Cities in ITALY
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Trieste is often mistakenly overlooked by tourists who usually choose to visit the more famous Italian cities with their highly developed tourist infrastructure, such as Venice (162 km to the west). Trieste is one of the most unique cities in Italy and much of its former grandeur is still evident in the form of imposing buildings with beautiful neoclassical facades. With its many cultural attractions, quality museums, coffee houses and ancient Roman remains, Trieste is the perfect base for those wishing to explore the region.
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The city of Trieste is located in the far north-east of Italy and is sandwiched between nearby Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea (Gulf of Trieste). It is the capital of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region and has a large port. The location of the city provides Latin, Slavic and German influences.
Trieste is located between the Adriatic Sea to the south and the mountains to the north and therefore has a climate that is different from other parts of northern Italy. Visitors can expect Mediterranean weather in summer, with plenty of sunshine and high temperatures. The winter is generally mild, especially compared to the rest of Northern Italy. Trieste gets a lot of rain all year round, so you have to take this into account. Spring and fall are perhaps the most beautiful time to visit the city. The temperature is then around 20 degrees Celsius.
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The Romans settled here in the 2nd century BC and founded a colony. Under Roman rule, Trieste flourished, both commercially and architecturally. At that time the city was known as Tergeste. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Trieste became Byzantine. Under Byzantine rule it fell victim to Barbarian invasions such as those of the Lombards and Franks.
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In the Middle Ages, Trieste became an important port and a free city. Finally, after some 200 years of war against the neighboring Republic of Vienna, Trieste asked Leopold III von Habsburg, the Duke of Austria, to be part of its empire. From October 1382, the history of Trieste and the Habsburg Empire were thus inextricably linked. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Trieste developed into a busy port and trading city. Emperor Charles VI granted it tax-free status. The city continued to flourish under Maria Theresa of Austria. A deeper harbor was dug, leading to a flow of entrepreneurs and traders from all over Europe. The people of Trieste also enjoyed a great deal of religious tolerance.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Trieste was added to the Illyrian province. During this period, the city not only lost its independence, but also its status as a free port. After the wars ended, Trieste returned to Austrian hands. It became the capital of 'Kustenland'. By the end of the 19th century, Trieste had grown significantly. Many large shipping companies chose to set up their shipyards here. The advent of new industries also attracted immigrants to the city, which became increasingly multicultural.
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At the beginning of the 20th century, the city was visited by many influential writers, including James Joyce. With its Viennese architecture and coffee houses it was known as the 'Austrian Riviera'. At the end of the First World War, the Austro-Hungarian Empire fell apart and Trieste became part of Italy.
From September 1943, the city was governed by the Mussolini regime. During World War II, Italian anti-fascists led a revolt against the German Nazi regime in the city. Trieste was invaded by Yugoslav soldiers led by Tito and the German forces capitulated. In June 1945 the Western Allies succeeded in putting so much pressure on the Yugoslavs that they had to withdraw. In October 1954, the city comes back under Italian control. Northern Istria remained in the possession of Yugoslavia.
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The beautiful central square is without a doubt the most typical image of Trieste. It is the largest square, facing the sea, in Europe and covers 12,280m2. The square's name has undergone numerous changes over more than 700 years. Originally it was known as St. Peter's Square, after the eponymous church. Also, for a long time it was simply referred to as Piazza Grande, before taking the name of Piazza Unità after the city became part of the Kingdom of Italy after WWI. The square is home to some of the city's most impressive and important buildings, as well as several large monuments and a few historic cafes and coffee houses.
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As mentioned before, Trieste was already important in Roman times. A few beautiful buildings from that time have been preserved. The most important by far is the Roman amphitheater. The theater is located at the foot of the San Giusto hill. It was built between 1st and 2nd century BC during the reign of Emperor Trajan. The theater was made of stone and wood and had a seating capacity of 6,000. At that time, the sea reached the theater and spectators could enjoy beautiful views. It was not until the early 20th century that the first archaeological excavations were carried out to bring the monument back to life. A number of excavated statues can now be found in the City Museum. The theater is still relatively intact and the stands are especially impressive. The Riccardo Gate in Trieste's Old Town dates back to 33 BC. This ornate monument is in fact the only remaining gate in the Roman city walls.
