Time to explore Trieste, Italy’s gorgeous north-eastern port city.
A leisurely day in Trieste sounded like an excellent way of escaping the hordes in Venice on the last day of Carnivale.
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Travel from Venice
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride of mostly flat scenery dotted with quaint farm houses, until reaching 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, neither have I. Nor have I met many travellers that avidly seek this city out on their bucket list ‘to see’ destinations.
This is 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 tumultuous 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 today and a lack of time to explore, we decide not to venture across the border into Croatia. 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 with 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 throughout Italy. Regardless of the occasion, I always feel a tad under-dressed in this country.
Cars even stop at traffic lights and at pedestrian crossings, nor are cars double or triple-parked on main roads as in 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 – decide on wandering the streets to take photos, stumble upon whatever is thrown 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 is 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, items which symbolise 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 takes you some time.
A favourite spot with locals to promenade, especially to watch a romantic sunset, is the Molo Audace point, which is almost opposite the Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia.
On arriving to Trieste we walk around the Piazza in search of a coffee, a bite to eat, and somewhere just to relax.
You would think that in a city of this size this would not be a difficult task. Alas, it is on a Sunday…
Sitting in three different restaurants and after what seems an age in each without service, we walk out of each three. No one seems to want to serve us or even hand 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’m hungry, I can’t wait any longer.
On Capo di Piazza G. Bartoli, is this tiny bar inside but with more seating outside. Lovely staff in very busy surrounds. Great coffee (€2.50), snacks (€3), and gelato (€2.20).
Despar E’ Facile
In the railway station grab cheap eats here as plenty of panini, hot snacks, fruits packs, and more are on offer, in addition to everyday groceries. Great if you need something for the long journey back to Venice as it’s cheaper here than in Venice.
Stop off at Piazza della Libertà 8 for a great cappuccino at a good price (€1.40).
Pre-booking return train tickets to Venice online, the train leaves at 19:15hrs, which is only enough time to explore some of Trieste’s immediate sights for the day.
Definitely a return trip is on the cards as there is still so much more to explore, including Trieste’s Citta Vecchia (Old City). Apparently, this is pretty special then again, all of the old towns I’ve visited in Italy so far are pretty special.
The train leaves Trieste on time and after a couple of hours, we arrive 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.