A day in Trieste


“Those people look extremely cold for such a sunny day” I said from the safety of the car as we drove in to Trieste last Saturday. The car display said it was 15 degrees outside, which is warm compared to what it has been lately so I was confused why the people outside weren’t taking off their layers to enjoy the sunshine.

“It’s colder outside than you think” Stefano told me, “It’s the wind that has everybody wrapped up”. When we stepped out of the car he was right. The wind was fresh and bracing and whipped straight down the collar of my jacket forcing me to zip it tight around my neck immediately. Trieste, it turns out, is Italy’s ‘Windy city’ with gusts getting as fast as 200km an hour on occasion and some sort of breeze a constant feature. “This is a normal day” I was told as I struggled to keep my hair out of my face.

At the port

The infrastructure of the city has been built to cope with these winds. Garbage bins have special holders to keep them in place whilst waiting for collection and chains are on many street corners for people to hold on to when the strongest winds come through. On the plus side, the wind blows the clouds away and so they are often blessed with clear skies and sunshine.

We were in Trieste to catch up with family. Both parents of the family I am living with grew up in Trieste and Maria-Sole still has family there.

The city is on a sliver of land between Slovenia and the sea, it is only 5km from the Slovenian border to the north and east and both parents remember when they were children, ducking over the border to where things like petrol and toys were cheaper.

We had a roast lunch at Nonna’s before heading in to the town for a tour of the sites with the cousins, Aunt and Uncle. We started at the harbor, the most important part of the town. Trieste came about because it was a good location for a trading port, in fact, Trieste basically means ‘Market Place’. From the port we could see the whole city. It rises very steeply up hills dotted with dark evergreens, looking very ‘Dalmatic’ with orange terracotta tiled roofs and cream walls featuring on most of the houses. From the port you can also see across the bay to Miramare, the castle built in the 1850’s at a most scenic point, its white walls and tower standing out against the blue of the sea and, as I would notice later, picking up the colours of the sunset in a glorious way.

Piazza Unita d’Italia

We meandered in to what is probably Trieste’s main attraction ‘Piazza Untia d’Italia’, a beautiful piazza surrounded on 3 sides by government buildings and the the 4th side open to the sea. We took a coffee in the piazza in a cafe that boasted 67 different types of coffee. Trieste is known for it’s coffee, the port was owned by the Austro- Hungarian empire at the time that the coffee craze hit Europe. The Viennese became crazy for their caffeine hit and coffee beans became one of Trieste’s biggest imports. It is still a major city for those interested in the bean and its produce but we had just a taste, and I have to agree with the rest, it was a damn good coffee.

Our espresso came with a chocolate shot!

Fueled, we began to walk the streets. Up and up we went until we reached the very peak of the city and the St Justus Cathedral. The first religious site was built here in the 6th century but the current structure dates back to the 9th century. Next to the cathedral are ruins of an old fortress where we found young scouts playing games amongst hundreds of years of debris.

St Justus Cathedral

By far the oldest thing we saw however was the Arch of Riccardo, built in 33BC it now extends out of the wall of a house like a ghostly arm but once it was one of the entry ways to the city. It is a truly strange sight and I would love to meet whoever decided that they would just build a house on top of it…

Arco di Riccardo

We stopped at a divergence of paths and I was asked if I would now rather visit the amphitheater or a church. Stefano said I had already seen the Colosseum and so this amphitheater would be nothing and so we went to the church. I should have mentioned how many churches I have been to. This was just another one. On our drive out of the city I exclaimed suddenly in amazement because we had just driven past the amphitheater and it was nothing like the Colosseum and looked amazing. I laughed at Stefano saying that you know Italians have too much history when they start discounting amazing sites like that.

We finished the day at the event we had come for. Nonno’s 81st birthday. After lots of good food (I ate raw minced horse meat on a sort of poppadum and it was great!), punch and trying to understand the conversations around me, it was time to drive home.

From the piazza, looking out to the sea.

Trieste was beautiful! I have since found out that Lonely planet listed it as the worlds most underrated travel destination in 2012 and I had certainly never heard of it before, but would go again. There is much more to discover as well as a lively cafe and bar scene I am told. Check it out for somewhere different to see in Italy.

St Justus Cathedral
St Justus Cathedral
St Justus Cathedral
St Justus Cathedral
St Justus Cathedral

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