Trieste is the smallest province in Italy, and perhaps also the most isolated. For evidence of this, simply take a look at any map: it consists of a thin stretch of land which runs between the sea and the upland plains which border Slovenia. This border area is fraught with tensions, as the city has not yet learned to co-exist peacefully with its foreign neighbors.
Surrounding the highly urbanized areas in the center and the south, stands a veritable constellation of small towns and villages such as Sgonico, Monrupino, Duino, Basovizza and San Pelagio which are predominantly inhabited by the Slovenian-speaking minority. In recent years, these areas have witnessed the construction of a number of country cottages and villas of considerable market value.
The city's geographical isolation is reflected in its personality. It is at once lonely, mysterious, alluring, conservative, pensive, a little primitive, perennially tired and taciturn. It is chock full of banks (unlike other Italian administrative towns), but is nonetheless lacking in any great entrepreneurial spirit, unlike the nearby Friuili, an industrious boom town. It is a fairly old city and a hotbed of science and the arts, a city that extends a friendly welcome to people of all nationalities. Until 1954, it was under American military rule. It is a carefree city with a love for the finer things in life. What could be more pleasurable than a glass of wine, a walk around
Trieste is a beautiful and extraordinary city, anchored to a past that it cannot forget. It is constantly battered by the Bora - an icy and powerful northeasterly wind, which is tolerated as an inevitable feature of life in Trieste. Below, you will see that Trieste has been sub-divided into eleven zones (beginning with the most southerly) in order to make it easy for any visitor to get geographically-orientated.
Trieste offers visitors a good bus service. However, if you are traveling to
Muggia This is a small town (one of six) which lies around ten kilometers from the center of Trieste. It is a seaside town with a strong fishing tradition, and was the last fortification before the state border. It has recently been completely restructured and contains features which are reminiscent of the istroveneto period. Take a walk through its narrow streets, past the fishing boats, which are anchored in its beautiful port. The shops are small and relatively modest, but life here is still extremely pleasant. To get here by sea, simply set sail in the opposite direction to Venice. A giant tourist complex exists where the glorious shipyards of
Valmaura - Servola - Chiarbola These districts are all in the immediate periphery of Trieste and are for the most part residential districts. Here, you will find the
House prices here are considerably lower than anywhere else, but the area offers few amenities. However, it is only around 10 to 15 minutes away from the city center. The Servola district, which has unfortunately been polluted by the pungent black smoke from the gigantic railway complex - is also nearby.
Piazza Unità d'Italia - Cittavecchia This area constitutes the heart of Trieste.
Borgo Teresiano The old heart of Trieste stands by the sea, near the train station. In order to get here from the
Corso Italia - Barriera Vecchia - Via Battisti This is the commercial heart of the city, situated around ten minutes from the sea. It is characterized by numerous office blocks, fashion boutiques, chaotic traffic and a frenetic pace. From Via Carducci, Via Milano and Via Battisti to Via Valdirivo and Via Fabio Severo (where you will find the Court of Law and the prison) - you will waste precious time caught between traffic lights. An exception is the Viale XX Settembre - a beautiful tree-lined avenue which runs for several kilometers. Along here you will find over half of the cinemas in Trieste as well as a number of excellent ice cream parlors. At the bottom of this street, in the direction of Longera stands the
San Giacomo These two major districts are situated on the hills around San Giusto. San Giacomo is fairly self-contained - it has its own shops, nightclubs and restaurants. It is highly valued by its inhabitants, despite perennial parking difficulties and the chaotic traffic. It is also home to the Burlo Garofolo Children's Hospital, which is considered to be one of the best in Italy.
San Vito San Vito is, in fact, a typically residential zone, very quiet and calm. In the neighboring area, the beautiful palazzi of Lloyd Adriatico headquarters (the insurance giant), and Lloyd Triestino, the famous local navigation company which was recently purchased by a huge multinational corporation.
