Trieste has never been on my “to go” list. In fact I have never even consider it as a possible destination. But after being there, if somebody would offer me a job I would move without even thinking about it. It’s one of those cities you either like or hate from the beginning. Trying to get to Ljubljana cheap in mid summer is no easy task. And that’s how Trieste came into play. A direct flight from London cost a third of the one to Slovenia’s capital, accommodations have reasonable prices and so is the food.
I landed with the usual delay, just 40 minutes this time and since the only flight was in the evening, busses to the city are less frequent. Passport control is slow and my line seemed not to move at all. I missed the bus by 5 minutes which meant waiting another hour for the next one. When I finally arrived at the accommodation, most of the restaurants were already closed. Luckily Tripadvisor app came in handy and just before midnight my pizza was ready. Probably not true but at that time it was the best pizza I have ever had. Since they were closing, I had my dinner by the sea. There are no off license shops and the only way to get a beer at that hour is from a bar. I was certain that the bartender overcharged me as 5 euro for a lager seemed ridiculous for such a small city.
My holiday had finally started. It was almost 1 in the morning but the city still alive – locals, tourist and some prostitutes were filling the streets with noise. Piazza Unita is magnificent at night and in front, anchored, a sailing boat look like was brought to live from Pirates of the Caribbean. The walk by the sea is relaxing and it feels like holiday. The black horizon is cut by a white spear. More follow and it looks like a violent storm is brewing in the distance. With no luck in finding anywhere to buy water, not even a gas stop, I fill my bottle from a public fountain. Reluctant to drink at first, I don’t have much choice but to hope is clean and safe to drink. With less than 5 hours left to sleep, the narrow streets take me back to the hotel. I pass out grateful for the soft bed and deep silence.
When I woke up the next day the sun was up already and was determined to make the most of my last day there. Breakfast comprised of local prosciutto, cheese and bread from the local Despar supermarket. Even if was early morning, the sun was already burning. Armed with sun cream and a strong plan for the day, off I went. I always use Sygic Travel app when visiting cities as it allows me to build my own itinerary.
First stop, the Serbian Ortodox church built in 1869 – Saint Spyridon. Entrance is free and one can stay for the service. Its architecture and history are the only ones that interest me. Just in front of the church, a beautiful fountain dominates the fruit market. A few minutes away, Gran Canal de Trieste is probably the most famous landmark of the city. If you want a postcard photo this is the place to go. Both ends offer different perspectives. Sadly, not as clean as it shows on the internet photos. Follow Via Roma street to Piazza della Borsa where the statue of Leopoldo l d’Asburgo and the Fountain of Neptun are located. The square is also home to a historical building, The Finance House. Turn back to the main street and follow it in the opposite direction to reach Teatro Romano which lies at the feel of Colle San Giusto. Built between the I and II century A.C. from stone and wood. Today various various exhibitions are held in the summer time and admission is free of charge. I follow the street that takes me above the theatre and take a few narrow streets to reach Castello di San Giusto. It stands on a hill overlooking the city and the Gulf of Trieste and it’s a great vantage point. The Castle is fairly small and formed by a big court and three bastions, the first one dating from 1508. Inside one can admire a collection of armours and weapons, old inscriptions or just walk around the castle walls for a spectacular view. Admission it’s 6 euro and totally worth it. Right next to the castle is the Trieste Cathedral. Dedicated to Saint Justus, this is the main church of the city and seat of the Bishop. It’s a lovely romano catholic church dominated by mosaics. For those interested in history I recommend visiting the Chapel of Treasures that holds important objects like Urn of Saint Justus or Halberd of Saint Sergius. It is open 8.00 to 17.00 and entrance free of charge. The views from the tower are not as good as from the castle, but still worth the climb. Take the paved road down from the main entrance, and stop for a rest in Giardino di San Michele. A good place for a quick snack and replenish your energy by getting away of the burning sun which by now raised the temperature to just over 35C. Continue down the same street, slightly to the right and take the first narrow street to the left. You should be able to see Arco di Riccardo. The remains of the roman empire, dating from 33 B.C. Sadly it looks like it might not be there for too long. From here one can just randomly take left and right turns and explore the city with the direction of the old port. I was hoping to climb the lighthouse, Lanterna di Trieste but it was closed. Instead I stopped by the new port and had a beer while admiring the anchored boats and yachts. From here I choose to walk along the sea back to the city centre. The Aquarium didn’t catch my interest enough to visit it but just for a photo. Further ahead Piazza Unita which I had visited the night before, now looked even more charming. I’ve continued my walk to Molo Audace, a 246m stone pier built initially in 1743 on the wreck of San Carlo ship, and extended later on. It attracts both tourists and locals 24/7. People come there to sing, drinks, relax and listen to the see or watch the sunset. Poor travellers sleep at night at the sound of waves breaking into the harbour. The name comes from the Audace destroyer, the first Italian ship to anchor in Trieste.
