Just as Friuli is very different from the rest of Italy, its capital, Trieste, is unlike other Italian cities – a mix of Vienna with Venice. Over the past few years, it has been transformed from a gritty frontier crossing point to a vibrant multicultural hub. We really liked Trieste – it’s clean and beautiful, with excellent food (mostly seafood) and wine. Note however that we were warned that summers are not great – lots of cruise ships in the harbor and poor air quality.

Let the monumental grandeur of Piazza Unità d’Italia impress you, but then fall under Trieste’s more subtle charms: a promenade down the lungomare (seafront), or just a seat at one of the waterside cafes that line the Canal Grande for an sundowner aperitivo.

Trieste has changed hands many times in history, and many a ruler fancied this strategic port and its perks enough to occupy it, including the usual list of European warlords and megalomaniacs, from Caesar and Charlemagne to Napoleon. It has played some part in almost every regional embroilment for centuries, even the Cold War, when it was a crossing point for spies. Most notably, though, it was a glorious jewel in the crown of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and while it was annexed by Italy following the First World War, it still retains some of its Viennese charm, which is why the soundtrack to the city is more Radetzky March than “O Sole Mio.” Trieste is an Italian city and has the espressos to prove it (Illy coffee comes from here), but Viennese-style architecture, grand cafés worthy of Sigmund Freud, and, of course, strudel are unmistakable heir-looms of the halcyon days of the empire.

There are several trattorie, but for a real treat catch a cab to one of the 30 or so osmize – farm restaurants that sell their wines, cured meats, cheese, honey, fruit and veg; traditionally, they were open eight, 16 or 24 days per year (“osmi” means “eighth” in Slovene) but this now varies – check the app at for details. 


  • **Ristorante al Bagatto, VIA CADORNA. Great atmosphere, excellent food. I’d say close to perfect, but the fish was upstaged by our lunch in Muggia.
  • **Ristorante ai Fiori, Piazza Attilio Hortis, 7. Elegant fish restaurant where we enjoyed a fancy New Year’s eve dinner. Family run, a little “Italian” on the decor, but excellent food and a huge wine list.


  • ***Savoia Excelsior Palace Trieste: everything you’d expect and a bit more. The first floor ocean-side rooms have big balconies (we lucked into a great waterside fireworks show).


  • ***San Giusto Church & Castle ( The church of San Giusto martyr is a little jewel located on the top of a small hill. This is really a must have experience and, since you have walked so far, do visit the castle and fortress (the ticket is only 3 euros). The church is a true gem, in Romanic style with the side chapels decorated with golden mosaics made by Byzantine workers and similar to the ones we have in Venice. The fortress, which was erected by the Venetians, has a huge terrace on top and is great for watching the sunset.
  • **Arco di Riccardo: Named for King Richard, who passed through on route from the crusades. 33 BC. Pretty and a little hard to find.
  • [didn’t do] Basilica di San Silvestro: 12th century, in roughly original form. (Closed at the moment for renovations)
  • [saw the exterior] Synagogue of Trieste: One of the most important synagogues in Italy. Make appointments in advance if you want to see the interior.
  • [didn’t do] Museo Revoltella ( of modern art with a beautiful terrace on the top floor from where you can admire a stunning view of the city and the sea. The collection showcases mainly Italian artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries. 


***Ferry to Muggia: A visit to Trieste has to include a boat trip, and a good option is the Delfino Verde ferry that links Trieste and the Venetian port of Muggia. The journey only takes 20 minutes as it hugs the bay towards the frontier with Slovenia, and Muggia is a gem, with its tiny harbour filled with fishing boats. We liked the ride and the views, and had a really spectacular meal at ***Sal de Mar.

On the way out of Trieste we stopped by:

  • *Prosecco: yes, that Prosecco! It’s just a town though, so perhaps just drive through it to say you did.
  • ? Miramare Castle: Unfortunately closed when we drove by, but does look very worthwhile. Formerly home to Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, the 10th-century structure sits above the blue Adriatic on a lush, 54-acre park. 
  • ? Duino Castle: Great views, Rilke wrote here. Also closed on our visit.
  • *Vittoria Lighthouse: surprisingly a skip. It’s pretty, but you can see it from a distance. Only accessible on non-holiday weekends at specific times.



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