Let’s start from Trieste a tour of Italy that will take us to know the most beautiful and interesting places of the almost eight thousand kilometers of the coast of Italy.
Trieste is the capital of Friuli Venezia Giulia; it overlooks the homonymous gulf in the northernmost part of the Adriatic a few kilometers from the border with Slovenia and boasts a fascinating history, full of events that have seen it be imperial city before it capital, characterized by victories and defeats that have made it the wonderful city that is currently.
Its role is decisive: it has been a bridge between central and southern Europe for centuries, gathering Mediterranean, Slavic and Central European characters. Cosmopolitan city, multilingual and always open to challenges, it is among the preferred travel destinations for both Italians and foreigners from all over the world.
The history of Trieste
The origins of Trieste are ancient but, unfortunately, there are few testimonies that have come to this day. For what has been possible to reconstruct, it is known that its territory has been, since the second millennium B.C. the object of prehistoric settlements. In particular, we remember the castles, that is villages of very small size built on heights and protected by fortifications made of stone.
Around 50 B.C. the village becomes a Roman colony; it is surrounded by walls and, subsequently, enriched with majestic buildings such as the Forum and the Theatre, of which some remains still remain today.
From the third century AD, then, the colony was repeatedly invaded by barbarians, to find a certain stability only in the mid-nineteenth century under the power of Bishop John.
Trieste became a free municipality only in the fourteenth century but, because of the continuous threats to its autonomy, it required the protection of Leopold III of Austria, with whom a long friendship was established.
The passage to the modern city that everyone knows takes place during the early eighteenth century, when Charles VI of Austria decrees, with an edict, freedom of navigation.
The doors of trade open wide and the city becomes Porto Franco. Later, thanks to the investments of Maria Theresa and Joseph II, traffic intensified and attracted more and more people from all over the world, transforming the city into a melting pot of cultures, a reference point for cults, different dialects, religions and traditions.
Given the population growth, the ancient village is no longer able to accommodate all the inhabitants; as a result, the city expands towards the sea, connecting the various hills that rise from the inside to the coast. The economic growth is of the nineteenth century, a time when the Habsburg Empire makes Trieste a real hub of economic, cultural and political exchanges.
The city returned to Italy in 1918; during World War II it lost the lands of the Istrian peninsula, which passed to Yugoslavia, and faced a dark period. At the end of the war the Yugoslav government long claimed power over Trieste and, only in 1954, the city returned to be definitively Italian.
What to see and do in Trieste
Trieste is often considered a simple city of passage for those who decide to spend their summer holidays in Istria or Slovenia; it is a real shame, because it deserves to be known not only for its history, but also for the monuments it houses inside. Despite its reputation for elegance, Trieste is “a city with a grumpy grace”, as the Trieste writer Umberto Saba loved to call it.
Trieste, therefore, is not the typical postcard city that welcomes visitors in a festive and welcoming atmosphere, with breathtaking landscapes and tourist attractions; it is more a shy and reserved place that, offers its joy and its enchanting grace to those who want to know it thoroughly. Let’s find out what to see in Trieste.
Piazza Unità and Molo Audace
The main square of Trieste is Piazza Unità; born as Piazza San Pietro, before assuming its current name, it also passes through Piazza Grande. Triestines are proud of it, because it is one of the largest square overlooking the sea in all of Europe.
Starting from the left, there are several prestigious buildings: Palace of the Austrian Lieutenancy (seat of the Prefecture), Palazzo Stratti, Palazzo Modello (seat of the Town Hall), Palazzo Pitteri and Palazzo della Regione.
The square also houses the Fountain of the Four Continents, built during the eighteenth century; it is an allegory, in fact, of the four continents Europe, Asia, Africa and America.
In front of the square, however, is the Molo Audace, which takes its name from the first ship entered the city port after the end of the First World War and the annexation of Trieste to Italy.
