Триест / Trieste

Interweaving the Italian atmosphere and the central European urban aura, Trieste is perhaps the most cosmopolitan and multicultural city in Italy! Whether because of the chaotic traffic or driven by the idea that a stop there would just be a waste of time, we repeatedly put off visiting it… Fortunately, we managed to correct this omission and I show you the most interesting things to see and do in Trieste.

Where is located and how to get there

With a population of over 200,000 people, the city is the capital of the most north-eastern Italian region – Friuli-Venezia Giulia and is located in the northernmost gulf of the Adriatic Sea, bearing its name – the Gulf of Trieste. It’s the first major city when entering Italy from the east, with three of the main border points with Slovenia only 10 km from the center and the capital Ljubljana 95 km away. The highway also provides quick access to the inside of the country, especially to the great tourist magnet Venice (160 km).

It’s regular train lines from there that are one of the main ways to visit Trieste. The city also has its own international airport, which would also be a convenient option if you are arriving from central Europe. Traffic on its streets is extremely busy during the day, parking spaces are limited, but still traveling by car was the most convenient option in our case. A perfect choice of parking for exploring the city is Park San Giusto (€2 per hour/€20 for the whole day).

See car rental options in Italy

Where to stay

Since Trieste was our first stop on a long trip around the Italian lakes in Lombardy, we decided to stay overnight so we could walk around easy. I already told you about the traffic and limited parking spaces… It was they who refused us to sleep in the city center and so we reserved a room in a wonderful family winery (osmizza) about 15 km away – Agriturismo Budin. The place is new, with a huge yard, a vineyard and away from the hustle and bustle… silence and fresh air! We received easy check-in instructions and a spacious room with everything we needed. In the small restaurant, they offer great homemade wine and light antipasti to go with it.

Even if you don’t sleep in an “osmizza“, the accent is on the “o”, you can visit one to taste perhaps the best wines. These private farms have been traditional to the region since ancient times! These are neither restaurants nor hotels, but some of them have several rooms to stay in (as was ours) and offer something delicious with the order of wine – mostly cured meats, cheeses, and maybe a homemade dish. The atmosphere is very informal, cozy and therefore they are a favorite place of the locals in the spring and summer.

See more places to stay in Trieste


The hill with the castle and the cathedral

One of the great amenities of the parking lot where we left the car was the direct elevator connection to the high hill San Giusto above the town, where we begin our tour. There are two of the main sights in Trieste bearing his name – the medieval castle (Castello di San Giusto) and the Cathedral (Cattedrale di San Giusto). In the square between them stretch the remains of a Roman forum, part of the city’s ancient past when it was still called Tergeste. And at the end of it, you can sit on the stone benches and enjoy the unfolding panoramic view…

It’s much clearer and more impressive than the fortress walls of the castle built between the 15th and 17th centuries, which today serves as a museum and can be visited for an entrance fee. As we were with a baby carriage and a sleeping baby at that moment, we didn’t manage to go up, but we did visit the interior of the 14th century Cathedral. It was built in the Romanesque-Gothic style on the remains of an ancient religious site. Most impressive inside are the preserved Byzantine mosaics and the magnificent chandelier, left as a legacy of the Habsburgs.

The streets down and the Roman gate

Walking down the narrow and steep streets is the best way to get to the center of Trieste. Among them you can find hidden cafes, as well as another Roman imprint – the Arch of Riccardo (Arco di Riccardo). Completely adjacent to the modern building next door, this arch probably dates from the 1st century AD when it served as a city gate. Today there is a charming square around it (Piazza del Barbacan) and a view of the slightly visible neoclassical palace Rotonda Pancera.

The main square – Piazza Unità d’Italia

After a short walk we reach the main landmark of Trieste – Piazza Unità d’Italia. The central square is impressive to say the least… Built during the time when the city was part of Austria-Hungary, it gathered the buildings of some of the most important local institutions, and a main place was given to the spectacular municipality, built in an eclectic style. Its imperial aura is palpable, and everywhere you turn you’ll see spectacular architecture full of perfectly honed details. Like the two statues ringing the bell at the top of the clock tower, called by locals Micheze and Jacheze.

Besides being one of the most beautiful Italian squares, with its total area of ​​over 12,000 square meters, it is also the largest square open to the coast in Europe! It has been the main venue for events, concerts and everything important happening in Trieste for decades, ever since it was called Piazza Grande… And among many of the local residents, he is still known by this name.

Through the elegant streets

In close proximity to the central square are two smaller ones – Piazza di Cavana and Piazza della Borsa. The latter was once the economic heart of the city, housing the magnificent Chamber of Commerce building, and today is a favorite spot for locals to meet around the Neptune Fountain or for an afternoon aperitif!

