We were lucky to have an awesome view from our apartment in Trieste. Looking down from half way up the hills shooting up from the port, we could see the old town below and the sunsets were heavenly, setting deep on the Adriatic.
The flip side of our digs is that it is a hefty walk up a darned steep hill which we found out when we arrived with our heavy backpacks.
So we decided that the best thing to do was to go down once, spend our day seeing the sights and then make the hike back up gathering wine and groceries as needed.
Castello di S. Giusto
From the balcony, we could clearly make out the Castello di S. Giusto almost directly across from us on its own fortified hill close to the water and port. Our plan, to hike down and then back up again to check out the castle. From there we would walk down again into the old town and spend the day exploring.
Scala dei Giganti
At one of the main intersections downtown, we found a tunnel with a steep set of stairs flanking either side. Named the Scala dei Giganti, they are the way up to the castle if you are on foot, so after winding our way down the hill we hit the stairs for a grueling haul to the top. Inside the fortress, the highlight is definitely the panoramic view of Trieste.
We were lucky with a clear crisp day and a brisk wind blowing off the water. In the museum, you can see traditional weapons and meeting rooms joined together by narrow staircases and hallways. In its beginnings, this castle was part of the walled-in city of Trieste with two walls stretching out from either side of the fortress down to the water.
Staying within the ancient city we made our way down the impossibly steep cobblestone street and eventually a set of stairs that led us down to the remains of a Roman theater trapped in the middle of downtown.
Piazza Unita d’Italia
Walking through the alleyways we eventually wound up in the main square Piazza Unita d’Italia which was impressive combined with the stunning array of architecture surrounding it. Facing the water, the square is backed by city hall with hotels, cafes and a church lining its sides.
Running across the street to the Scala Reale, we walked out onto the Molo Audace (pier) that increases the view of the city as well as giving you a unique perspective of the Adriatic looking the other way.
Caffè Tomasseo was just down the street and we were in need of a coffee to boost our energy. Considered the oldest cafe in town it has a perfect position across from the water on the main drag. In and out with a few pictures and a “Capo” under our belts we headed down a little farther to see Trieste’s canal.
Trieste is nothing like the rest of Italy stuck way out on the very eastern border, it was virtually cut off during the Cold War. At one time part of the Austro-Hungarian empire (4th largest city) and a very important port, Trieste delivered all sorts of goods from the ships visiting its docks including coffee.
Tucked so close to Slovenia the culture has heavily influenced the area and almost overshadows Italian. The coffee is strong and the food is hearty and plentiful. One of the most popular dining traditions in Trieste, the buffet, still powers on and is a must when you visit. Some can be very touristy and a bit of a show but others offer a real peek at what a buffet is all about, quality and choice.
As if on request we stumbled into Da Giovanni and immediately recognize it as a place to eat and drink like a local. Upon entry, you are faced with a reasonably monstrous mortadella on the counter, propped into place so the bartender can easily slice generous portions for hungry patrons.
Next is a cooked leg of prosciutto and beside that a prosciutto crudo ready to carve. Up above is a selection of wine on tap available by the glass or carafe. A few tables fill the restaurant with prime leaning and noshing spots tucked up front and around the bar. A full kitchen also services the restaurant with an à la carte menu that, after a small plate of mortadella and a couple of glasses of Malbec, looked worthy of snagging the next available table.
A cozy table
A few minutes later we were tucked into a cozy table with our wine and food on the way. First up a perfect plate of calamari fritti (perfect and calamari are two words I rarely use in the same sentence ). Done to tender perfection, I had to hold back on ordering another plate and I was glad I did because the plate of food that landed in front of me next, still steaming hot from the kitchen, would be plenty.
Pork four ways and beef tongue
Pork done four ways including wiener, sausage, sliced roast, ham and a pile of beef tongue just for good measure. A snow storm of fresh horseradish covered the plate along with a nice dollop of hot mustard and a pile of sauerkraut. This was going to take more wine.
Absolutely bursting, we stepped out onto the now dark and very cold streets of Trieste and started our way back up the hill to our apartment.
Soon the cold had set in hard enough that we both needed to pee and knew we would not make it all the way home let alone through the grocery for more wine, coffee, and water.
Thankfully Nat had made a note of another great local spot on the way that we could stop off and kill two birds, Buffet L’Approdo.
The place was jammed but we funneled right to the back and grabbed a corner and two glasses of whatever was being poured by the overrun bartenders dealing with the very loud crowd that spilled out onto the sidewalk to smoke. €3 set us up with two large glasses of red and great access to the toilet.
On the sidewalk
Back on the sidewalk and ready for the long haul we admired the great old buildings looming in the street lights and wound our way slowly up the hill. Finally, in the warmth of the apartment, we were both completely out of breath and spent from a long day of walking.
Trieste is a marvelous old town almost frozen in the Cold War era that offers a lot of fun and a different experience within Italy. We are huge fans of the kind of food offered in the area and it was a real treat on a chilly winter visit.
Thank you to Turismo Friuli Venezia Giulia for the FVG Card that enabled us to visit the Castello di S. Giusto.