" . This is a scattered group with the common values of humour and understanding, usually exiles in their own communities but probably numerous enough to form their own nation.
I laughed at Clay Risen's comment in his piece about Trieste in the Square Table in Spring 2003. He observed that “Trieste is the only city in Eruope which appears more often in reflective essays than in guide books of newspaper travel sections. "
Exploring the city
The best way to explore the city is to walk around.
The Piazza dell’ Unita d'Italia is the heart of the city. The square was created towards the end of the 19th century. It houses the City Hall, with its clock tower featuring statues of Mikeze and Lakeze, figures from Trieste folklore; Government House, with its gilded mosaic wall decorations; and the former Head Office of Lloyd Triestino, built in Renaissance style by an Austrian architect.
The Victory Lighthouse lights the Gulf of Trieste and commemorates the dead of the First World War. It stands almost 70 metres high with a scaled dome containing a statue of winged Victory. At the base of the column is the anchor of the torpedo boat Audace, the first Italian ship to enter the harbour in 1918. The lighthouse took 4 years to complete and was officially opened in 1927.
The Old Stock Exchange is a fine example of neo-classical architecture, resembling a Greek temple. The Old Stock Exchange stands by the so called Grand Canal. However this is rather an misnomer as the canal is very short. There is a statue of Joyce by one of the bridges.
The Arco di Riccard is a Roman gate to the city thought to date from 33 AD. It is in Piazzetta di Ricordo in the old city. You can see the Roman amphitheatre at the foot of San Guisto hill.
The Verdi Opera Theatre opened in 1801. It is of a similar style to La Scala in Milan.
There are many museums in Trieste, most of which are closed on Mondays.
Probably the best is The Revoltella Museum, which was founded in 1872 when Baron Revoletta left his home and art collection to the city of Trieste. He also set up an endowment, which enabled a larger collection to be acquired. The Art Gallery has now spread over three buildings in order to house the ever-expanding collection by many Italian and other artists.
Other museums include:
The Regional Centre for the Study of Ancient and Modern
The Civic Museum
The Museum of Oriental Art
Piccolo Pharmacy Museum
The Railway Museum
As Trieste is a port it was one of the first European cities to take to coffee in a big way. The first coffee houses in Trieste opened at the beginning of the 18th century. These cafés become very popular with artists and intellectuals. Several of the original cafes are going strong, the Tommeseo and the Cafee degli Specchi.
Triestines are very particular about their coffee. If you order a cappuccino the Trieste version will be a black coffee with a little milk. You would need to order an Italian cappuccino. Mixing spirits with coffee is a no-no, viewed as a beverage favoured by foreign lorry drivers!
Cultural and Sporting Events
Bavisela week, 30/4/2005 - Sunday 8/5/2005 culminates on the 8th May with a sailing regatta, the 6th European Marathon and the 10th European Two Castle's Half Marathon.
The Barcolana is held on the second Sunday of October. This is a sailing competition which has run for 30 years and has almost 2000 vessels competing. There are other events during the week such as the Saturday nighttime regatta. The winner is the boat, which can achieve the highest number of laps around the San Guisto basin. The Music Festival takes place for three evenings at the Piazza d'Italie. There is a line up of Italian and international talent and it's free.
From October to May the concert and opera season unfolds in the historic neo-Classical Teatro Comunale Giuseppe Verdi (opened in 1801 and designed by Matteo Petch, architect of Milan's La Scala) and the modern Sala Tripcovich. The festival of Light Opera is held in July and August at the Verdi. Figures of international renown congregate in Trieste for performances of such works as Fritz Kreisler's “Sissi", “The Land of Smiles" and Franz Lear's “Judith". Web site: www.teatroverdi-trieste.com
This castle was built for Archduke Maximilian as a residence by the sea. Maxilmilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, came to live here in 1860. However their stay only lasted for 4 years as Maximilian was despatched to Mexico, where he been offered the throne in an attempt to end the Civil War there. Rebel forces killed Maximilian. Charlotte lived at the Castello alone briefly and then returned to her native Belgium. You can visit the castle and gardens.
In July and August the tragic love story is brought to life in a “Sons et Lumieres". The voice of the Castle caretaker recounts the love story of Maximilian and Charlotte. Performances in English and German can be requested on Saturdays by phoning +39 40 414177
Castello di Duino
This old castle dates from the 11th century, the only recognisable remains are the tower and an arch. The new castle was completed in the 15th century. Legend tells that in medieval times a young princess fell in love with a local boy. Her Father locked her away in a tower and had her lover killed in the courtyard below and the corpse thrown in the sea. In despair the Princess leapt from the tower, her screams turned her to stone as she hurtled down. Near the shore is a rock that looks like a woman's body. Some say that “Dama Biance" still haunts the area searching for her lost love.
Duino Castle has only recently opened its doors to the public. Prince Carlo Allessandro and his family still live in the castle. The castle has accommodated many famous guests: Dante, Listz and Struass.
The coastal path, the Rilke Promenade from Duino to Sistians is named after the German poet, a guest at the castle from 1911 - 1912.