Despite the ancient Roman footprints around Trieste, for most of its existence it was among the most important cities in the Austrian Empire. And that’s exactly the feeling you get when you walk through its elegant streets – of a Central European city. The main pedestrian thoroughfare is Via S. Nicolo, which is lined with high-rise buildings in various styles, housing numerous cafes and shops on their ground floors. More pleasant pedestrian streets to visit are Via Dante Alighieri and Via S. Lazzaro.

Captivated by the varied architecture, you might miss a curious sculpture above the gate of the Casa delle Bisse. The work symbolizes the loss of Napoleon Bonaparte (the snake) to Austria, Prussia and Russia (the three eagles) at the Battle of Leipzig in 1813.

The green street Venti Settembre – place for coffee and dinner

One of the most pleasant streets for a walk is the shady and very green Viale XX Settembre. It was once called the Via dell’Acquedotto, because the aqueduct pipes still run under it to this day. It is another favorite meeting place for locals and a perfect choice to sit down for a coffee or a bite to eat.

Trieste and coffee

Coffee and Trieste have been inextricably linked through the centuries! Not only is the most coffee consumed here of all places in Italy, the city even boasts the title of “Italian coffee capital”. You can forget about “espresso”, “macchiato” or “cappuccino”, here the drinks have their own names, the most typical being “Capo in B” or macchiato in a small glass… If you want it in the traditional porcelain cup, then it’s just “un Capo“.

The declaration of the port of Trieste as a duty-free zone at the beginning of the 18th century turned the city into a major supplier of coffee for all of Central and Western Europe. Perhaps because of the pronounced Austrian influence, Trieste retains that aristocratic coffee-drinking culture of the past. That’s why the well-preserved historical cafes become must-visit places!

One of the oldest and most famous places is Caffè San Marco. Since we had already had several coffees on our way to Trieste, we couldn’t order another caffeinated drink, but we definitely wanted to feel the antique atmosphere of the cafe with over 100 years of history and refresh ourselves in the summer heat…

💡 Trieste is the birthplace of one of the most iconic Italian coffee brands – Illy.

The best pizza

There is a rich variety of different taste cultures in Trieste, and it is perhaps the only place in Italy where goulash, sausages and sausage are among the main local delicacies, along with the many seafood offerings. Yes, but I was in the mood for some delicious pizza, so we reserved a table at Al Civicosei (you can make a reservation quickly and easily through the website). The pizzas are superb, the atmosphere relatively pleasant, and the prices fair.

Around the canal

Another main attraction of Trieste is the canal (Canal Grande), adding a picturesque touch to the cityscapes. It was built in the 18th century to provide easier access to the central area for the suppliers with boats. It’s a wonderful place for a leisurely walk, and for the most impressive view, you can cross it on the small pedestrian bridge Ponte Curto or on the large Ponte Rosso, around which the spacious square of the same name (Piazza del Ponte Rosso) is located.

The buildings around it are mostly from the beginning of the 19th century, and the two palaces (Palazzo Carciotti and Palazzo Gopcevich) make a special impression. Slightly out of step with its surroundings, you will also find the Serbian Orthodox Church of Saint Spiridon (Tempio serbo-ortodosso della Santissima Trinità e di San Spiridione). However, Trieste was once part of Yugoslavia, and Serbs still have a large community in the city. At the end of the canal is the main religious building in the center – the new church of Saint Antonio (Chiesa Parrocchiale di Sant’Antonio Taumaturgo), built in the neoclassical style towards the middle of the 18th century. At midday it was bustling with people as film production shots flowed, while in the late afternoon, the entire square was open to pedestrians.

Along the coast

Perhaps the most enjoyable thing to do in Trieste is the walks around the coast… On one side the sea, and on the other the elegant urban atmosphere! You will definitely notice the small staircase to the water, flanked by several bronze statues built to commemorate the return of the city to Italy. And despite the busy road and many industrial areas, there are still pleasant places where you can leisurely enjoy the coastal atmosphere.

Like the 200-meter Molo Audace pier, which is a perfect place to meet the sunset or just sit by the water with a drink in hand. It was on this spot that the ship San Carlo sank in the 18th century, which was used to build a new quay, about 95 m long, bearing his name. Today it has been changed by that of the first ship of the Italian Royal Navy to dock after the First World War – Audace.

The Roman theater

The last stop of our walk was the Roman Theater (Teatro Romano), located in the immediate vicinity of our parking lot. It is believed to have been built around the 1st century, and the ruins, locked between residential buildings, were only discovered in 1938. In its heyday it held around 3,500 people, and the most impressive thing today is that you walk past it just walking down the street…

What did we miss

We will definitely come back to Trieste again! But if you have more time, you can jump to the nearby Miramare Castle (Castello di Miramare). The lighthouse towering over the city (Faro della Vittoria) is also in this direction, past which we managed to pass by car, but certainly a climb to its top would be interesting. A visit to the Museo Revoltella can also be included in your travel plan, as well as a walk through the Parco comunale di Villa Revoltella. And finally, the Grotta Gigante karst cave is only 10 km from the city center.