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San Giusto hill is one of the city's most famous landmarks. After the climb you will be rewarded with a beautiful panoramic view of Trieste. The hill is home to an impressive 15th-century castle and San Giusto Cathedral. Built in the 14th century, the distinctive sandstone facade of Trieste Cathedral is dedicated to St. Justus. In addition to the Byzantine mosaics, the interior of the cathedral also has a beautiful old chapel. Members of the Spanish Bourbon dynasty are buried in the cathedral's crypt. The remains of a Roman Forum can also be seen on the hill.
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The Museo Revoltella is Trieste's most popular museum and is housed in the former home of Baron Pasquale Revoltella. This city museum was founded in 1872 and is now rather confusingly housed in two buildings. Baron Revoltella's original mid-19th century home, with chandeliers, ornate gypsum plasterwork and flamboyant silk wallpaper, is a beautiful backdrop to the Baron's collection of paintings and sculptures. The adjacent modern Palazzo Brunner has an interesting collection of works by local artists from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The Museo Civico di storia e arte is a creaky old museum that houses Roman antiquities excavated in and around Trieste and Aquileia, including the impressive collection of iron objects from the Necropolis of Reka on the Slovenian border. In addition, there are Egyptian artifacts, Italian expedition pieces from Pakistan, prehistoric and Roman finds and ancient Greek artifacts. The Orto Lapidario belonging to this museum has a separate collection of weather-resistant stone finds spread over a field between flowers and fruit trees.
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The first coffee houses were opened in Trieste in the second half of the eighteenth century. They immediately acquired an unmistakably Viennese character through their interior decorations and the service they provided. It was mainly due to the cosmopolitan spirit of the city that the coffee tradition became so popular. Today the cafes are still fascinating meeting places and you can see elegant ladies and gentlemen enjoying their coffee. You will see writers and poets, university students writing their lecture notes and of course tourists who are immediately captivated by the atmosphere that surrounds them. Well-known coffee houses are Tommaseo, Caffè degli Specchi, Tergesteo, Stella Polare, Torinese, Urbanis, Pirona and the old Caffè San Marco. The well-known coffee brand Illy is based in Trieste.
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Castello di Miramare is located on a rocky cliff about 8 km from the city. The castle was built in fanciful neo-Gothic style by order of Archduke Maximilian of Austria. Maximilian originally came to Trieste in the 1850s as Commander in Chief of the Austrian Imperial Navy. In 1867 he was shot by a republican firing squad in Mexico. The interior of the castle reflects Maximilian's wanderlust. One bedroom has been modeled to look like a ship cabin. You will see elegant oriental salons and a throne room covered with red silk. Upstairs you will find a series of rooms used by Amadeo van Aosta in the 1930s, decorated in the Italian Rationalist style. Maximilian was also an avid botanist and the castle has 22 hectares of gardens, full of color and scent of rare and exotic trees. The castle is easily accessible by bus.
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Another tip is to travel to nearby Slovenia to visit the Postojna Cave System (one hour travel time). The caves are extremely long (more than 20 kilometers) and are hidden in the Karst Mountains near the town of Postojna. You can take a tour of the caves that takes about 1.5 hours. You first descend into the cave with a train that takes you past beautifully lit stalagmites and stalactites. Then you walk under the guidance of a guide through the most beautiful part of the caves. There is a considerable height difference in the walk, but you will be richly rewarded, especially the red, white and spaghetti room are dazzling. At the end of the tour you will see a unique creature the Elm or the cave salamander. Pushy ticket sellers are standing in front of the entrance who want to sell combi tickets. The advice is to walk undisturbed to the official cash register to make your own choice. You can also book in advance on the Internet.
Last updated December 2020
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