Trieste – more than just a transit town


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Although I’ve been to Trieste in north east Italy’s snappily named Friuli-Venezia Giulia (FVG) region four times, I’ve only stayed the night there once. Its location is ideal for hopping on to Croatia and Slovenia, but what’s it got to offer for those who stick around?

This characterful port city on the Adriatic Sea, with a population of 200,000, could just about be described as a poor man’s Venice without the crowds, although that would be harsh.

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Almost completely surrounded by Slovenia, it’s not the most typical Italian city you will find – it wasn’t even part of Italy until 1918. Once upon a time, it was the fourth biggest city in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and was its premier seaport. Located at the crossroads of Latin, Slavic and Germanic influences, you’ll probably think you are in Central Europe.

Venice might be able to boast about its main square, Piazza San Marco, as one of the most beautiful in the world. But Trieste’s Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia is not too far behind in the stunner stakes, and is the biggest square I’ve ever come across. My poor photos don’t do it justice, so have a look at these taken from google images.

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Edged with neo-classical buildings on three sides, many of which house bars and restaurants, and open to the Adriatic on the other, it’s a great place to sit and people-watch. Trieste is famous for the quality of its coffee, but I despise the stuff so made do with a chilled glass of local white wine at the famous grand old Caffe degli Specchi.

Don’t expect it to be cheap, and don’t expect attentive customer service. When a flock of Trieste’s ubiquitous pigeons flew past and knocked my glass off the table, a miserable bow-tied waiter swept up the broken glass and gave me a dirty look as if to say “if you’ve not got a drink, you’re not welcome – move it”.

Also like Venice, Trieste has its own Grand Canal (admittedly much shorter) which has some good restaurants alongside it – I fondly remember my spaghetti alle vongole. Here you will find a statue of Irish novelist James Joyce, who lived in the city in the early 20th century.

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The Grand Canal was where I first saw the lovelock phenomenon, which bamboozled me back in 2009. Couples declare their undying love for each other by writing on padlocks, attaching them to bridges and throwing away the key into the water, so their love can never be prised apart. It took a few years for the rest of Europe to catch on, but now you can’t cross a bridge without seeing a lovelock – I spotted one recently by the heavily polluted Coventry canal!

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If I’d have had longer than one night in Trieste, I could have seen the city’s hilltop castle, the cathedral of San Giusto and explored the karst limestone coastline. I’ll have to do all of that next time I’m in town, but for a lazy day of eating and drinking in the square and along the canal, Trieste is t’rrific.

Inspired?

Trieste’s tiny airport (TRS) used to be served by Ryanair flights from Birmingham and Liverpool, but you can currently only get there from the UK from Stansted.

Bus no. 51 takes you the 20 miles from the airport to central Trieste.

I stayed at the cheap, clean and central Nuovo Albergo Centro, where doubles with breakfast are around €65.

For ferry timetables to Slovenia and Croatia, click here.

For bus timetables to Slovenia, Croatia and beyond, click here.

For train timetables to other parts of Italy, click here.

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Categories: ItalyTags: , , , ,

24 comments

  1. I’ve often been in Trieste because it’s so close to my city. We did shopping there before all the big brands came here. And I still fly to UK from Trieste airport because it’s got all year round flights not just seasonal ones like here:) You should visit Miramare castle one day, it’s along the coast.

  2. Never been there, but I like the look of the square. I was in Turin in March this year and I loved the squares with the cafes, it is one of those lovely things about Italy. That is a shame about the pigeon versus wine incident and the unsympathetic waiter! How come you don’t like coffee? They have this drink in Turin called a Bicerin that is mainly a hot chocolate, but has some coffee in it- you might like something like that?

    • I do love a good square, and Italy is full of them. Torino has been at the top of my wishlist for ages for the food and football. How was it? I like the coffee smell and really wish I could drink it but it makes me want to heave! Maybe this Bicerin is for me.

      • Yes, Torino is superb. A bit of an undiscovered gem in Italy. Perhaps not quite as many classic things to see and do as the more famous Italian cities, but it has its own charms. The cafes are something else, lots of grand, traditional cafes with palatial interiors. And if you go for aperitivo you get free snack food with your drinks. I found this was enough to fill me up and I didn’t always need diner. I loved sitting with a cocktail in these cafes and enjoying the food that was served with it. As well as the football there is also the motor museum. I didn’t have time to go, but you can take a boat trip there. Torino is the home of Fiat cars. With the fast trains to Milan taking less than an hour to get to Torino it makes it easy to see both cities and it means you can get Easyjet to Milan in order to get to Torino on the train- not many direct flights going there and none from airports in Scotland.

  3. It looks much more beautiful than a poor man’s Italy πŸ˜‰ Now that you’ve put it on my radar, Trieste is on my never-ending places to visit! πŸ™‚ Thanks for writing about it.

  4. I keep looking at Trieste on the map because it’s so close to my fave, Ljubljana, and I want to get into Slovenia via Italy next time. You’ve done a nice job of convincing me I need to make it happen!

  5. No chance of me flying from Stansted, but it looks nice enough, Richard.
    Where next, for you? I’m just drawing breath. πŸ™‚

    • Stansted’s a pain for me too, but it gets all the best routes and prices. I should be popping to Madrid in July, and a few more summer trips to Cornwall if I’m lucky!

      • Hot!!! πŸ™‚ And no, I probably don’t mean Cornwall but you never know.

        • Just found your blog and enjoyed reading through it. Have added a few places to the travel list – Trieste was always on it though! I’m also a bit of an Italy lover and just back from a few days in Bologna. Like you, next stop is Madrid but in September. I look forward to reading your views on it.

        • Cheers, if you missed it Rick Stein was in Bologna on BBC2 last Friday – you should be able to catch it on iplayer. Enjoy Madrid – I went in 2002 for a football match and the highlight for me was Plaza Mayor.

        • Hi Iain πŸ™‚ Wires crossed somewhere, I think. I won’t be in Madrid this year, but maybe someday. Thanks for reading mine.

  6. I thought about Trieste whilst in Italy, but the expense of thr North put me off. Though it would a good launching point for Croatia etc.

  7. I love Trieste so much. You are right- it is more than just a transit town πŸ˜€ Great post! Love Miramare and Muggia.

  8. In Trieste at the moment. Can’t remember going anywhere else with such a lack of decent customer service! Waiters and restaurant staff ignore you as you hover to ask if they have a table free. Obtaining the bill is also surprisingly difficult, and you’d think they’d at least be keen to make sure you pay. Lovely looking city, doesn’t seem to know how to give tourists a pleasant or even polite experience though.

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