A typical place of Trieste is the Borgo Teresiano, which owes its name to Maria Teresa Empress of Austria. It is a district crossed by the Grand Canal and, in the past, allowed to transport goods within the city. The best view of the village is from the Ponte Rosso, famous for the secular market of fruits, vegetables and flowers.
The background is the Church of Sant’Antonio Nuovo, the largest in Trieste, initially founded as the Serbian-Orthodox Temple of San Spiridione and the Greek-Orthodox Church of San Nicolò.
Cathedral of San Giusto
The Cathedral of San Giusto is the most important church of Trieste; it is located on the homonymous hill overlooking the city and is the result of the union between the Church of Santa Maria and the Church of San Giusto built in the fourteenth century.
It has a very simple facade, enriched by a large Gothic rose window and a central Roman portal. Above the door there is a plaque that refers to the Austro-English bombing of 1813 against the Napoleonic troops. Some cannonballs are still visible in the wall of the bell tower.
From the left of the Cathedral you can access the Baptistery and the Museum with the Treasure; next, then, stands the Castle of San Giusto, another symbol of Trieste, built at the behest of the emperors of Austria for defensive purposes.
Castello di Miramare
Miramare Castle in Trieste was born as a love nest of Archduke Ferdinando Massimiliano of Habsburg and his wife Carlotta of Belgium. It overlooks the sea and enjoys large green spaces. Unfortunately, she is the protagonist of a very sad story: Ferdinando is shot before he can live there and Carlotta, crazy for the loss, lived in a smaller adjacent castle before returning to Belgium.
The castle boasts a rather eclectic style, which contains Gothic, Renaissance and medieval elements. The ground floor was reserved for the apartments of Massimiliano and Carlotta, while the first floor was intended for guests. Currently, the park of the castle is among the favorite places of Trieste, who love to take long walks inside.
It is said that James Joyce wrote several pages of “Ulysses” and “People of Dublin” sitting at the tables of the famous Pasticceria Pirona in Trieste. During his stay in the city, in fact, it was not uncommon to see the writer writing or reading while enjoying a cake or a coffee. But he was not alone: even Saba, Svevo and Stendhal loved to compose their own works near the historic city cafes.
Despite the passage of time it seems that nothing has changed and historic cafes remain immortal attractions; among the main ones are the Caffè degli Specchi, Caffè Tommaseo, Caffè San Marco and Caffè Pirona.
Trieste does not miss, of course, the places of culture; here is the Revoltella Museum, which takes its name from the baron Pasquale Revoltella who, at the end of the nineteenth century, donated to the city his palace and all his works of art.
The museum route consists of several floors: on the ground floor there is the introductory section, on the second floor there is the baron’s private apartment and access to the dining room, the bedroom and the famous “green lounge”, on the second floor there are several sumptuously decorated staterooms. Inside, there is a whole section dedicated to contemporary art.
The city of Trieste is rich in statues, placed here and there in various places. Among the most important are four in particular:
- the statue of James Joyce placed on Ponte Rosso, on the Grand Canal;
- the statue of Gabriele D’Annunzio in Piazza della Borsa, sitting on a bench with crossed legs;
- the statue of Umberto Saba in Via Dante Alighieri, which seems to go towards the library;
- the statue of Italo Svevo in Piazza Attilio Hortis, with a hat and a book in hand.
In addition, on the promenade, near the Teatro Verdi, there is the statue of the Girls of Trieste: they are two women from Trieste (mules, in dialect) who are sewing the tricolor. It is a patriotic symbol, created in 2004 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the annexation of Trieste to Italy.
Inside the Memorial Park, you can admire the Monument to the Fallen of Trieste dedicated to the soldiers who died during the First World War. Five naked soldiers are depicted, one of whom is wounded and the others intent on protecting him.
Also worth seeing is the statue of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, placed in the gardens in front of the railway station, and the statue of Nazario Sauro, a naval officer, in Piazzale Marinai d’Italia.
