*Disclosure; this is a guest post by Anna Kay of MedCruiseGuide.com.
Anna Kay is an avid traveler and photographer, editor and social media manager at MedCruiseGuide.com. She loves exploring and island-hopping across the Mediterranean, and can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.
How to Spend a Perfect Day in Trieste, Italy
Trieste’s pretty seaside views, bustling coffee culture and rich Austrian architecture have lured world-famous writers and playwrights for centuries. Their endorsement continues to fascinate travelers enamored by history, culture and a few hours of ‘beach life’.
The city lies in north-east Italy at the mouth of the Gulf of Trieste on the Adriatic Sea next to Slovenia. The unique town has a diverse history, having been a part of the Roman, Venetian, Austro-Hungarian and German empires before being annexed to Italy in 1954.
Historic diversity is evident in the ethnic mix and variety of dialects spoken in the city. The dominant dialect is Triestino, a form of Venetian; if you’re hanging out in the suburbs, expect to hear Slovene, and a bit of German too.
Want to have a perfect day in Trieste? Here are five things to do to make your visit to this city unforgettable.
Morning Coffee Is Not a Regular Affair at These Trieste Coffee Bars
Caffe Tommaseo, One of Trieste’s Oldest Coffee Bars
Remember two names: Caffe Tommaseo and Antico Caffe San Marco. The former is among the city’s oldest coffee bars, which used to be the hangout place for intellectuals of the time, including James Joyce and Franz Kafka.
You are greeted by a distinctly 19th century décor with Viennese-style furniture, white tablecloth, plants, and simple chandeliers – tasteful and intimate. You can lounge on the small couches or plonk yourself down on the barstools at the small bar. The coffee and cake here are delicious, and if you’re interested, Caffee Tommaseo also has a decent dinner menu.
The likes of Joyce and his celebrated cerebral friends also swung by Antico Caffe San Marco, dating to 1914 and still a popular place for coffee and alcoholic drinks. It is rumored that the cafe secretly forged passports on its premises, clandestinely helping anti-Austrian patriots enter Italy.
In its present avatar, the coffee bar has a charming décor with frescoes, wall medallions, antique lights and mostly black furniture. There is a lovely bookstore to wander off to – but only for the ambiance as most books are Italian editions.
The coffee and aperitivo drinks are excellent as is the dinner menu, so you can safely return in the night after enjoying your morning dose of caffeine!
Enjoy the Views from Piazza Unita d’Italia
Piazza Unità d’Italia is the city’s main square, the largest in Europe, facing the Gulf of Trieste. It is a great place to enjoy the open air and historic architecture.
The square was originally called Piazza San Pietro and was later named Piazza Grande. The name ‘Piazza Unità’ was given to the square after Italy formally annexed Trieste. This spectacular main square is undoubtedly the most popular sight in Trieste and the center of all social activity.
Check out the Palazzo del Municipio, the palace which is an excellent representative of the city’s diverse heritage, featuring French, Tuscan, Venetian and German motifs. Another interesting landmark is Fontana dei Quattro Continenti, which pays homage to Asia, Africa, America and Europe, and features shells, angels and dolphins.
As the city’s cultural center, the Piazza is a hub for street performers and also invites orchestras, maestros and mainstream musicians like Carlos Santana.
The atmospheric square is especially beautiful at sundown when people-watchers and cafe-goers come out in full swing, and the mild chaos is energizing and addictive!
Stroll Along Canal Grande
Canal Grande, Trieste’s Famous Landmark
Located halfway between the Trieste railway station and Piazza Unità d’Italia, Canal Grande is an ancient waterway dating to 18th century.
Three bridges, Ponte Bianco, Ponte Verde and Ponte Rosso originally crossed the Canal Grande. Today, only one bridge, the Ponte Rosso or the Red Bridge continues to cross the canal. The banks of the canal are lined with churches, historic cafes, and squares constructed by city merchants back in the days.
Canals and Italy go hand-in-hand. Though there is nothing spectacularly beautiful about the Canal Grande with its row of mostly blue and white boats, a leisurely stroll here is nice enough, and the biggest draw is the statue of James Joyce on the Ponte Rosso – an ideal photo op!
Marvel at Castello Miramare
Castello di Miramare, the Royal Residence of the Habsburgs
The Castello di Miramare is a majestic structure overlooking the Gulf of Trieste. Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg built this castle for Charlotte of Belgium, his gorgeous wife, in 1860.
It was his desire to build a residence that would do justice to his rank while being a fitting place for his queen to live in. In short, Castello di Miramare was the love nest of the emperor and his queen. It was located between the massive 22-hectare park and the sea, isolated from the main court.
It is located 8 km (5 miles) northwest from Trieste. You can walk to it along the sea, or take a boat ride from Molo Audace in the city center. It’s definitely worth a trek as it takes you back in time and shows you how the royalty once lived here.
The castle continues to be surrounded by a beautiful park with several botanic species. It offers a spectacular panoramic view owing to its position on a high cliff overlooking the sea.
Topolini Beach, Trieste
The people of Trieste have been enjoying the sea since 1820. In the mid 19th century, the city saw the emergence of proper bathing facilities along the coastline in Grignano, Barcola, Muggia and Sistiana. Needless to say, when the summer arrives, locals head to the beach.
Topolini is the most popular bathing spot, stretching from the maritime neighborhood of Barcola at the center of Trieste all the way to the 19th century Miramare Castle. It was built in the 1930s and comprises ten semi-circular terraces overlooking the sea. The terraces closest to Trieste are used mostly by elderly people and children. The terraces further ahead can be reached via steps where youngsters enjoy diving competitions.
The Le Ginestre white pebble beach lies about 15 km (9.3 miles) outside Trieste. If you want to enjoy scenic views of the Gulf of Trieste and dive into the crystal waters of the Adriatic Sea, this is the beach to visit.
Trieste may slip under the radar of travelers who tend to fixate on the most widely known European destinations. Don’t let this little gem slip off your Italian itinerary!