The roar of Vespa’s taking off as the light turns green and subsequent race to the next red light is classic Italy. It’s quite the change from the quiet streets of Ljubljana, even though it’s less than 90 kms away, but I feel at home manoeuvring my Italian Fiat 500 through the steep hills and confusing one-way streets. The chaotic, noisy streets of Trieste make me happy, as does the anticipated glass of prosecco and Nutella gelato.
I wanted to include Trieste in my list of top destinations for digital nomads. I spent a couple of weeks in the city last year and quickly established a fun routine. A morning swim in the Adriatic sea, pizza for lunch, gelato for dessert, work all afternoon, an aperol spritz before dinner, then a few more hours work. I usually try to avoid routines but that was perfect.
Of course the reality of living long-term in Italy would be much different. The shine would quickly wear off when faced with Italian bureaucracy, slow internet, and the nuances of day-to-day Italian life. You just have read any expat in Italy blog to know what a nightmare living in Italy can be. And I’d no doubt grow tired of Italian food (yes, it’s possible!). The lack of variety of cuisines would become depressing.
That’s why Italy will always remain a short-term tourist destination for me and never a place to live. Which is fine as Italy is such a fun place for a quick trip. In this case, I was visiting on a day trip from Ljubljana with the only plan being to visit the castle and eat gelato.
For most visitors, Trieste is more of a stopover destination on the way to somewhere else than a destination in it’s own right. And fair enough. The reality is there are only a few main sights and things to do, Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia, Miramare Castle, and riding the Opicina hybrid tram and funicular.
Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia
Lined with Habsburg era palaces and famous cafes, Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia is a gigantic pedestrian square which opens onto Trieste’s waterfront. Stop at the famous Caffe degli Specchi for coffee on the square or walk 100 metres to Jazzin for the best gelato in Trieste.
Castello di Miramare
Castello di Miramare reminds me of medieval style castles you might see in an old Hollywood movie. White stone walls and protruding merlons lining the roof. The reality is Miramare is a Habsburg era castle, perched directly on the sea and surrounded by both a formal Italian garden with terracotta pots and overgrown ivy, and wild woods with maritime pine trees.
Take bus number 36 (buy tickets from a tabacchi) to get to Miramare and get off at the last stop. Miramare Castle and gardens are a 10 minute walk from the bus stop.
The Opicina tram is interesting and unusual in that it’s both a tram and a funicular. Jump on at Piazza Oberdan (not far from the Synagogue) for the price of a bus ticket. Five minutes into the journey, the tram stops and converts into a funicular to continue up the steep hill. Sit on the left for stunning views over the Gulf of Trieste before the funicular changes back into a tram and carries on to Opicina.
There is not much to do in Opicina itself, except perhaps to enjoy the slightly cooler temperatures or to take the number 42 bus to the Grotta Gigante.
Trieste is a city to relax and enjoy. Eat, drink, wander.
If you feel compelled to see more, look out for these historic sights:
- Piazza della Borsa – You can’t miss the enormous columns of the old Stock Exchange.
- Roman Amphitheatre – At the foot of the San Guisto Hill, the theatre dates from 33 BC.
- Canal Grande – See the Grand Canal and its statue of James Joyce.
- Arco di Riccardo – An ancient archway built into the Roman walls.
- San Guisto Hill – Trek up the hill to see the Roman forum, cathedral, and the Castle of San Guisto.
- Victory Lighthouse – Both a lighthouse and monument to the victims of WWI.
With Trieste’s west facing position, it’s worth sticking around for the sunset which can be anything from pale yellow to bright red. The best sunset watching spots are near the waterfront statues in front of Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia or from the Canal Grande.6