Welcome to Italophilia in 2016! I am starting the year with a post from Italy’s caffeine capital- Trieste. This city is not frequented by the regular traveler but it should be. It has an unmistakable charm that has in the past attracted a lot of young writers and thinkers. One of them was the notable Irish writer James Joyce.
Joyce lived in Trieste for more than a decade from 1904 till 1915. Trieste was his city, a city that stole his soul. If you ever happen to visit Trieste, notice how several alleys, hotels, museums and old fashioned coffee houses dedicate themselves to Joyce and his time in the city. It is a wonderful feeling being in the centre of it.
Joyce often went to Caffe San Marco, Caffe degli Specchi and Caffe Pirona in the city. These are famous cafes that serve coffee the traditional style even now and if you ask anyone here about Joyce they would happily tell you more.
Joyce also wandered around in Teatro Verdi and the church of San Nicolo. He, along with his poet friends Umberto Saba and Italo Svevo, were part of the city’s literary drama and culture.
In Trieste, finding myself next to Joyce’s calm and smiling statue in the Grand Canal, I followed his footsteps and had coffee in Caffe San Marco.
It was not unusual for me having coffee with the ghosts of the literary past. I travel in search of literary references and bookshops everywhere I go. Trieste happened to make it special.
I think it is a unique city not to be missed when in Italy. The mountains and the mighty Adriatic around makes it such a different Italy. It is also very similiar to Austria.
My first experience with Airbnb was in Trieste this year. I knew that it is in “vogue” to book through Airbnb because it offers plenty of pretty and quirky homes to strangers at a reasonable price. So while hunting for a room in central Trieste, I found this lovely Airbnb room which was only a 5 minutes walk from Piazza unita d’Italia. The reviews of the place were just fabulous so there was no room for doubt and the place looked great from the pictures.
I was only a little skeptical because it was my first booking on Airbnb and I wanted t be 100% sure about the decision of staying in someone else’s house. To understand the procedure a little better I went online to read more reviews of different places that Airbnb offered, in Italy and other parts of the world. I was pretty satisfied at the end as it seemed like the option to take. So many people were using it! The Trieste room was booked in the end.
It turned out to be the best decision! My Airbnb room was exactly as promised online. It was spotlessly clean with a large window overlooking the narrow street. There was free Wifi and fruit with coffee on the table. I was given an extra key of the house to enter and exit as and when I wished. My room was blue and so lovely I didn’t want to go out!
The breakfast was in a cute cozy kitchen right next to my room. There were all the amenities in case I needed to warm my food or have a cup of coffee. Best part about staying was that I was fun in the centre of everything and yet in a quiet street.
The hosts Daniele and her husband were very kind and warm. Though Daniele was unwell when I visited, I was in touch with her husband who was very sweet and took care of every need despite Daniele’s health problem. Every day he asked me what time I would like to have breakfast. He made sure I got my fair share of privacy when I came back to my room in the evening. It was a very pleasant experience staying in this house knowing that Daniele and her husband were across the hall in their flat for any emergency or issues.
Did I tell you every room in the house is named after one of Daniele and her husband’s female relatives?? Isn’t that a lovely idea! My room was named Beatrice! I’d totally recommend you to book this place if you are ever in Trieste. I also loved the entire concept of staying at a local’s place and personally love the concept of Airbnb now.
Have you tried Airbnb?? How was your experience??
This osteria is just below Daniele’s lovely house.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a region of Italy that few venture to see. Touching the borders of Slovenia and Austria, Friuli is often overlooked by travelers. And I wonder why. While I was in Trieste, the capital of Friuli, I visited Castello di Miramare.
Overlooking the stark waters of the Adriatic, Castello di Miramare is on the edge of a cliff and is really a sight to behold!
Castello di Miramare was built by Archduke Ferdinand Maximilan in 1860 for his wife, Charlotte of Belgium. To declare his love for her and make it a quiet retreat in the summer, he built 20 odd rooms. Now with an entry of EUR 6 you can almost visualize how the Archduke and his wife stayed away from the hustle and bustle. The grounds of the castle are free to explore and it is a treat to be away from Trieste for a while. Small ponds, rare plants and bubbling fountains makes it very grand!
Like many historic places, Miramare has a tragedy attached to it. The Archduke died at an early age of 34 and it is said that after his death Charlotte went insane and spent her days in the castle pining for her lost love. Many people believe that spending a night in this castle could lead to a person’s death, so as to say that the castle is cursed. Miramare may have a tragedy attached to it but it is absolutely safe to spend the day here.
It gives a beautiful backdrop of Trieste and an expanse of Adriatic Sea.
