See, hear and taste your way through Trieste’s rich history

Miramare Castle | Photo by jessmine via 123RF.
Miramare Castle | Photo by jessmine via 123RF.

See, hear and taste your way through Trieste’s rich history

by Anna Leigh Bagiackas
Stripes Europe

Of the many reasons to love living in or traveling through Europe, many people bring up its rich history. When compared with the history of North American cities or regions, European cities and countries can offer centuries of stories and events that have shaped what a place looks like today.

This could not be truer for the Italian city of Trieste. With its unique location surrounded by Slovenia, near Croatia and almost detached from the rest of Italy, this somewhat underrated city for travel (noted by Lonely Planet) has one of the longest and most exciting histories in Europe.

With an illustrious location on the coast of the Adriatic Sea and on the Gulf of Trieste—perfect for trading and being a seat of power—Trieste has been inhabited since the 9th or 10th century BC. The list of different ruling empires alone is enough to convince you to visit this city. From Venetian rule to the Roman, Habsburg, Slovene, French, Austrian and Yugoslav, with a short time as a Free Territory, this city has seen so many cultures cross paths.

In addition to being ruled by many different empires, Trieste has been home to many different communities and cultures throughout history, including Italian, Slavic, German, Croatian, Serbian, and communities from various Balkan States. Some have even compared it to New York City with the diversity of minority groups living there. Over time, the language has been fought over, changed and evolved, and today it has its own dialect made up of Italian, German, Croatian and Greek.

When it is safe to travel again, the wide range of influences can easily be experienced with a trip to Trieste. You will see different styles of architecture, hear a range of languages and taste the many culinary traditions that have passed through this important city. Even the name Trieste highlights the importance of commerce and exchange of cultures, as it comes from the pre-Roman name “Tergeste,” meaning market.

Within the city, you can experience the Piazza Unita d’Italia, one of Europe’s largest squares along a coast and the Grand Canal where merchants docked. You should stop by the immense port to contemplate the history that this stretch of land has seen and endured.

It is also worth a visit to the Trieste Roman Theatre, which serves as a great example of its time under Roman rule. You can then experience the 15th-century architecture of Habsburg rule at the Castle of Saint Giusto. Jump ahead a couple of centuries and 15 minutes outside of Trieste you can see the beautiful 19th-century Miramare Castle. Continuing your architectural tour through the centuries, 20th-century Viennese architecture and coffeehouses can still be seen as well as buildings and monuments from the period of Fascist rule.

Outside of the city you should also visit the Grotta Gigante, with its name meaning huge cave. It is one of the largest tourist-visiting caves in the world—a hot air balloon even flew through it!

You are also not far from experiencing some of Slovenia’s top destinations, such as the beautiful and mysterious Lake Bled, the capital city of Ljubljana and vast caves such as Postojna and the Predjama Castle, which is built in the mouth of a cave.

Whether you are there for the sights, sounds or tastes of Trieste, it is hard to ignore the layered history and stories that the walls and streets could tell. Eventually, I hope that a day in Trieste includes a moment of quiet, where you ponder all of the history of this place, from conflict to peace and prosperity, and everything in between.

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