Trieste, Italy - A Pleasant Surprise, Off the Beaten Track
The township of Trieste is off the tourist track, small, and quiet. It is near to the Slovenia border and has a mixed culture influenced by its location and history. We visited Trieste with no real knowledge or expectation apart from a vague reference on Lonely Planet to it being a best kept secret.
What a surprise that proves that ignorance is indeed bliss! I thought Trieste was tiny insignificant town with few highlights, having seen its intriguing tunnels and cliffs on the outskirts on a previous visit. We turned back due to a heavy storm which made the roads dangerous.
But Trieste, exceeded our expectations and turned out to be gem during the three days we were there.
Read on for some of the highlights.
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Trieste - A Real Surprise with so much to Offer
Despite the famous tram cable car up the steep cliffs to the tiny township of Opicina, in the hills being broken, and the hop-on, hop-off bus being off the road as well, there was plenty to do and see, helped by the local being so friendly. Trieste has a fabulous quiet community just going about their business on their Vespers and other 'step-throughs'.
On arrival the taxi driver said Trieste was a quiet, charming and friendly place, which turned out to be very true. The first three people we met - the taxi driver, the hotel receptionist and the waiter, all had links to Melbourne in Australia.
Very few tourists and not many locals spoken English but this was not a problem with such nice people.
We had a lovely seafood meal in a roadside cafes listening to a violinist play Brazil 66. Wow! 'Hotel California' and Tracy Chapman wafted from the restaurant as well. The locals enjoyed the sunshine, late in the day, and were all out in the in open air cafes and inevitable pizza restaurants.
The town has epic long elegant streets, lined with stylish shops, and columns (see the photographs).
The town has an active port, well stocked marinas, fishing fleet and ferries. The seafood is fabulous.
Took a ferry ride to Muggia which is a quaint village on the outskirts of town. Trieste is fabulous - I'm glad in my ignorance we chose to come here. WOW!
The town has a fascinating history as a 'border-town' linked with neighboring countries (Slovenia and in the past with Yugoslavia and other countries). The culture is influenced by this association.
Jumped on the hop-on hop-off bus after it was fixed, and toured the castle fortifications and Roman arena above the city centre (see the images). Fine display of weapons and panelling, plus a good collection of Roman era items inclusing models of the old fortified town. The maritime museum was closed, just on the day we called in. The science center was also closed.
Somehow all these things did not matter. Imagine if everything worked including the hop-on bus and the cable car tram to the mountain hide-away!
The Museo Revoltella - 'modern art museum' in the center of town is absolutely stunning. It starts with the 16th century and progresses through six floors to the 19th century and stops there. Whoops! I thought it was 20th and 21st Century modern art!
The original palace was built between 1854 and 1858, by Pasquale Revoltella who was a local entrepeneur and businessman who loved collecting art. He donated the palace and the collection to Trieste when he died. There is a wonderful collection many masterpieces by Italian and foreigner artists are on display.
From a charming Italian women who was on duty in the museum we were gobsmacked to learn that this local identity was one of the main players in developing and fostering the building of the Suez Canal!!!! The exhibition includes fabulous 'aerial' paintings provide a bird's eye view of the project. There is also many sculptures depicting the links between cultures that were postered by the Suez canal. The women's English was poor, though much better than our Italian. I'm sure there is much more to learn about this story.
The artwork is simply fabulous and completely overwhelming ( a sensory overload. The realistic art works are virtual photographs with minute detail, no modern person would ever hope to come anywhere close to.
Minamare Castle on the Outskirts of Trieste
The Minamare castle right on the shoreline was absolutely stunning (see images below). It was built about 1860 for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife.
Later, before the building was completed, the owner became Emperor Maximilian I, and and his wife, Empress Carlota of Mexico. The building was completed after his death.
On display were all the original plans for the building, including interiors and even the room dimensions. One floor was not built, probably to save money. (Wow this shows that not much has changed with architecture). The interior of the buidling is breathtaking with most of the original panelling and furniture from that period, despite a major fire.
But, there is another twist to the tale. A later inhabitat was a famous Italian aviator who later became a very prominent leader in the Italian airforce. There are cute photos of the aviator and family (wife and two kids) all wearing leather and goggles in cockpit of ancient biplanes.
The aviator renovated one wing of the castle and added early 1900s design, furniture and interiors (fabulous). There are several rooms which he decorated including artwork, paneling, early Italian furniture (1930's), and decorations were are all stunning. He surrendered during the war and died of lung disease in Africa while a prisoner of war. Truly a magnificent display.
All of this just popped out in three days! I would love to go back when everything is working to discover more of fasciating Trieste. Give it a try.
© 2014 Dr. John Anderson