At the easternmost region of Italy, there is a small strip of land that borders with Slovenia – This is the Friuli Venezia Region and has a distinct style, culture and history that is quite different to the rest of mainland Italy. Trieste is one of the largest cities within this beautiful region and sits on the coast between the Adriatic Sea and Slovenia. Due to its proximity to other nations and regions, Trieste has been influenced over the years by various other cultures and civilizations. The city has a current population of 204,000 and is one of this richest economical places in Italy due to its extensive port and commercial shipping trade.
Trieste has been inhabited since the second millennium BC and was part of the Roman Republic. Once the Roman Empire had declined, Trieste became a free commune and then was subsequently part of the Hapsburg Empire and resisted many sieges and attacks by the Ottomans throughout the Middle Ages. Although the city saw decline during WW2, it underwent a huge economic revival in later years and its ports were developed extensively. Today, Trieste has a pleasing mix of historical buildings and Piazzas, stunning seaside locations and interesting Museums that make it a premier tourist destination in this region of Italy.
Lets explore the best things to do in Trieste:
1. Trieste Harbour
The port and harbour of Trieste is truly impressive and rightly so as it serves as the cities principal form of economy.
Practically the entire coastline next to Trieste is occupied by either the public harbour or the commercial shipping operations – These two parts of the city offer some truly fantastic and interesting sights.
Near the Piazza Venezia is the main harbour and this area is filled with beautiful yachts, sailing boats and fishing boats.
Furthermore, the port area on the south western section of the coast offers a great insight into how a busy shipping operation works – You can see large cargo ships entering the docks and being offloaded.
2. Piazza Unita Italia
This colossal square lies at the forefront of the historic old town and faces out towards the Adriatic Sea.
Due to its immense size, the Piazza Unita italia is known as the largest square situated next to the sea in Europe.
Several prestigious and important buildings line the square including the Town Hall, the Palazzo del Lloyd Triestino, the Palazzo del Governo and the Palazzo Pitteri – Each of which features a stunning design and beautiful architecture.
Aside from the buildings, there is also several impressive monuments and statues placed at various intervals in the square – In particular, the two iron sculptured columns that frame the entrance of the Piazza.
3. Canale Grande
Located in the heart of the historic old town, not far from the Piazza Unita, the Grand Canal is a small waterway that has stood since the 1700’s to allow boats direct access into the city to unload their cargo.
Approximately 200m in length, the canal stretched from the Riva Tre Novembre to the Via S. Spiridione and ends at the Piazza Sant’Antonio Nuovo and the Chiesa di Sant’Antonio Taumaturgo.
This pleasant waterway is crossed by three bridges and has numerous boats moored at each side.
Surrounding the canal is a series of fine buildings including the Palazzo Carciotti and the Palazzo Gopcevich.
Furthermore, there is a selection of restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating.
4. Trieste Roman Theatre
Trieste has a long and celebrated history and throughout the city there are various remnants of bygone eras.
One such relic is the Roman Amphitheatre that is located on the Via del Teatro Romano In the centre of the historic old town and only a stone’s throw from the Piazza Unita Italia.
This ancient structure is in a fantastic condition and the original seating and stage area is still visible together with various columns and walls.
Original statues from the theatre are now on display at one of the local museums but some are still visible at the sight.
When walking through the city of Trieste, this theatre is a must see and is a fine example of Roman architecture.
5. Castle of Saint Giusto
Located next to Trieste Cathedral, the Castle of Saint Giusto is an ancient structure that has stood for many years and is one of the cities icons.
This structure now serves as a museum and was originally created in the 15th century by the Hapsburgs.
Built on the Capitoline Hill, the castle has a commanding view over the city and has an extremely strategic location.
Today, the castle stands in fine condition and it is possible to climb up to the top of the tower for amazing panoramic views of Trieste and its ports.
Inside the main keep there is a fine display of artefacts and information about the history of the castle including military banners, coats of arms and an armory with a wide variety of ancient weaponry.
6. Cathedral of Saint Giusto
Also known as Trieste Cathedral, this church is dedicated to Saint Justus and serves as the main church of the city.
Originally constructed in 1320, the church features a Romanesque and Gothic design and the front façade has a huge circular window with a beautiful lattice design.
Inside, the church features a plethora of decoration and the archways in the main aisle are covered with coloured patterns and ornate sculptures.
Furthermore, the dome of the main altar is covered with a stunning fresco that is bursting with a myriad of bright colours.
There are also several mosaics and works of art depicting the Our Lady of the Assumption.
7. Grotta Gigante
To the north west of Trieste approximately 20 minutes by car is the Grotta Gigante.
As the name implies, the Grotte Gigante is a gigantic cave.