By the time I finished most of my itinerary I was literally baked by the scorching heat and felt the need to go back to my hotel, take a shower and ditch my boots in the favour of flip flops. My feet had enough. But not before I had the mandatory espresso and cake. I had in mind to visit the Miramare Castle as well but having found out about a fisherman’s village not to far from Trieste I went in favour for the last one.
Muggia is a small town (fishing village in the past) on the Adriatic coast that still keeps the Austrian and Venetian history alive. The only Istrian settlement in Italy. Spending a day in this charming location is well worth. It can be easily reached from Trieste by public transport. Line 20 connects the two cities in a 40 minutes journey and there are several bus stops, including one at the Montedoro Shopping Centre. End of the line is at the local coach station, not far away from the old town. There aren’t many touristic objectives but there’s a lot of history. The best way to find them is to explore the old town by foot, following the narrow streets. Be sure not to miss the old Church of St Francis. There is a small wooden bench in the garden and if you enjoy a complete silence to recharge you batteries and get away from the heat, you will love it. From here one can continue to the Castle of Muggia, but only the walls can be seen as access is restricted an has to be booked in advanced. Originally built in the 14th century, it was restored several times and now has a private owner. There is a small garden under the walls that offers a view to the harbour. If preferred, you can take a ferry back to Trieste but the journey is much longer and they’re less frequent than the busses. Going back to the centre one can admire the wonderful Piazza Marconi with the Duomo de SS Giovanni e Paolo. A Romanesque building dating from 1263 dedicated to Saints Paul and John dominated by a Gothic rosette above the main entrance. Don’t forget to stop by the Basilica Muggia Vechia ( 9th century) and the fortified walls of Santa Barbara, or whatever is left of them. Together are proof of the roman and medieval times. Unfortunately I found out about it too late and didn’t get a chance to visit it. And ultimately, you have to take a dip into the Adriatic see. Lungomare beach is not quite as I imagine it and has no sand, but rocks and pebbles. Either walk for 20 minutes or take a local bus to San Rocco hotel. Ignore the youngsters that prefer the concrete over the pebble beach and soon you will be rewarded. I waited until the sun went over the hill but there were still too many people for a skinny dip and didn’t have my swimming suit with me. Nevertheless my feet gladly enjoyed the bath.
As the only thing that hasn’t been crossed from my list was the Miramare Castle, I decided to leave Muggia. Instead of going back for dinner and spend the rest of the day around Trieste my brain forgot to function properly and it was set on seeing the castle. I only wanted to take a few night shots and take a bath. Shortly after the bus left I’ve noticed the sandy beaches I was looking for. But I was focused on that castle that I haven’t noticed the time. When I got there it was already dark and clouds were closing in. The wind picked up and got cold even though it was summer. The entrance to the castle garden was locked and there wasn’t any beach but the harbour. The black cold water didn’t look and the thought of getting sick before the hiking begun cut off my urge for swimming. It was nothing to do but wait and hope that the last bus will show up. An hour later i was on the way back to the city. Tired and full with rage, I had mistaken my stop and got off way to early at the Vittoria Lighthouse, 3 miles out of the city. I had wasted 3 hours of my last day there.
Back to Trieste, most of the sky was still clear and I could watch the sunset – breathtaking. I took a few more photos and looked for a place to eat. As usually Tripadvisor is my companion and always have a saved list for every place I go. Trattoria da Mara is a small local restaurant. Authentic food, home cooked by Mara herself. A few tables and only locals. The menu is in Italian and she speaks enough English to understand your order. Prices are not high but definitely not budget. House wine is good and so is the desert. It has been years since I had rabbit and I had came specially for that – “Coniglio al Forno con Polenta”. It was tasty but portion quite small for 1 person. I wasn’t quite full and the polenta wasn’t enough either. After a full day of walking my body was hungry for fuel. The wine and some biscuits filled the rest. By midnight I was back in my hotel room but just starting to get ready. A short night a long day ahead of me, with the bus to Ljubljana leaving early morning.
Trieste was a lovely stop on my way to Slovenia and I felt like being on holiday. Usually the long hikes, while I do enjoy and not trade them for anything else, require a lot of effort and energy. By the end I feel like a few extra days of just sitting all day and eating are required to get me going again. If I were to return there, July wouldn’t be my first choice for sure. The heat is unbearable and for someone like me that hates wearing shorts and sandals it’s even worse.
Bus to city – €4,05
Pizza – €8 euro ( + €2 tips)
Beer at the bar – €5 / at the supermarket – €1-€2
Accommodation – €38/night
Coffee and cake – €7
Bottle of water – €0.59 1.5l
Coniglio al Forno con Polenta – €13
House wine 500ml – €6
Dessert – €5
Castle entrance – €6 full
Local bus – €1.25 /journey