Montebello A non-descript and typically residential area, if there were not the
Università Walking down Via Coroneo, and then Via Fabio Severo, you arrive in the beautiful residential area that contains the University. Here, many departments and different schools of the University of Trieste are located, and there are not many shops.
Barcola – Miramare – Sistiana – Grignano - Duino These districts are found somewhat outside the city, near roads that head towards Venice. The panorama is extraordinary and is a location of many of the city's wealthy residents. Barcola provides visitors with many beautiful walks, at the end of which you find the
Opicina – Plateau On the outer boundaries of the city, there is
Padriciano Padriciano corresponds to the last exit on the autostrada and there is the Area di Ricerca, one of the largest scientific and technological research parks in Europe, under which is the large ring of light that is one of the most notable laboratories, the
Trieste is a small city which has only recently begun to realize its potential to attract tourism. For this reason, there are often not enough beds available in the city during peak travel seasons. This shortage generally occurs at times when exhibitions, international conferences and other frequently organized large events are hosted in the city. Places such as the Area di Ricerca (one of the largest technology parks in Europe) and the Congress Center of the Stazione Marittima beside the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia have become points of reference for international medical, scientific and social institutions. The programs of exhibitions and meetings offered are always of the highest standard.
Finding a place to stay can therefore be easier said than done, so it is best to book in advance in order to avoid disappointment. You will be faced with a perfectly respectable choice of accommodation. This choice stems from the fact that the city has had to make adjustments in order to cope with its newfound tourist status, which has lead to the construction of a number of new, high-end hotels. It should be noted that in Trieste, (unlike in other parts of the country) there is no one area where all the most elegant hotels are to be found (such as those along the seafront on the upland plains of the Carso), nor are there hotels which are predominantly aimed at business travelers.
As far as parking facilities go, the hotels offer limited parking spaces. If you are lucky, you will be able to find a space at a parking meter along the shore. Otherwise, you should leave your car in a nearby garage. On no account should you leave your car out in the street in areas where parking may be prohibited. This is less to do with the fact that it may get stolen (crime levels are fairly low in Trieste) and more to do with the fact that you may return to find a parking ticket stuck to your windshield.
Rive Here you will be no more than a ten or fifteen minute walk from the train station, a 45-minute drive from the airport (taking the traffic into consideration) and a stone's throw from the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia in the heart of the city. In the surrounding area, you will also find the Teatro Verdi, the splendid Cittàvecchia (historic city center), the elegant Tergesteo Gallery and many of Trieste's other tourist attractions. There are many excellent hotels in this area including the Jolly Hotel which tends to be favored by business travelers, the Savoia Excelsior on the banks of the Mandracchio (this hotel is elegant and modern, with Internet access in the rooms and fully-equipped conference rooms) and the unsurpassed Grand'Hotel Duchi d'Aosta. This is housed in a nineteenth century palace and is the only hotel which looks out directly onto the largest seaside square in Europe. It has a warm, Central European feel and an excellent restaurant. If, however you are looking for a modest room in the same picturesque part of the city, you could always try the Al Teatro which stands at the top of the Piazza Bartoli between the town hall, the historic Caffè degli Specchi and the small Trieste Stock Exchange.
Borgo Teresiano - Cittàvecchia If you move away from the sea and head inland, you will reach Borgo Teresiano and the city center. You should not expect to find large, imposing hotels around these parts. Instead, there are numerous old guest houses, most of which do not have en-suite facilities, as well as a handful of three-star hotels, such as the Milano (Via Ghega 17) which is housed in a modern building, around two hundred meters from the train station on a street which is notorious for its chaotic traffic. Then, there is the small Abbazia on Via della Geppa; it has a clean and well-designed interior with modern furnishings and a valuable collection of modern graphic art which can be found on display in its 21 rooms. In the same area, you will also find the Italia and Roma hotels.
