With only a day to spare, this will have to be enough time to explore Trieste, Italy’s north-eastern port city.
A leisurely day in Trieste sounded like an excellent way of escaping the hoards in Venice on the last day of Carnivale.
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Travel from Venice
Trieste is about a 2-hour trip East from Venice (€25 return) on a comfortable and cosy warm train. Sit, relax, and enjoy the ride of mostly flat scenery dotted with quaint farm houses…until you near the city’s built-up suburbs.
Positioned on the Adriatic Sea and almost at the end of a sliver of Italian territory, the Slovenian border is only some 3 kilometres away. The Croatian border is about 15 kilometres south of Trieste.
Have you heard much about Trieste as a travel destination?
To be honest, I haven’t. Nor have I met many travellers that avidly seek this city out on their bucket list ‘to see’ destinations.
This may be a great reason to visit…
Another reason for visiting is that my mother’s family was from Fiume (I think) but lived in Trieste. Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia) is one of those unfortunate cities, that was bandied around between empires and countries, depending on which war was on at the time.
Although due to not having my passport with me and a lack of time to explore, decided not to venture across the border to Rijeka. Will save this for next time as I would like to start tracing my heritage.
Wow! This city is so clean and orderly, with well-maintained and beautifully restored architecture.
As one of the richest regions in Italy, you can see that money is spent on this city. Also evident of more money here than the south are the luxurious up-market stores, expensive cars, and well-dressed fashionable locals. Although, it does seem that the majority of locals are fashionably and impeccably dressed in Italy. Regardless of the occasion, I always feel a tad under-dressed in this country.
Cars even stop at traffic lights and are not double or tripled-parked in main roads, like other cities.
Trieste city sights
As today is a spontaneous day trip without researching sights (no map on hand and the Tourist Office is closed), decided on wandering the streets to take photos, stumble upon whatever comes our way, and absorb a leisurely day in Trieste.
You only need to walk about 20-minutes from the Trieste Centrale Railway Station, which is a grand building in itself opened in 1857, until you discover the Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia (Central Square).
Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia
Busy with locals enjoying the sunny but chilly Sunday weather, the iconic central square faces the Gulf of Trieste in the ever-changing Adriatic Sea.
As Europe’s largest seafront square, this is surrounded on three sides by 18th to 19th-century Viennese-style buildings, including the Palazzo del Governo and the stately Lloyds Triestino building.
Similar to Trieste’s history over the centuries, this square has been remodelled and renamed several times. Originally named St. Peter’s Square after a small church that existed here, the name then changed to Piazza Grande. After 1918, the name changed to Piazza Unità as the city was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. Following the return of Trieste to Italy in 1955 (with the dissolution of the Free Territory of Trieste), the name changed again, to the current Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia.
Regardless of whether you visit this square during the day or evening, it is beautifully impressive.
Fountain of the four continents
Another favourite spot with locals and children is this intricate fountain; sadly, the fountain’s water was turned off today. Nonetheless, the sculpture is delightful and holds much history as does the rest of the square.
Dating back to 1751 and 1754 in which time the square was named Piazza Grande, the decision was made to build a fountain to represent Trieste as the city favoured by fortune.
The sculpture was created by Bergamasco Giovanni Battista Mazzoleni and through four symbolic fictional statues, recalls the traits of people living in the known continents of that time: Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. Water flows from each of the four statues, which indicates the continents. And on top of the fountain, a winged female figure with open arms represents Trieste. One more symbolic feature of the fountain is the parcels, cotton bales, and cordage surrounding the statue; these items symbolises global traders, especially from the east.
As part of the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1861, Trieste’s large Free Port provided a gateway to the world.
A lovely stroll along most of the Porto Vecchio’s (Old Port) seafront will take you some time. A favourite spot with locals to promenade, especially to watch a romantic sunset, is the Molo Audace point. This site is almost opposite the Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia.
On arriving to Trieste, we walked around the Piazza in search of a coffee, a bite to eat, and somewhere just to relax. You would think that in a city this size, this would not be a difficult task. Alas, it was…
Sitting in three different restaurants and after what seemed an age in each without service, got up and walked out of each three. No one seemed to want to serve us or even give us a menu. Too many other places in this city to wait 20-plus minutes just for a menu. Usually, this isn’t a problem but as I was hungry, I couldn’t wait any longer.
- Gangemi (Capo di Piazza G. Bartoli) – A tiny place inside with more seating outside. Lovely staff and a very busy place for great coffee (€2.50), snacks (€3), gelato (€2.20).
- Despar E’ Facile (railway station) – for cheap eats (sandwiches, hot snacks, fruits packs, and more) in addition to everyday groceries. Also, if you need something for the long journey back to Venice as it is cheaper here than in Venice.
- Bricco Caffè (Piazza della Libertà 8) – Great cappuccino at a great price of €1.40.
Back to Venice
Pre-booking return train tickets to Venice online, the train leaves at 19:15hrs, which is enough time to explore some of the city’s immediate sights only. Definitely, a return trip is necessary as there is still so much more to explore, including Trieste’s Citta Vecchia (Old City). Apparently, it is supposed to be pretty special, then again, all of the Old Towns I’ve visited in Italy so far are pretty special.
The train left Trieste on time and after a couple of hours, we arrived back to a slightly calmer Venice. With many of the day-visitors already gone home and only a few bodies wandering the chilly evening streets, it is a pleasant walk back to the apartment.