Trieste is the smallest province in Italy, and perhaps also the most isolated. For evidence of this, simply take a look at any map: it consists of a thin stretch of land which runs between the sea and the upland plains which border Slovenia. This border area is fraught with tensions, as the city has not yet learned to co-exist peacefully with its foreign neighbors.
Surrounding the highly urbanized areas in the center and the south, stands a veritable constellation of small towns and villages such as Sgonico, Monrupino, Duino, Basovizza and San Pelagio which are predominantly inhabited by the Slovenian-speaking minority. In recent years, these areas have witnessed the construction of a number of country cottages and villas of considerable market value.
The city's geographical isolation is reflected in its personality. It is at once lonely, mysterious, alluring, conservative, pensive, a little primitive, perennially tired and taciturn. It is chock full of banks (unlike other Italian administrative towns), but is nonetheless lacking in any great entrepreneurial spirit, unlike the nearby Friuili, an industrious boom town. It is a fairly old city and a hotbed of science and the arts, a city that extends a friendly welcome to people of all nationalities. Until 1954, it was under American military rule. It is a carefree city with a love for the finer things in life. What could be more pleasurable than a glass of wine, a walk around Il Carso and a meal in a good restaurant? Just sit back and watch the frenetic pace of everyday life grind slowly to a halt.
Trieste is a beautiful and extraordinary city, anchored to a past that it cannot forget. It is constantly battered by the Bora - an icy and powerful northeasterly wind, which is tolerated as an inevitable feature of life in Trieste. Below, you will see that Trieste has been sub-divided into eleven zones (beginning with the most southerly) in order to make it easy for any visitor to get geographically-orientated.
Trieste offers visitors a good bus service. However, if you are traveling to Il Carso or any other suburban region, make sure you have consulted the bus timetable, or alternatively rent a car as after a certain time (and also in certain areas) buses become less frequent.
Muggia This is a small town (one of six) which lies around ten kilometers from the center of Trieste. It is a seaside town with a strong fishing tradition, and was the last fortification before the state border. It has recently been completely restructured and contains features which are reminiscent of the istroveneto period. Take a walk through its narrow streets, past the fishing boats, which are anchored in its beautiful port. The shops are small and relatively modest, but life here is still extremely pleasant. To get here by sea, simply set sail in the opposite direction to Venice. A giant tourist complex exists where the glorious shipyards of San Rocco once stood. This area is comprised of hundreds of moorings for boats, hotels, sports centers, restaurants and apartments. Accommodation bought here would be a shrewd investment. The industrial region stretches out just beyond the town, but does not in any way affect its tranquil atmosphere of the Muggia .
Val Rosandra Val Rosandra lies to the east, somewhere between Muggia and Trieste. It is the most beautiful and evocative corner of the Carso and consists of the extraordinary valley which has been carved out by the Rosandra river. For those who live locally, this is an ideal place for spiritual retreats as well as for spending relaxing Sunday afternoons in the summer. It is spot that is not to be missed, where you will be able to go on delightful walks and take in enchanting views.
Valmaura - Servola - Chiarbola These districts are all in the immediate periphery of Trieste and are for the most part residential districts. Here, you will find the Stadio Nereo Rocco , the new Palatrieste and the Risiera di San Sabba which was the only Nazi concentration camp in Italy.
House prices here are considerably lower than anywhere else, but the area offers few amenities. However, it is only around 10 to 15 minutes away from the city center. The Servola district, which has unfortunately been polluted by the pungent black smoke from the gigantic railway complex - is also nearby.
Piazza Unità d'Italia - Cittavecchia This area constitutes the heart of Trieste. Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia is the largest seaside piazza in Europe. Right behind it stands the historic Cittavecchia which stretches back to the hills upon which stand the Castello di San Giusto and the San Giusto Cathedral . It is here that you will find the Town Hall, Prefecture, Police Station, Chamber of Commerce, Stock Exchange and several cafes with historical significance, such as Tergesteo , Specchi and Tommaseo - a particular favorite with the locals. A leisurely stroll through this predominantly pedestrian area will enable you to take in the various book and antique shops, the ancient Teatro Romano , the remains of the Forum, the principle museums and the narrow streets of the Cittavecchia . Behind the large piazza stands the beautiful Teatro Verdi . To live here is a luxury permitted only to a select few. The principle reason for this is that bicycles are virtually banned in Trieste. Navigating the numerous steep ascents and sheer drops along the city's streets will therefore exhaust all but the most hardy.