Risiera di San Sabba
If the trip is, first of all, discovery, then a stop at the Risiera di San Sabba is practically a must. It consists of a factory for the husking of rice that, between 1923 and 1943, was transformed by the Nazis into a prison camp. Inside, hostages, partisans, Jews and political prisoners were deported.
Over 3,500 people died here. The chimney and the furnace were destroyed by the Nazis themselves in an attempt to hide their crimes but, of course, the survivors told of their existence.
Today, the Risiera di San Sabba is a museum; on its walls still remain faded writings that recall the horror and many testimonies have been collected in the Hall of Commemorations.
Lighthouse of Victory
Another symbol of Trieste patriotism is the Lighthouse of Victory, which allows visitors to look at the city from a different perspective. It dates back to 1923, then in full fascism, and was made to commemorate the Italian sailors who died during the First World War and also to celebrate the Italian victory against the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
For 110 years, the Opicina Tram has been passing through the centre of Trieste. At the moment it is out of service, but theoretically his journey would start from Piazza Oberdan to pass by different viewpoints of the city.
From the Obelisk stop you can walk in Via Napoleonica, a panoramic road that leads to the Marian Sanctuary.
With a history of 10 million years, the Giant Cave was discovered by chance in 1890. You enter through a natural door and descend towards the Great Gallery to a depth of about 80 meters.
The colorful room is rich in stalagmites, stalactites and calcium carbonate castings. In the center is the geophysical research station of the University of Trieste that studies the movements of the earth’s crust.
For over fifty years, the second Sunday of October, the waters of the Gulf of Trieste host the international regatta Barcolana, one of the most crowded in the world, which sees the participation of a thousand sailing boats of all sizes and with crews of both world-famous professionals and amateurs. In the weekend of the regatta Trieste is joyfully invaded by boats and aquipaggi that add show and life to the elegant city of Giuliana.
What to eat in Trieste
The city of Trieste, as repeatedly stated, is the result of the union and contamination of several peoples of Mediterranean, Central European and Slavic origin; consequently, its cuisine is also to be discovered, since the dishes are born from the mixture of several cultures, also very different from each other.
Here are the 10 typical dishes to which it is impossible to resist:
- Jota: consists of a soup made of sauerkraut, beans and potatoes flavored with ribs, rind or other pork (smoked or not). Before serving, kümmel seeds, similar to cumin, are added;
- Triestine gnocchi: there are two types to try absolutely, that is, gnochi de pan and gnocchi de susini; the first are large bread gnocchi, while the second are filled with plums, to be enjoyed as a first course, both as a side dish for meat dishes;
- rice and bisi: risotto with peas is widespread throughout northern Italy but, in the tradition of Trieste, rice is the vialone nano (which swells during cooking) that absorbs all the seasoning making the dish super creamy;
- sardoni in savòr alla triestina: Trieste is still a city of the sea, so you can not miss the fish dishes; this, specifically, has as protagonists the sardoni “barcolani”, that is anchovies caught within their first year of age, which are cleaned, floured and fried;
- canocie in busara: another dish based on fish, in particular scampi seasoned with busera, a mix of pepper, breadcrumbs, salt and white wine;
- cevapcici: these are mixed minced sausages (pork, beef and lamb) flavored with garlic, onion and paprika, mixed with white wine and extra virgin olive oil and then cooked on the grill;
- goulash: typical dish par excellence, meat cut into pieces and flavored with paprika and onion and served with gnochi de pan;
- granseole alla triestina: a second course of fish with few ingredients, primarily in granseole, that is a large crab whose pulp is added oil, parsley, salt and pepper;
- Trieste beans: they consist of small round-shaped sweets based on almond paste available in different flavors (vanilla, rose water and chocolate);
- presnitz alla triestina: another sweet, this time based on puff pastry filled with walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, raisins, sugar, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves and rum.
Now that you have discovered Trieste enjoy it and get ready to follow us in the next leg of our circumnavigation of Italy.