Visit Trieste, Italy – part one – main sights
If you are looking for a city to visit in Italy that is not over run with tourists, Trieste is it! Located on the top fold of the Italian boot and near the Slovenian border, Trieste is nestled in a curve with views of the Gulf of Trieste and the Adriatic Sea beyond. Low hills surround the city, large cargo ships dot the horizon, sail boats line the coast, and the city sparkles with a curious Austrian-Italian charm.
Trieste is an atypical Italian city as it was part of Austria for over 500 years, from 1382 to 1918 to be exact. The Austrian Quarter, which is in the main historical downtown by the water, makes you feel like you’re in Austria. Plus coffee is a hugely important to Trieste and you will see many coffee houses just like those in Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck. The architecture is reminiscent of Vienna with grand buildings, Baroque facades, Neoclassical structures and some Art Nouveau details. But the Italian-isms come out in the details, a line of laundry, overhearing a burst of rapid Italian conversation and the friendly Italian locals.
What to see in Trieste
1 – The Seafront and Piazza Unita d’Italia
You can’t visit a port city and miss seeing the seafront. Right in the heart of downtown is the Piazza Unita d’Italia. This piazza is also atypical as it has buildings on three sides and the sea on the fourth side. City Hall sits at one end with a grand building to the left that used to be the Austrian Lloyd merchant shipping headquarters. The elegant building across from the Palazzo del Lloyd Triestino is the Palazzo del Governo. Notice the mosaic details and borders at the top of the Palazzo del Governo. If you want to sample the Austrian-like café, pastry, and coffee of Trieste, Italy you can sit at the elegant Caffe degli Specchi right on the Piazza! Make sure to walk through the piazza with City Hall at one end and the sea at the other end!
Walk along the water and make your way out onto the stone pier. Molo Audace pier was built from 1743-1751, and named in honor of the first ship of the Italian Navy to arrive in Trieste. The pier is a gathering place for locals and a wonderful spot to watch the sunset!
2 – Canal Grande with Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Taumaturgo at the far end
This short canal is lined with shops, cafes, and colorful boats. It is a picturesque location.
3 – Castle of San Giusto and Trieste Cathedral
On the hill above the city center is the Castle of San Giusto. The hill top actually has a few things to see, once of which includes great views of the city and a lovely park. There are Roman ruins with a few rows of columns and walls. The Castle has a small museum which is a separate fee than the castle. Although seeing the castle means you can climb on the walls, see the views, and wander through the main courtyard. Next to the castle is the Trieste Cathedral which is an interesting as you can see the span of different centuries outside and within. Note the old stones on the façade, perhaps dating back to the 6th century. Mosaic floors weave into newer floors inside and Gothic rose window decorates the façade. And my favorite, are the 12th-13th century mosaics in the apse.
The Bell Tower
You can also climb the bell tower for more wonderful views of the city and the sea. I highly recommend climbing the bell tower. As you climb, you’ll see be climbing steps that are on the outside of an older tower and you’ll see that the stones that are hundreds of years old. It is quite a unique bell tower climb!
How to reach the Castle?
1-Climb up via the stairs and narrow streets – using the paths behind the Roman Theater ruins (about 7 blocks from Piazza d’Italia).
2-INSIDER TIP – Elevator! Next to the Roman Theater is a parking garage, Park San Giusto, with an elevator that goes to the top of the hill. The parking garage is actually very clean with beautiful murals (pictured above) and is quite the engineering feat – see further reading below if you are interested in learning more.
3-There is also a giant staircase up to the park below the castle and church. If you find the main road, Corso Italia, and when it intersects with Via Della Ginnastica – you will see the stairs that will take you up the hill.
4 – Wonder through the Old Town
I always say the best way to see a place is by walking. Meander through the old town, admire the architecture and see the neighborhoods that locals live in. Duck into a few churches which always tell so much about this history of a place through the architecture and art. The Serbian Orthodox Saint Spryridon Church built in the 19th century and a block away from the Canal Grande, is spectacular inside! And while in Trieste make sure to sample the coffee as it is said that it is the “coffee capital of Italy”!
On my visit I did not have time to visit the museums, but there are some in the city center. There is a natural history museum, a botanical garden, a war museum and galleries.
- For a succinct history of Trieste click here.
- For the tourist information website of Trieste click here.
- The New York Times had a nice article about Trieste in 2011, click here to read.
- The Wall Street Journal wrote more recently about Trieste, click here to read the article.
- About the murals in the Parking Garage – they really are interesting! Click here to see this article, although it is in Italian.
- If you are interested in the engineering and construction of the parking garage, click here.