If you plan to visit Italy for the first time, you may not have Trieste on your list. That’s quite obvious. Most people want to go with the classic itinerary and see the main attractions. If you are a curious and active traveller who loves exploring less touristy cities in Italy, Trieste is worth visiting. Here I share the many reasons for visiting Trieste, with places to see and exciting things to do.
Being on the border with Slovenia, no other Italian city shows such a profound historical and cultural transformation that saw it suspended between time and places for many years before and during World War II. Trieste only came back to Italy in 1954.
Thus, its culture is the blend of influences from the Austro-Hungarian and Slavic cultures that reflects in its daily life, dialect, architecture, traditions, and multicultural cuisine. Learn more about the history of Trieste.
I know Trieste as a traveller and a local because I used to work for illy coffee and lived there for three years. I love to return for a short break. But for me, it’s also an ideal stopover when travelling from Italy to the Croatian islands. Here are some good reasons you should visit Trieste; either on a day trip from Venice, a getaway to Croatia, Italy’s northernmost city Bolzano, or a multi-day trip to South Tyrol Dolomites.
Trieste is nestled in the “Carso Triestino“, a limestone plateau of rock formations that, at times, may remind you of a lunar landscape. With caves, sinkholes and the typical harsh vegetation. You can visit the Grotta Gigante, a giant cave 100 mt high, 65 wide and 167 long, making it one of the largest caves in the world. I have visited it, and it is awe-inspiring.
But the best part is the walking trails that the city offers. Take a walk on the Napoleonic Way that skirts the hills for a breathtaking view of the town and its majestic harbour. Or, if you love a coastal trek, start the Silke Trail in Sistiana, a small coastal town famous for its bay and the nudist beach.
From there, you can walk the Karst hills, admire their unusual vegetation and stop at the six lookouts overlooking the Adriatic sea. The trail ends at Duino Castle.
Moreover, the Val Rosandra on the border to Slovenia is another excellent outdoor adventure place if you like walking in nature. The forest merges with the mountains and a beautiful waterfall amidst the valley.
Perched on the Grignano promontory, this is one of the best places to visit in Trieste. and the no. 1 iconic attraction in Trieste. The Miramare Castle is often referred to as the Trieste Castle, but the city has three castles and its surroundings. The San Giusto Castle is in the city’s heart near the Trieste Cathedral, and the Duino Castle lies about 20km on the southeast Coastal drive. The good thing about Miramare castle is that you can walk there.
Miramare is a real example of a unique architectural merge of Gothic, Medieval and Renaissance architecture. Built by the order of Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg, they completed it in 1860. There is an entrance fee to visit Miramare Castle inside. You can, however, enjoy a walk around the castle’s walls to marvel at sunset colours with breathtaking views of the Adriatic sea and Trieste.
Start your exploration at Barcola, the most known Trieste’s beaches and the most beloved gathering spot for the locals over the weekend. Take the bus to Barcola and walk the paved promenade to reach the white-washed castle. Take the circular walk and stop at the numerous lookouts overlooking Trieste Bay. Avoid weekends as it gets too crowded. You can stop for a drink and a coffee at the garden cafe.
As a free post since the 18th century, Trieste was a critical place in the Mediterranean and a hub for trading, making the city grow economically and historically. But coffee is deeply rooted in Trieste’s spirit because of its economic and historical growing importance and because it reflects the transitional spirits of its people, its cultures, its language, and its locations.
The locals are proud of the locally roasted Trieste coffee brands that gave the city its glamorous shine. Illy coffee is the town’s emblem, and you can say that coffee is the fundamental soul of Trieste. If you are a coffee lover, Trieste must be high on your list, as this is, in my opinion, the no. 1 Italian city to savour premium coffee in all its facets, from production to preparations.
Ordering a coffee in a bar in Trieste isn’t easy, though. Also, for Italians from other regions. This is the only place in Italy where you must say a Caffelatte for ordering a Cappuccino. Because if you do it wrong, you will get an espresso with milk in a small espresso cup. And it’s not a joke. The strong connection with their local coffee made the Triestini create their unique coffee names and ways of serving coffee.