If you are in Trieste and haven’t taken a ride on its famous Opicina Tramway then you missed something historic! The Opicina is a Tram+Funicular Railway that links the city to Villa Opicina. It was started in 1902 and runs from Piazza Oberdan to Opicina, a hill top town 5 km away.
The tram rides slowly crossing the city’s many streets and houses. The tyres screech and halts several times as the tram gets pushed uphill and back hill to change tracks (the tram to furnicular track). A lady I befriended told me she regularly took this tram and advised me to sit on the other side of the window for a view.
I was blown away! Trieste is unbelievably gorgeous from up there and as the tram keeps moving up the views get better. The last stop is The Obelisk from where Trieste and its panoramic splendor can be seen. The minuscule red houses and expansive Bay are so picturesque.
-One way cost of the tram is EUR 1.1.
-Tram runs from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
-Best time to go is early morning or late evenings.
-Pack a picnic and relax at Obelisk.
Every year on the second Sunday in October a sailing regatta called the “Barcolana” takes place in the Gulf of Trieste in Trieste. People from across the globe come to visit and take part in this historic event. The Barcolana is a sailing race that happens on a 15 mile fixed route and is said to be the most stunning event on the Adriatic.
Its a proud moment for me as this regatta from yesterday has been featured in India’s leading newspaper- The Hindustan Times today 🙂 Someday I hope to witness this historic event!
As I write this post, I feel a mixture of emotions. It is soul-rending feeling not be in Italy but at the same time I feel happy to remember all the moments I spent this summer in Bel Paese.
This post is to all the people of Italy and beyond who were part of my travels, who helped me when I was in the country, who touched my life in some way. Strangers who smiled at me and made me feel safe in a foreign land, a special thank you to you.
I hope someday I get to become a part of someone’s blog post just like these people have become a part of mine. Grazie mille to the couple at the train station who made sure I reached Perugia safely and provided me numbers of taxis in case I missed my connecting train. I couldn’t have been in Perugia without your help and guidance.
I am grateful to the lady from Bologna who knew very little English but still helped me when I asked her the way.
Grazie to the people of Gubbio for helping me know more about Festa dei ceri. I am beaming thinking about the girl from Sicily who took a lovely picture of me amongst a horde of people in Gubbio. Thank you to the Baglioni Hotels for their love and support throughout my stay in Venice.
I am indebted to my lovely host at my B&B in Trieste who made sure that every morning I had warm breakfast and coffee.
Thanks to the man in the train who helped me with my luggage. I appreciate it. I loved the thoughtfulness of the woman who made sure I reached Orvieto safely. So sweet, cara.
I enjoyed munching chocolates with an Australian couple who shared their precious Perugina chocolates with me.
I smile when I think of the caffe owner in Florence who made my day when he sang a song.
Last but not the least, to all my lovely friends Margie, Victoria, Susan, Orna, Molly and Alexander whom I met for the first time in Italy but with whom I feel like I have a friendship of a lifetime. You guys are so important to me and I hope one day we all meet together.
Grazie mille, amici.. A presto!
Before I decided to explore Trieste, I read on its history and region to which it is the capital of- Friuli Venezia Giulia. Overlooking the Gulf of Trieste, Trieste borders Slovenia and Austria and has willingly adopted characteristics of both the countries. This lively city has changed hands of ruler-ship from the Austrians to the Hungarians and finally the Italians in just over a century!
|The Grand Canal|
Which is why Trieste to me felt foreign and more alluring, as if it was a part of another country. Trieste looked like a city in Austria, because of its similar architecture and many (including myself now) associate it with a city being “nowhere”.
As Jan Morris perfectly describes in her book Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere:
“Trieste is a highly subjective sort of place, and often inspires such fancies. People who have never been there generally don’t know where it is. Visitors tend to leave it puzzled and, when they get home, remember it with a vague sense of mystery.”
|Beautiful Pastel Hues|
Trieste is a city of dreams. It is charming, dignified and fashionable. The city bewitched and seduced me, I almost feel like it is a part of me and I am a part of it.
There is much to write about this beautiful port town that it seems unfair to include it all in one post.
|Piazza unita d’Italia at Dusk|
Stay tuned for more on Trieste and its cafe culture, literary tours, Friulano wine, seafood and coastal towns; not to forget the beautiful Miramare Castle for which it is so famous.
How to reach- Trieste is well connected by train and is only 1 hour 50 minutes by Venice and 4 hours 30 minutes by Milan. The nearest airport is just 15 minutes away. There are shuttle buses to the city from the airport.
Trieste makes a beautiful base to visit nearby countries such as Slovenia, Croatia and Austria. Is it on your list?
For more information on Trieste visit here.