reasons to visit Trieste

Five Reasons to Visit Trieste

Gorgeous seaside scenery, castles, caves, and of course the city itself: Trieste, nestled in Italy’s northeast corner, might be a little out of your way, but here are a few reasons it’s worth a visit. 

This diverse city that sits on the border between Italy and Slovenia on the Adriatic coast belies the idea of a homogeneous “Italian” culture, with its mishmash of languages and ethnicities formed over millennia. It has survived a succession of invaders and rulers since the ancient Romans settled here, and was annexed by Italy from the former Austro-Hungarian empire after WWI. 

Once an intellectual hub, the city’s cultural melting pot came under fire during the Fascist rule and Trieste lost its large ethnically Slovene and Jewish populations, first to emigration and then to forced deportation. Vestiges of this tragic chapter in Italian history can be found at the remains of the only concentration camp with a crematorium that stood on Italian soil just outside the city, known as the “Risiera di San Sabba”. 

five reasons to visit trieste

One of Europe’s most important commercial port cities during its pre-World War I heyday, Trieste continues to be a vibrant and cosmopolitan destination despite declining wealth and population. Its mix of Slavic, Serbian, and Friulian residents thrives—almost a third of Trieste’s population does not consider themselves ethnically Italian—creating one of the most unusual and fascinating cities in Italy.

Sitting far off the tourist track, Trieste also offers a rare glimpse of an Italian city that seems unaffected by an overflow of visitors each summer. There are sights to visit, of course, but much of the charm of a visit here lies in exploring the city at your own pace, with stops at its historic coffee shops to fuel yourself with a shot of espresso…Trieste has long been one of the main coffee trading and roasting ports in the Mediterranean!

If you want some structure for your visit, here are a few of the reasons to visit Trieste:

The Passeggiata Rilke 

Rilke Trail Trieste

The Passeggiata Rilke is arguably one of Italy’s prettiest walks, a cliffside path with incredible views over the Sistiana bay. At just over a mile (or 1.7 km) long, the path starts in front of the tourist office in the town of Sistiana (just north of Trieste) and ends at the Duino castle, famous for its legend about an evil husband who threw his wife over the cliff. Before she hit the water, the gods turned her to stone, reminiscent of a veiled lady who can be seen today.

Miramare Castle

Miramare Castle Trieste

The Castle of Miramare and its huge gardens were built for the Austrian Habsburgs a mere 150 years ago, making this a pretty new castle by Italian standards. Designed by Austrian architect Carl Junker, this private castle is unlike any other in Italy and is one of the top reasons to visit Trieste. Its white stone towers and elements of Gothic, Medieval, and Austrian architecture once housed the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria (later Emperor Maximilian of Mexico) and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium. Today, you can visit its well-preserved rooms filled with original furniture, tapestries, and decor. The surrounding Miramare Park overlooking the Adriatic Sea, is a beautiful expanse with exotic plants, sculptures, ponds, and fountains.  

The Historic Center

what to see in Trieste

You can’t help but notice the influence of various cultures when you walk through the old town, where Roman ruins like the Arch of Riccardo sit side-by-side with elegant Viennese palaces and the Catholic San Giusto, Serbian Orthodox San Spiridione, and the second largest Jewish synagogue in Europe all lie within a few-block radius. You can spend half a day on foot in this nice-sized city taking in attractions like the Roman Theater and walking along the water’s edge and down the big pier. Spend some time in the majestic Piazza Unita’ d’Italia, and shop in the Borgo Teresiano or Chinatown area. 

Grotta Gigante 

top sights in trieste

The Gigantic Grotto (Grotta Gigante) is the world’s largest tourist cave, big enough to house St. Peter’s Basilica. Allow about an hour for a visit, and if you’re really into caves (so to speak, hee hee) visit the Museum of Speleology, nearby.

Day Trips

best day trips from Trieste

Trieste also offers a convenient proximity to Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia and from a base here, you can easily take a day trip to another country. For example, the impressive Predjamski castle, built into a rock in Slovenia, is under an hour away and other sights like the Postojna Cave, Lake Bled, and Ljubljana are all within day-trip distance.

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