The Grotta Gigante, the Giant Cave
This cave is the largest accessible cave in the world. It is estimated that you could fit St Peters Cathedral inside. The cave was first explored in 1840 by Lidner. In 1904, a four- year project started to turn the cave into a tourist attraction. It took 4000 candles to light the cave, electricity was only installed in 1957. There are hourly guided visits. You can find out about opening hours by phoning 040 327312.
The beach at Sistinna Spiaggia is said to be one of the best in Italy. It can be reached by the no. 51 and 21 buses from Trieste. Grignano is closer to Trieste and is reached by the no. 36 bus.
Hotel Riviera & Residence Maximilians
This is in a great location on the coast, 8 kms north of Trieste. It is the only hotel in Trieste to have its own private beach, which is accessible by lift or by beach. If you prefer to stay in the hotel, a double room on a bed and breakfast basis costs form 99 euros per night. Self-catering accommodation is available in the Residence Maximilians. Hotel Gran Duchi d'Aosta
If you would like to stay in the heart of the city, the four star Duchi is situated the Piazza Unita Italia. All the rooms and suites are individually furnished with antiques.
Where to eat
Harry's Grill in the Hotel Gran Duchi is one of Trieste's most exclusive restaurants. I have eaten at this restaurant. I was even served with a pre-starter, a delicious titbit of stuffed aubergine, and a pre-dessert, a lovely strawberry mousse. The accompanying bread and bread sticks has been freshly baked. My (proper) starter was stuffed pasta, the main course was sea bass, topped off with white chocolate mousse rippled with passionfruit sauce. It is entirely possible to have a lighter meal, if you can resist the temptation. In Summer you can sit out on the pedestrianised square. Main courses cost from 16 - 26 euros. Piazza dll"Unita d"Italia 2, tel: 040 660606
Al Bragozzo is the best-known restaurant at the port, which specialises in seafood. The simply yet creatively prepared meals pay homage to the sea and its heritage by combining the elements of Italian cuisine and the riches of the Mediterranean. Specialties include spaghetti alla Giorgio (with tomatoes and herbs), ravioli stuffed with herbs, monkfish braised with artichokes (and cooked with white wine), and spaghetti with lobster. There are also many preparations of salmon and shrimp. You can eat at the outdoor tables, weather permitting, if you visit in the summer. Main courses cost from 10 - 25 euros. Riva Nazario Sauro 22. tel: 040 303001.
There are many buffets in Trieste. These are restaurants which specialise in pork, often in various stews, sausages and soups. Two of the best known are: Re di cappe, Via Geppa 11, tel 040 370330 Da Giovanni, Via S Lazzaro 14, tel 040 639396
Exploring the Carse
The Triestine cares starts at Montefalcone in the north and stretches down adjacent to the Slovenian border. The area is known as a paradise for botanists with a mixture of continental flora and Mediterranean vegetation. There is talk of the area achieving national park status.
The Carsic house in Rupingrande has a collection of traditional furniture and local costumes.
During the first week in May the works of local painters are exhibited during the Majence Festival, in San Dorligo delle Valle.
The best known event is the Carsic Wedding, every second year on the last Sunday of August in Monrupino. There are dances every night of the preceeding week. On the wedding day the bridal procession, all dressed in traditional costume, walk to the fortress church for the marriage ceremony.
Grado and Aquiliea
Aquiliea was founded in the first century BC. It occupies a strategic defence location. It became a Patriarchs's seat andmany beautiful churches were built. The Bascilica is considered to be one of the most important monuments of early Christianity. There are two museums to visit there.
Grado was the extreme southern part of the port of Aquileia. Now it a beautiful island city joined to the mainland by a causeway. It boasts 20 kms of fine sandy beaches. Grado was very popular as a spa during the days of the Austrio Hungarian Empire with its healing sands. Grado can be reached by the no 21 bus from Trieste. There is also a boat service during the Summer.
Muggia is a pretty coastal town just south of Trieste, which can be reached by ferry from Trieste during the summer. The town is of Venetian origin, surrounded by medieval walls with a 14th century castle and a pretty port.
The Slovenian border is just a few kilometres from Trieste. The Lipica Stud and Riding School is under a half hour drive from Trieste. It was originally founded in 1580 by Archduke Charles for breeding royal horses for the Austrian court. Now you can tour the stud farm (6 Euros) or have a riding lesson, starting at 16 euros.
Croatia can be easily reached through by passing through the narrow strip of coastal Slovenia.
Every Sunday during April, May and June you can visit specific wineries in the area to try their products.
There are various wine itineraries you can follow.
Venice can be reached by direct train from Trieste. The journey takes around two hours. The train takes you right into the centre of Venice.
The tourist information office is located at 4/b Piazza d'Italie, tel 040 3478320.
Karen Bryan is an independent travel consultant and writer, specialising in the less well known destinations in Europe. Her websites are: http://www.europealacarte.co.uk and http://www.europe-culture-activity-tours.com