Altopiano - Strada Costiera Once you have turned off the motorway on your way to Trieste, you will be faced with two possibilities: you can either take the coastal road which hugs the shore but is often very congested, or you can climb the upland plains behind the city and eventually make your way back down towards the sea. The latter option is considerably more convenient, but less panoramic. If you pick the former option, you will come across numerous excellent hotels including Riviera Maximilians, Hotel ai Sette Nani (in Sistiana) and the elegant and charming Greif Maria Theresa on the Viale Miramare along which the citizens of Trieste love to stroll. This five-star hotel (only a 15-minute drive from the center of Trieste) comes equipped with a swimming pool, sauna, garage, excellent restaurant and a whole host of other amenities. Although the prices are a little steep, the quality is excellent. Remaining in the Viale Miramare, if you are looking to spend a little less there is always the Ostello della Gioventù. It is a typical youth hostel but it has a location to die for: only 20 meters from the sea and 100 meters from the charming castle which was once the home of Maximilian and Charlotte of Austria. If you have chosen to take the road through the upland plains, you will come across the Daneu in Opicina which is a small, picturesque village at the gateway to the city. Daneu is a modern, recently renovated hotel with a swimming pool and other amenities. Nearby, you will also find an excellent game restaurant.
If you are here on business and you are intending to visit one of the numerous companies or institutes which have sprung up around the Area di Ricerca (which is the last motorway exit before you reach Slovenia), then you should seek accommodation in the guest quarters of the Padriciano science park, where you will perhaps be the guest of the organization with which you are dealing. Here, you will be far from the city center, but close to the drawing board.
Surrounding Areas Finally, we come to Muggia and San Dorligo. Muggia is a pretty little seaside town around thirteen kilometers from Trieste. San Dorligo is a small village at the edge of the Carso. It is home to the Rosandra hotel which is named after the enchanting valley in which is situated. Both these settlements are in the eastern corner of the province, near the Slovenian border.
Arts & Culture Trieste is one big, open-air museum. As you walk through the city's streets and squares, open your eyes and take a look around you. Ancient Roman buildings are interspersed with beautiful 18th-century ones, Austrian-style landscapes, churches of all dominations, Art Nouveau façades, rural towns and villages such as Muggia and those on the upland plains.
Trieste is also the city of historical cafés, of literature (it is home to favored haunts of James Joyce, Saba and the contemporary writer Claudio Magris), of carefree Sundays spent in the beautiful Carso and also of science — some of the most important scientific and technological research institutions in the country are based here.
Museums Trieste has a huge selection of museums, as it is rich in both artistic treasures and historical curios. Thanks to the 19th-century patronage of the arts, the city was flooded with valuable art collections, including the collection of contemporary art which is housed in the Museo Revoltella. It is one of the most renowned and complete collections of art in the country. Also worth a visit are the Civil Museum of Natural History, the museum of Castello di San Giusto (a typical example of a military building), and the Museum of the Risorgimento which charts the events leading up to Trieste's annexation with Italy. The Museo Teatrale Schmidl is second only to the museum of the Scala in Milan. Here, instruments, scores, records, photographs and other important evidence of the Italian theatrical scene can be seen on display. The disused Campo Marzio train station (from where trains once ran to Central Europe) today houses an interesting collection of electrical and steam locomotives, while the small Ethnographical Museum of Servola contains a remarkable collection of items which were used in daily life and charts the history of traditions and costumes which are long gone. The Risiera di San Sabba is the only Nazi concentration camp in Italy and the Foiba di Basovizza bears witness to the horrors committed here by the Yugoslavian Communists; both have been preserved as national monuments. The Castello di Miramare (the magnificent, romantic and ill-fortuned residence of the Habsburgs, Maximilian and Charlotte, is another location no to be missed. Among the curiosities which should be visited are the Piccola Berlino (a network of underground passageways used by the Nazis to conceal themselves and to travel around the city), the extraordinary Grotta Gigante (a natural cavity so huge that it could house the whole of St Peter's Basilica) and the Casa Carsica — an ancient rural settlement on the upland plains.