Literary and historic cafes in Trieste are also must-visit places. There are many, but my favourites are: San Marco Cafè, Cafè Tommaseo and Cafè Degli Specchi, where you can sit and enjoy the nostalgic time when intellectuals and poets gathered. All these places often host art exhibitions and on-site concerts of newbie musicians. As you know, Trieste was home to many writers and poets like W. Rilke, James Joyce, Italo Svevo, Umberto Saba, Eugenio Montale and more.
Since the 18th century, Trieste cuisine reflected a blend of the most varied cultures and traditions from neighbouring countries because of people migrating to Trieste. Austrians, Slovakians, Hungarians, Jews, and Greeks came over to mix with the existing Northern Italians, Venetian, Istrian and Mediterranean people.
So be prepared to taste delicious food. Fish-based dishes are the highlights of Trieste. All over the city, you will find beautiful places to eat fish, from simple osterias to high-end restaurants. Try Al Bagatto Restaurant for fish and Trattoria Nero di Seppia.
If you travel in summer, you cannot miss a typical meal at the Osmize. A farmer’s place, where you can eat their farming products and wines. They are only open in summer, and not all the time. Each one has its opening times. My tip: get a list of all Osmize from the Tourist Office in Trieste.
Trieste stands out for its architecture, and you will be amazed by the beautiful old buildings, churches and cathedrals. The best way to discover them is to go on a self-guided walking tour. From Piazza Unità d’Italia, admire the Palazzo Strozzi on the northern corner.
Stroll through the Gran Canale, where small sailboats are moored to reach the Saint Antonio Church, to proceed to Piazza Della Borsa’s magnificent building. While exploring Trieste on foot, watch out for the bronze statues of James Joyce, Saba and Svevo and more poets and writers who made Trieste their home town. Don’t miss out on walking uphill in the city centre and visit the Roman San Giusto Cathedral and the nearby San Giusto castle.
If a trip to Croatia from Italy is on your list, Trieste is the ideal stopover before going through the Slovenian border. You can travel further south from the wall to the smaller islands of Losinj Island, Krk Island, and Cres. If you love hiking with almost no crowds, these two islands are the best for a hiking adventure. From Trieste, it’s an easy 1,5 hours drive to Krk Island. Through the bridge, you don’t even need to take a ferry. This is a favourite place for a weekend getaway, a swimming holiday or a hiking adventure. The famous coastal town of Baska is a popular destination between June and October.
Not many know that Trieste is a leading technology and science research hub. And Trieste was the European capital of Science ESOF 2020. After Palermo and Matera gained the European Cultural Capital in 2018 and 2019, Trieste won this reward, too, thanks to its University and scientific institutions, such as Sissa, Sincrotrone, the Oceanography Institute and the Genetics and Biotechnologies Center. Following the slogan Freedom for science, science for freedom, Trieste aims to become a focal point in Central-Eastern Europe for technology, science, and political and social discussion.
Throughout the year, Trieste hosts interesting events, from arts, music, theatre, film festivals and outdoor like La Barcolana, the world-famous sailing regatta in Trieste, every year in October. This is an update for our picks from the upcoming Trieste Events in 2023.
Trieste is well connected to the rest of Italy. By the superfast trains, the Frecce, from Venice or Milano, or to the Ronchi de Legionari Airport, which is 40 min by train. From Venice to Triestte, the best way to travel is by train. The regional train takes about 2 hours from Venice. You can also drive on the motorway, which will take approximately 2 hours.
If you travel to Trieste, I recommend these places for your stay:
Hotel Roma is a top 3-star hotel, 10 min walk to Piazza Unità.
The Modernist Hotel is a 4-star hotel close to Piazza Unità.
Casa Room Apartments are Self-catered units for solos or couples.
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Post first published in 2018, last updated in Jan 2023
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