Its central cavern is over 100m high, 65m wide and 130m long which makes it one of the largest tourist caves in the world.
Throughout its known history, this cave has been in the Guiness Book of Records, and a 4 person hot-air balloon has even flown through it! Today, guided tours are available of this immense natural phemonenon and your tour guide will explain about its history and the various features of the cave including the stalactites and stalagmites.
If you visit this cave, ensure to take a jacket as the underground temperatures are not favourable!
8. Miramare Castle
Although not an ancient castle, this building and grounds is still a fantastic place to explore and has to be the most picturesque castle in this region of Italy.
Created in the 19th century, this castle is located approximately 15 minutes to the north west of Trieste in the small village of Grignano.
The structure itself is immensely beautiful with white-washed walls and decorative crenulations.
Furthermore, the grounds of the castle feature extensive gardens and woodland that you can explore.
Due to the position that Miramare Castle faces, the sunsets here are particularly beautiful – Looking out across the Gulf of Trieste the sun lights the sea and sky up in a beautiful display of colours.
9. Museo Del Mare
Trieste is a city that has an extensive seafaring history – For hundreds of years it has maintained a huge naval and commercial shipping port and the Gulf of Trieste has been the sight of many naval conflicts throughout history.
To understand this rich naval history, the Museo del Mare provides a wealth of information and interesting displays about how the ports and naval operations at Trieste evolved.
Here you can find a myriad of beautifully crafted model ships, cross sections of various different parts of vessels such as the hull and anchor, and also a variety of equipment salvaged from historical ships.
The Museo Del Mare is a great place to visit whilst down at the Harbor to gain and insight into the history of Trieste.
10. Carso Triestino
This area of Trieste lies in close proximity to the Val Rosana and is a fantastic place to admire the scenery and take some stunning photographs.
Various mountains, rocky outcrops, forested glens and deep valleys offer numerous hiking and cycling options.
Mount Carso is the main mountain here and it is possible to scale the peak and gain superb views of the surrounding countryside.
If you wish, you can also travel into Slovenia and visit some of the small bordering villages such as Kozina and Nasirec.
11. Molo Audace
The Molo Audace is a fascinating promenade in the heart of Trieste and sits directly next to the end of the Piazza Unita Italia.
Stretching out towards the sea for approximately 300m, this stone paved promenade allows tourists and locals alike a place to admire the coastal scenery of Trieste and even take a dip in the water if they wish.
Spread along the promenade is a series of benches and old iron mooring points.
From here you can look out to the sea, admire the extensive port system and skyline of Trieste and also take some fantastic photographs.
12. Piazza della Borsa
Located next to the Piazza Unita Italia, the Piazza dell Borsa is just as interesting and is a great place to take in the local life and enjoy a fine meal.
During the 19th century, this square actually served as the city’s economic centre and the chamber of commerce building is actually located at the far end and features a beautiful columned entrance with an ornate marble pediment.
Triangular in shape, at the end closest to the Piazza Unita, there are several restaurants and shops, whilst in the middle is a decorative statue of the sea god Neptune.
Markets and small fairs are sometimes held here and it is a great place for shopping and mingling.
13. Val Rosandra
Located on the Italian/Slovenian border, Val Rosandra is a natural valley that is cut through by the Rosandra River.
This valley is a beautiful part of the region and features some fantastic scenery, forests and mountain landscapes.
A main attraction of the valley is a 40ft waterfall that plummets over the stone cliffs down into the river below.
Starting from Bagnoli Superiore or Hervati, you can follow the trails and explore this region on foot – For the adventurous or the intrepid hiker; the Val Rosandra is the perfect place to be at one with nature.
14. Sistiana Bay
Approximately 20 minutes to the west of Trieste is the charming town of Sistiana which is a wonderful coastal resort complete with a harbour and several beautiful beaches.
Several hotels and resorts have been established here and there is also a selection of bars, restaurants and beach shops from where you can enjoy a fine meal or purchase some supplies.
The harbour is a fantastic semi-circular shape and the clear turquoise waters are simply divine.
Although the beach contains pebbles, the fine Mediterranean weather makes up for this fact and you can still comfortably sun bathe.
If you want to escape from the city, Sistiana Bay offers the perfect retreat.
15. Eat a fine Italian Pizza at the Al Barattolo Restaurant
Trieste has an abundance of fine restaurants, but no such finer establishment than the Al Barattolo that is located next to the Grande Canal and the Piazza Sant’Antonio Nuovo.
If you are looking for a delicious and authentic Italian Pizza then this is the place to go! Pizzas here are freshly prepared and cooked and you can choose from a variety of different toppings including the fan favourite Pepperoni.
Aside from Pizza, Al Barattolo also serves a variety of seafood dishes and has a wonderful selection of complimentary wine.