Classical & Opera The oldest theatre in the city is the Teatro Verdi. This building (only a stone's throw from the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia) was inaugurated in 1801, and its structure resembles that of the Scala in Milan. Today—along with a variety of shows and performances throughout the year; it hosts an extremely popular Operatic Festival. Opera has a long and consolidated history in Trieste, in fact the city is often said to be Italy's operatic capital. The Teatro Verdi is also very popular with lovers of classical music.
Comedy & Drama For those who prefer drama, the Teatro Rossetti (which is especially popular with young people) often stages both classical and modern plays with which some of Italy's best actors are involved. Extremely entertaining comedies in local dialect are often put on in the Teatro Cristallo and in the small Teatro dei Salesiani — usually by local theatre companies. The Teatro Miela on the coast puts on shows and performances of all genres.
Cinema Most of the cinemas in Trieste can be found along the Viale XX Settembre, where many new cinemas have been built over the last five years. In addition to the Excelsior and the multi-screened Nazionale, you will find the large Ambasciatori, the Super and the Giotto — a dynamic cinema containing all the latest technology. The nearby car park is often full, and at weekends and on days of national premieres there are always huge queues outside the box office. The Ariston (which also stays open during the summer months) alternates between showing blockbusters and animated films, while if you are looking to spend a little less, try the Capitol or the giardino pubblico on the Via Giulia in the city center. The Teatro Miela often shows short and long films from Alpe Adria. These are often shown just once and are sometimes sub-titled.
Music Don't expect too much on this front. Trieste has the highest number of elderly citizens in the country, and when the clock strikes ten, the city center seems to magically empty itself. It is only in recent years that the Valmaura Stadium has been used to host large rock concerts; smaller events are often hosted at the Teatro Rossetti and the Palazzetto dello Sport. As for nightclubs, try the Mandracchio and the Machiavelli (which is on the road to Miramare). In the summer, if dancing on the beach is your thing, visit the Cantera Cafè in Sistiana, while Jazz fans should visit Around Midnight — a small club in the city center which hosts musicians both from the Trieste region and foreign locations. The Trieste Song Festival also deserves a mention. Over twenty of these have been held and they consist of a number of local groups and soloists performing folk music.
A walking tour around Trieste should begin at San Giusto, the largest hill in the city and the site of many buildings that were erected when Trieste was still the ancient Roman city of Tergestum. Standing here on this large square, between the cattedrale, the Castello Medioevale (which has become one of the symbols of Trieste), and the partially reconstructed remains of the Basilica Civile Romana, you will be able to enjoy a spectacular view. Your eyes can take in the gulf, the upland plains and the red roofs of the old houses in the historic city center, leaving you with unforgettable memories of your stay in this easternmost corner of Italy.
Next, visit the church that was born during the union between the two preceding Paleo-Christian basilicas, the castle (an excellent example of a military construction), and then descend towards the sea along the steep, narrow Via della Cattedrale. Here, as you approach the oldest part of the city (which the local council has been in the process of restoring in recent years), you will pass the Museum of Art History, the Orto Lapidario (memorial garden), the Benedictine monastery of San Cipriano, and lower down, the Roman basilica of San Silvestro. You will find yourself walking down silent and narrow streets, inhabited predominantly by elderly people, where there are few shops and even fewer cars.
The Arco di Riccardo is a mere ten minutes walk away from San Giusto. This was erected in 30 BCE and formed an integral part of the city wall during the Augustine period. If it is lunchtime, you will find a small restaurant (between partially ruined old houses) serving up regional cuisine in a relaxed setting where you can dine inexpensively.
If you continue down the Via Felice Venezian you will get to the Trieste seafront and a street full of traffic, which is partially given over to metered parking spaces. In front, you will see the Stazione Maritima, a beautiful building dating back to the 1930's, which now houses the largest congress centre in the province.