Borgo Teresiano The old heart of Trieste stands by the sea, near the train station. In order to get here from the Piazza Unità d'Italia , you would simply need to walk along the shore for a couple of hundred meters in the direction of Venice. This area is a little unwelcoming, and visiting at night is not recommended. It is often frequented by Slovenians and Croatians who come to buy discount clothing and merchandise from shops which are small, but always very busy. Recently, a number of commercial enterprises run by the immigrant Chinese community have been set up in the area. From here, you can visit the ancient, glorious port of Trieste.
Corso Italia - Barriera Vecchia - Via Battisti This is the commercial heart of the city, situated around ten minutes from the sea. It is characterized by numerous office blocks, fashion boutiques, chaotic traffic and a frenetic pace. From Via Carducci, Via Milano and Via Battisti to Via Valdirivo and Via Fabio Severo (where you will find the Court of Law and the prison) - you will waste precious time caught between traffic lights. An exception is the Viale XX Settembre - a beautiful tree-lined avenue which runs for several kilometers. Along here you will find over half of the cinemas in Trieste as well as a number of excellent ice cream parlors. At the bottom of this street, in the direction of Longera stands the Il Giulia shopping center, behind which stands the Il Boschetto (or "little wood") - an oasis of green in the middle of the city.
San Giacomo These two major districts are situated on the hills around San Giusto. San Giacomo is fairly self-contained - it has its own shops, nightclubs and restaurants. It is highly valued by its inhabitants, despite perennial parking difficulties and the chaotic traffic. It is also home to the Burlo Garofolo Children's Hospital, which is considered to be one of the best in Italy.
San Vito San Vito is, in fact, a typically residential zone, very quiet and calm. In the neighboring area, the beautiful palazzi of Lloyd Adriatico headquarters (the insurance giant), and Lloyd Triestino, the famous local navigation company which was recently purchased by a huge multinational corporation.
Montebello A non-descript and typically residential area, if there were not the Ippodromo di Montebello and the small, international Exhibition Center of Trieste, many people would not spend a great deal of time here as there is not much traffic.
Università Walking down Via Coroneo, and then Via Fabio Severo, you arrive in the beautiful residential area that contains the University. Here, many departments and different schools of the University of Trieste are located, and there are not many shops.
Barcola – Miramare – Sistiana – Grignano - Duino These districts are found somewhat outside the city, near roads that head towards Venice. The panorama is extraordinary and is a location of many of the city's wealthy residents. Barcola provides visitors with many beautiful walks, at the end of which you find the Castello di Miramare , the magnificent residence of the Viceroy of Lombardy-Veneta, Maximilian (1832-1867), is a powerful symbol for the city of Trieste. Finally, Grignano, Sistiana, and the northern borders of the province, Duino are three smaller and striking horseshoe-shaped area along the sea. This area is full of exclusive bars, fashionable restaurants, delicious seafood and a great place for strolling after a day of sightseeing. You are advised to pay attention when driving along the main street that enters the city: it is very narrow and somewhat dangerous. Apparently, car accidents are no longer counted and the speed limits are very low, so please respect them.
Opicina – Plateau On the outer boundaries of the city, there is Carso , a gorgeous area composed of woods, canyons, and rocky shoreline. No other area of the city is more loved by Triestini, with lovely little hillside towns that produce local products, provide plenty of areas to go walking or bike riding and rock climbing. In this area, you will also find a majority of Trieste's Slovenian community. From the center of the city, it does not take more than 20-30 minutes to get there. Amongst the thousands of places to visit, don't forget the Faro della Vittoria , the Passeggiata Napoleonica and the Tempio Mariano .
Padriciano Padriciano corresponds to the last exit on the autostrada and there is the Area di Ricerca, one of the largest scientific and technological research parks in Europe, under which is the large ring of light that is one of the most notable laboratories, the Sincrotrone Elettra .
It may well be the least industrialized city of the Triveneto region and that with the highest average age in the country; it may also be a city whose mottos are "no can do", "leave well enough alone," and "if it ain't broke why fix it?" It may be, as an erstwhile local newspaper editor put it, the Naples of the North. In short, the city may well have many shortcomings. However, this does not necessarily mean that the fiercely conservative city of Trieste does not know how to appreciate fine cuisine and the good life.
