Long Weekend in Trieste

The famous Barcolana in the Gulf of Trieste with more than 2,500 boats is one of the world's greatest regattas.

© Shutterstock

The famous Barcolana in the Gulf of Trieste with more than 2,500 boats is one of the world's greatest regattas.

The famous Barcolana in the Gulf of Trieste with more than 2,500 boats is one of the world's greatest regattas.

© Shutterstock

Friday

Trieste was under Habsburg rule from the 14th century onwards, its location on the Adriatic sea turned it into a melting pot of different cultures, tastes and traditions. This is still evident today. 

If you drive south on the Autostrada Alpe-Adria, after Udine you come to a fork in the road that divides so much more than simply the highway. Two different worlds lie before you here: turning west takes you to Venice, a sort of overcrowded Italo-Disneyland.  turning southeast, you arrive in Trieste - and thus into a world unlike any other in Europe. The city lies almost opposite of Venice, bordered by the Karst mountains to the north, Slovenia to the east and the Adriatic Sea to the southwest, it combines more cultures, traditions and influences than any other in Italy. For centuries, the political, economic and military interests of numerous ruling houses have left their mark here. "The only constant in Trieste's history is change," the local saying goes. Perhaps Trieste is not a city that charms at first sight, but a second look reveals a faded, rugged charm and much to explore: social, cultural but above all gastronomic.

The Microcosm that is Trieste

We immerse ourselves in the world of Trieste's coffee houses, stroll through magnificent squares and enjoy the delicacies of the buffet menus, the Triestine form of fast food where the culinary heritage of the Habsburg monarchy is still preserved: Prague ham con cren (horseradish), Bohemian pastries and wines from the Karst or Collio. At Da Pepi, only a few steps away from the stock exchange, you can get tutto di porco, nose to tail pig: boiled ears, feet or snouts. In the oldest buffet to be found in the city, the Marascutti, jota stew, plum dumplings and goulash are on the menu to tempt you. No less fascinating: the literary cafés. At the Caffè degli Specchi in the Piazza Unità, you can enjoy your morning espresso or an aperitif. 

In the Caffè San Marco you feel surrounded by the poets and intellectuals who were regular customers here: Italo Svevo, James Joyce, Rainer Maria Rilke. Dinner is all about fish. Served elegantly or a little more rustic? The choice is wide, Trieste, after all, is on the sea. At Ai Fiori, what was caught in the nets that morning is served for dinner in the evening. The best seafood you can get is to be found at the Nero di Seppia and the aptly-named restaurant Osteria di mare alla Voliga gives one an idea of what might be in store on the menu. Al Petes offers Calandraca stew or spaghetti alla busara di scampi. Whether it was the Venetians, Greeks, Jews, Turks, peasants or Habsburgs; all have left their culinary mark on Trieste. 


Saturday

Trieste is shaped by the elements: the sea, which provides food, the Karst mountains that rise behind the city, and the wind – that is so constant that Trieste is called the "city of winds."

We start the day with something sweet at the Pasticceria Caffè Penso. The name Penso in Trieste is also synonymous with Sachertorte, the famous Viennese chocolate and apricot cake is the speciality of this historic pastry shop. But all the other cakes and delights are just as spectacular. Then we pay a short visit to the Museo Revoltella - Galleria d'Arte Moderna, before heading to one of the many attractions by the sea. Miramare Castle has an abundance of history and Habsburg flair to offer its visitors - after all, this is where Emperor Franz Joseph's brother, Maximilian, lived before setting off on his ultimately fateful adventure in Mexico.

Continue on to Duino Castle. Plenty of history is to be had here too, there is an international school and also a mini-port with two restaurants. In the Dama Bianca you can dine, with your feet almost in the sea, on delicious fish dishes or Triestine classics such as Jota or Karst ham. Tip: try the muscoli and granseole with lemon, garlic and parsley. Those who do not want to leave can stay in one of the few rooms and wake up in the morning with a wonderful sea view. And for those who still haven't had enough of seafood the next day, there's plenty of opportunity to indulge at the trendy Al Pescaturismo between Duino and Monfalcone. Situated by the sea with their fare guaranteed fresh, the friendly hosts serve a wide-ranging menu of fresh fish and seafood. 

On the way back to the city, the vivid light and strong wind is felt on the water and the view of the piers of Trieste with all the huge ships and cranes is fascinating. If you are still hungry or find yourself hungry again, you can head to Ami Scabar. Central European influences, seafood, the Karst and Mediterranean flavours all somehow feature in these dishes on the menu. At the end of the day we head to Le Bollicine for a glass of Champagne - this is where young, chic Trieste hobnobs.


Sunday

Anyone who thinks that Trieste is only interesting because of its history is wrong. The city has a young, very lively gastro scene too. 

Sunday is best started with a visit to the Bagno Ausonia, a classic seaside lido resort in Borgo Giuseppino. If it's a bit too chilly to take a dip in the Adriatic, the sun loungers are a great place to soak up the sun and perhaps read a book - the Ausonia has its own libronia, a library by the sea. Then it's off to hip Trieste. Walter Gustin has a flair for contemporary gastronomic trends. He serves the best hamburgers in his hip 040 Social Food, and with the Giardino Tergesteo he has created a vegan hotspot. His latest gastro innovation is the Draw. Here, raw food is served in a contemporary setting where everything is salvaged and recycled and used to create a very cool interior. Raw means that everything is heated only to a maximum of 48 degrees Celsius. Meat, fish and of course many vegetarian and vegan dishes are served. There is no bread. The Slow Food philosophy is not just a slogan here, but is espoused right down to Slow Coffee. No filter coffee, no machine, only a siphon is used here.
 

 

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