Around 50 to 60 meters away to the right, you will see the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia which is the largest seaside square in Europe. This piazza is well regarded by the people of Trieste for a very good reason: it is an amazing sight. It contains buildings dating back to the 18th and early 19th Centuries which house the town hall, the prefecture, the regional council, the Assicurazioni Generali, the Duchi d'Aosta Hotel (one of the city's most elegant) and the Caffè degli Specchi, a large, historic café which attracts hundreds of people from all over Trieste every Sunday morning. It is, in short the heart of Trieste.
If you continue along the coast in the direction of the train station, you will see evidence of elegant 19th-century Trieste: neo-classical and Art Nouveau buildings including the Teatro Verdi (which is reminiscent of the near-perfect Scala in Milan), the Carciotto Palace (with its beautiful façade divided by six ionic columns) as well as the Canal Grande (built as a trade route) which runs inland from the sea towards the center of Trieste.
From the large jetty on your left, you will be able to take in an unsurpassed night view of the illuminated coast. As the poet Umberto Saba wrote, the beauty of Trieste is in its variety; every corner you turn is like entering a different continent. You will find Italy, Austria, the East, the Levant, with its market traders in red fez and lots more besides.
If you walk off in the opposite direction, you will get to an unusual building resembling a church which locals have even nick-named Santa Maria of the Guato (guato being the name of a small, commonly-found fish in local dialect); in reality, the building has housed an Aquarium since 1913, and the structure which resembles a bell tower is nothing more than a tank inside which is a pump that sends seawater and nutrients down to the tanks where the fish are kept.
Now, leave the coast and head back to the Piazza dell'Unità and then on to the Piazza della Borsa (a pedestrian area containing numerous beautiful buildings) where you will find an old historical café called the Tergesteo which stands beneath the gallery of the same name. Then skirt around the police station until you get to the Teatro Romano. This is a semi-circular construction dating back to the 1st or 2nd Century CE, but which was only discovered in the 1930s during routine renovation work in the area.
From here, you will reach the commercial heart of Trieste with its shopping streets: Via Mazzini, Corso Italia, Via Carducci and Via Battisti. On Via Battisti you will also find the Caffè San Marco, which with its typically Central European atmosphere has always been a favored meeting place for literati and intellectuals, including the writer Claudio Magris). This area is full of the best shops in the city and is always clogged up with traffic.
The historic tram leaves from Piazza Oberdan, at the bottom of Via Carducci. This old-fashioned means of transport will take you from the heart of the city to Opicina, a typical village in the upland plains. Traveling by tram is a splendid experience, and is well worth the excursion.
Remaining close to the police station in the historic city center, you should take the opportunity to visit the charming book and antique shops that form part of Trieste's long history. As you stroll through the streets and past the entrance ways of the dimly-lit Cittavecchia - but also in areas which are less secluded and well-lit, such as the Via Mazzini - you will see rows of shop windows and arcades all displaying a cornucopia of knick-knacks and priceless objects from a bygone era.
At this point, you will have to get in a car (there is no better way of getting to the next destination) and head along the coast. Bear left behind the Piazza dell'Unità and keep going for several kilometers until you get to the stadium and the new Palace of Sports. Then head for Muggia - a pretty little town on the Slovenian border. There is not much to see near the sports ground, but definitely not to be missed is the nearby Risiera di San Sabba - the only Nazi concentration camp to have been built in Italy. Visiting the cells here, walking around the grounds and viewing the exhibited photos of the atrocities which were committed is a highly moving experience and one which will remain with you for a long time.
Muggia itself is a beautiful seaside town. It has its own distinct history, which differs from that of Trieste. This is mainly due to a vow of loyalty made to Venice in the 13th Century. The old town center contains a beautiful harbor set in the midst of old, narrow streets which are full of character. This area has been recently renovated and is dominated by a magnificent fourteenth century castle. A few kilometers away from the town center stands the Romanesque Basilica of Beata Vergine Assunta; from the square in front, you can take in a magnificent panoramic view.
Muggia is also home to an enormous tourist complex — Porto San Rocco —which contains hotels, sports grounds, restaurants, boat moorings and other tourist attractions. It was built on the sight of a shipyard where world-renowned ship builders once plied their trade.