Historically, Trieste has always been a melting pot of cultures and traditions, stretched out as it is between the sea and the Carso, only several kilometers from the border with Slovenia. The cuisine here has its own unique flavors and characteristics. The cafes and restaurants of central Trieste and the upland plains (the hilly area which lies behind the city) offer typically Central European dishes, a fusion of local cuisine and that of Hungary, Austria and the Slavic countries.
The people of Trieste are crazy about their food. Take away their factories, nightclubs, football team or amusement park; but don't take away their food. Sunday lunches with friends and dinners at the local trattoria (always at reasonable prices) are worth more to them than anything else. In recent years, hordes of tourists have also found this to be true, with a little help from the marketing strategies of the mayor Riccardo Illy, who is also a successful coffee merchant of the illy caffè, capable of selling sacks full of Arabic coffee all over the world, from the Maldives to Bahrain).
Trieste is not really the sort of place you would happen to pass through due to its location in the northernmost corner of Italy. However, there are hundreds of good reasons to come to Trieste, not least for its cuisine. Prepare yourself then, for a brief guided tour of some of the best eateries in the city.
If you should find yourself on or around the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia (the largest seaside square in Europe), pop in to Pepi for a snack; a small cafe which has enjoyed a mention in the New York Times. Here, at any time of day or night, you can try boiled pork, toasted ham sandwiches, sausages with sauerkraut and horseradish and paprika sauces. These can be washed down with either beer or Terrano—a full-flavored red wine from the Carso region which even has a street named after it. Prices here are relatively low.
Alternatively, you could try Tommaseo or Specchi—two of Trieste's oldest cafes. These both have elegant lounge areas and warm, friendly atmospheres. A word of warning: if you order a cappuccino in these parts, you will get what is known in the rest of Italy as caffè macchiato caldo, served in a small cup with frothy milk.
If however, you would prefer to combine elegance with tradition and modernity with delicious flavors, you should try the Suban trattoria which offers gastronomic delights for carnivores. In an impeccably elegant setting, you will be able to choose from an excellent selection of both international and local dishes including Jota, a hearty bacon rind soup, goulash, tripe, veal stew, bread gnocchi or gnocchi stuffed with jam or prunes, ham and an excellent selection of desserts.
Seafood is a must in a place like Trieste. There are dozens of seafood restaurants here and they are all of the highest quality so you will be spoiled for choice. However, you should definitely visit either the Faro (a trattoria offering magnificent panoramic views of the gulf, set at the feet of the imposing Faro della Vittoria and only a five-minute drive from the city center) or the Nuovo Antico Pavone — an elegant restaurant on the coast. Trieste is a small place, and it is possible to traverse it within half an hour (either on foot or by bus). As you walk across it, you will pass a large number of excellent cafes and restaurants. There are several which are not to be missed, including Stalletta for its cold starters, meat and hotplate dishes and Dardo Rosso for its delicious Steak Tartare—both of these are in the densely-populated working class district of San Giacomo, near San Giusto Castle. Another good place is Stanlio e Ollio — a candle-lit restaurant offering up imaginative cuisine on the Viale XX Settembre, a 15-minute walk from the Piazza dell'Unità.
Still in the city center, you should try and pay a visit to San Marco — the large literary cafe (in Via Battista, parallel to Viale XX Settembre) which was frequented by the writer Claudio Magris and by both Svevo and Saba before him — as well as to Pirona — a small pastry shop on Largo Barriera Vecchia. It is one of the oldest of its kind in Italy and was visited for breakfast by James Joyce every morning between 1910 and 1914. Today it sells a wonderful selection of cream pastries and other delightful Central European sweets such as presnitz (a pastry made from nuts and dried fruit, in the shape of Christ's crown of thorns), putizza (a puff pastry with honey), fave (almond balls with rose oil and cocoa), crostoli, fritole and fritters with pine kernels which are typically made during Carnevale.
We can now turn inland towards the upland plains of the Carso, only a 15-minute drive from the city. It is here that the majority of Italy's Slovenian community lives. Besides being able to enjoy magnificent views and go on memorable walks, you will be able to visit family-run farm shops and osmizze, where farmers can (in accordance what was originally an Imperial decree) sell their own produce, usually in spring and summer.
In many of the small villages around Trieste such as Monrupino, San Dorligo, Basovizza and the charming Muggia (which stands suspended between land and sea in the east of the province), you will be able to try cheeses such as Tabor, homemade salami, gnocchi and various meats as well as a selection of regional wines such as Malvasia, Vitovska Garganja and Terrano.