48 Hours In Trieste

The last stop on our epic road trip was Trieste, an Italian outpost of the former Austro-Hungarian empire. I was expecting another “Austrian” city, like Bolzano, but aside from Hapsburg architecture, Trieste seemed thoroughly Italian to me.

Trieste is tightly squeezed into a valley sloping down to the Adriatic Sea. So, the views are magnificent—and the roads slightly terrifying. Our GPS led us on a merry chase through tiny, switchbacked roads until we got to our B&B about halfway up the slopes. When we got there, the owner told us that everyone has that problem with the GPS in Trieste! We used a map when we left two days later.

That evening we walked downhill to the Antico Caffé San Marco, a Vienna-style establishment, and one of many in the city where James Joyce used to hang out. It looked like a Viennese coffeehouse, but the food and the service were Italian.

Really pretty inside.
Really pretty inside.
But with excellent prosecco (from nearby Prosecco) and Italian olives for an appetizer.
But with excellent prosecco (from the nearby town of Prosecco) and Italian olives for an appetizer.

Naturally, the first thing we did the next morning was to go into town and climb a very large hill in 90-degree weather to reach the Castello di San Giusto.  This is not the most fascinating castle to see, but the views of the city and port are great. I did appreciate the very polite signs on the Renaissance-era furnishings displayed in a few rooms.

Please, kindly do not touch.
From inside the castle.
From inside the castle.

Afterwards, we had lunch on the Canale Grande, and walked down to the seafront.

Cafes line this canal leading to the sea.
Cafes line this canal leading to the sea.
“Trieste maidens” was installed on the waterfront in 2004 for the 50th anniversary of the city’s return to Italy. The maidens are sewing a tricolor Italian flag.

Trieste’s most famous landmark is the enormous Hapsburg-era square now called the Piazza Unita d’Italia. It is at the bottom of the bowl that contains the city, with one end facing out to the Adriatic Sea.

The Piazza is really BIG.
The Piazza is really BIG. Like, Hapsburg big.
A closer view of the Palazzo del Governo, at the head of the square.
A closer view of the late 19th century Palazzo del Governo, at the head of the piazza facing the sea.
The late 18th century Teatro Verdi on one side of the piazza.

In the afternoon, after a gelato stop (of course) we hid out for a while in the air-conditioned Museo Revoltella. Now this a great museum. It is partially housed in the palace of Baron Pasquale Revoltella, its founder. The collection is modern art, but in this case, “modern” starts in the 19th century and continues through the present. Many of the works are by local or regional artists.

The Baron’s beautiful palace retains most of its original decor, so the contrast between it and the modern art is fun. If you go to Trieste, check out this museum, you will not regret it!

Something old and something new.
A "modern" 19th century beauty.
A “modern” 19th century beauty.
Early 20th century portraits.
Early 20th century portraits.

We wrapped up the long day with drinks on the Piazza, and a most excellent seafood dinner. Trieste was a winner! There may have been a final chapter involving dead mobile phones and having quite a bit of trouble finding our B&B up in the hills in the middle of the night, but we decided to call that a sign from the universe that it was time to go home.

Prosecco and tramezinni on the Piazza. Right before a seagull snatched the pastry thing!
Prosecco and tramezinni on the Piazza. Right before a seagull snatched the pastry thing!

On the way back to Central Europe, we traveled through four countries in one day, all the way to Mikulov on the Czech/Austrian border. Which was not nearly as nice as Znojmo, and when I saw the dinner menu, leaning heavily to fried cheese, beef tartare and pots of lard, I nearly cried.

Sausages in a puddle of oily peas.
Healthiest option: sausages in a puddle of oily peas. I got about halfway through it.

As always, the beer was excellent, so that was some consolation. Home again, home again, jiggety-jig!

Big enough to drown a few sorrows.

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