The town is also famous for its Carnevale, which is a tribute to ancient folk traditions and rituals. For decades, hundreds of enthusiastic townspeople have been involved in the construction of large, allegorical floats and in the design and creation of stupendous costumes.
As you return from Muggia, you will pass the old, slightly gloomy but elegant Aquilina and the Via Flavia. Turn right in the direction of Bagnoli and follow the signs for Val Rosandra. You will pass the Rifugio Premuda (eighty meters above sea level) and enter into perhaps the most beautiful corner of the Carso, an extraordinary valley full of paths, at the end of which is one of the few pedestrianized border areas which remain. This area, which is a natural paradise and a haven for climbers, is also home to the remains of an ancient Roman aqueduct.
At this point, you will re-enter Trieste and follow the coastline in the opposite direction. Pass the train station (on your left) and keep going for a few kilometers until you reach the splendid Castello di Miramare. Stop off in one of the two excellent ice cream parlors on the right hand side of the road and enjoy a cone while strolling down the seafront at Barcola. Castello di Miramare is the splendid but ill-fortuned residence of Maximillian of Austria (Emperor of Mexico) who was executed by Mexican Republicans under the direction of Benito Juárez in 1867. Visiting the castle and surrounding parkland is a must for any visitor to the city.
In the summer, you will be able to enjoy the Luci e Suoni, (light and sound) festival which takes place on a stage constructed on the seafront. This is an interesting mix of technology and tradition; for years it has put on successful performances charting the history and of the castle and its successive inhabitants in various languages.
Leave Miramare and head in the direction of Venice following the coastal road (the principle means of entry into the city) which winds past the gulf and the backbone of the Carso and from which you can enjoy an excellent panoramic view (on a clear day, you can even see the Istrian coast). Note that the speed limits here are extremely low, so make sure you stick to them. This is because the road is full of hairpin bends and therefore very dangerous, thus constantly patrolled by the police.
Along the coastal road, you will come across the villages of Duino Aurisina, Sistiana and finally Villaggio del Pescatore (fishermen's village). Duino Aurisina and Sistiana (both popular tourist attractions) are linked by the Sentiero Rilke, a seaside path (named after the German Romantic poet) covered in overhanging rocks which runs for two kilometers. Villaggio del Pescatore on the other hand, is a small modern village home to numerous sports grounds. It is also where crocodile and dinosaur remains were discovered several years ago, giving it several mentions in both the local and national newspapers.
At this point, all that remains is a visit to the Carso. Even if you have already been to Val Rosandra, you should not leave Trieste without visiting the rest of the upland plains. The Carso offers a beautiful, unique landscape, characterized by white, limestone rock. There is no other area quite like it in Europe. The flora here is exceptionally rich, despite the fact that there is very little water here. It is all filtered underground into large deep cavities known as foibe. The territory is sprinkled with low-lying areas, woods, clearings, moors and canyons as well as eroded rock faces.
On a thirty-kilometer strip running along the upland plains, you will find a hundred and twenty restaurants, several farms, eighty guesthouses, and numerous farm shops selling produce and wines. You will also come across the imposing Faro della Vittoria, the Monte Grisa santuario, the extraordinary Grotta Gigante and the Casa Carsica - an ancient rural dwelling which has been transformed into a museum. It is here that the local Slovenian-speaking minority bi-annually organizes Nozze Carse (or a typical Carso wedding) when a young local couple is permitted to marry in accordance with ancient local customs and traditions.
Finally, set a little time aside to visit the Foiba di Basovizza. This is the site where thousands of Italians were incarcerated in the gigantic underground cavities of the Carso during the Second World War. Their crime was having spoken out against Marshall Tito's Communist regime. If the Risiera di San Sabba is the site of criminal atrocities committed by the Nazis, then the site of the foibe of Trieste (from which even today, unidentified human remains are still retrieved) is testimony to the terrifying and cruel atrocities committed by the Slav Communists.