Want an idea of how not full of tourists Trieste, Italy is? After a couple nights of staying there, we took a train to explore Venice. As we were discussing which stop to get off at, a friendly passenger overheard, told us the correct station, then asked if we were staying in Trieste. We told him we were to which he laughed and replied, “How did you even find it?”
That’s the charm of Trieste. We felt like we were the only tourists there, in a beautiful town nestled into a seaport just north of Slovenia. It’s a unique city: fast-paced yet relaxed, lively yet soothing. Essentially it’s everything you hope for on your first trip to Italy: great food, nice people, beautiful scenery, and did I mention great food?
We got to Trieste late at night, and our host, Marco, graciously met us at the entrance to the train station, loaded up our bags and took us straight to our BNB. Having lived in Trieste his entire life, he was chalk full of useful information, pointing out main attractions and even advising us on shortcuts, things to do and what to avoid. The city shimmered with an abnormal amount of lights. No seriously, there are lights inside the sidewalk and on building walls. Trieste has an active nightlife, and it was clear from Day 1 it was actively catered to.
When we reached our apartment Marco led us inside a large, high-ceilinged hallway and unlocked the first door on the right. We went in and were instantly thrilled. Our apartment was perfect! It was so…Italian. Or at least what a first-time visitor imagines would be Italian. It had high ceilings and colorful walls, an enormous window hung in the kitchen that opened up to a small, but beautiful courtyard where you could hear birds chirping and see laundry drying on the line next door. It had a full kitchen, washing machine (which we desperately needed at this point), a shower and two huge beds. I put Leila down and then Rachel and I excitedly planned our first day in Trieste. We could barely sleep!
We set out early in the morning excited to explore. Out on the street I immediately noticed an interesting detail: there were kids everywhere. This was not a formal, stuffy city. It was bustling with life and one where kids are very much included! Parks, on the street, in tunnels and in stores, kids were visible all around us. It felt kind of like, well, Montana. Immediately I felt a little more at home.
Speaking of all the kids, the first place we came across, completely by accident mind you, was a large park. Immediately Leila went for the swings, and after just a few minutes she was having the time of her life. We must’ve used every inch of that park; it was so beautiful! I only wish we could’ve stayed a few weeks later; the wisteria were just about to bloom!
Leila even got to pet her first dog of the trip, a pretty black lab named Lola!
After the park we grabbed some lunch (a couple sandwiches and some beer and chips), then headed to Piazza Unità d’Italia, Trieste’s main square. Long ago it was referred to as St. Peter’s Square, and some still call it Piazza Grande. Needless to say, it’s changed names quite a few times, but gained it’s current name after after it was annexed by the Kingdom of Italy just after WWI.
This square is breathtaking. If there’s anything I’m learning with each new European city I visit, it’s that the buildings are old and enormous. They’re made to impress and they absolutely get the job done. We wandered along each each of the monuments and cafes, stopping to take photos and enjoy some incredibly tasty gelato at a place called Gelateria Marco.
I should also mention, this was Leila’s second meltdown of the trip, over get this – she didn’t want to walk anymore. But she also didn’t want me to carry her and she also didn’t want to ride in the stroller. As a parent though, you know your kid better than you think, and at this point I knew this wasn’t about walking or not walking – she missed her dad and her sister. She hadn’t seen them for 2 weeks, she’d slept in a different bed every night, been on trains and busses and eaten different food and heard different languages and this was her full rebellion of all of it. She wanted Dada and Daisy and her puppies and kitties and her own house and her own bed.
So I let her scream it out. People looked, I waved. She flailed and screamed and cried right there in the middle of the largest square in Trieste, in front of hundreds of people. Then after about 30 minutes (or 6 hours, I can’t be sure), she got up, gave me a hug and asked to sit in the stroller. We were good for the rest of the day, but traveling can be tough on a little one. I made sure to give her extra cuddles, and because I’m a softie, extra gelato. My kid, my rules.
The next day we took a day trip to Venice, you can read all about it here! That’s one of the great things about Trieste – it’s in a great location for day trips. Head to Venice, Slovenia or Croatia and be back by suppertime.
We also spent some time exploring the fountain near the San Giusto castle, since it gives an amazing view of the city. The nearby park was the perfect place to let Leila run around in the tall grass and check out another beautiful view of Trieste. We saw Arco di Riccardo, a very old, original arch, then browsed through Boogaloo, a nearby vintage clothing store.
We spent the night strolling around the Ponte Rosso Canal, and tiny closed waterway that gives a slight nod to the waterways in Venice. The last light from the sun was just coming through the clouds and a warm breeze was blowing in, bringing the salty scent of the ocean along with it. The streetlights were just beginning to twinkle, and you could even hear the romantic music from the elderly accordion player seated just up the block. Seriously, Italy, how do you do it?
We were curious where to eat for the night, and I didn’t want to waist it, so instead of picking the closet restaurant we could find, I emailed our host, Marco, and asked his recommendations for the best pizza in town. He wrote back immediately, and gave us five different options. A place called Pizzeria La Napa was highest on his list and it just so happened to be right on the way to hour house, so off we went!
We made our way inside and the young waitress seated us at one of the larger tables. Leila was out like a light, and this allowed us to pull the stroller right up to the table and keep it out of the walkways. Rachel and I looked over the menu and it only took us a minute to decide we each wanted our own pizza. Rachel suggested we also order a plate of gnocchi, since it was one of her favorites when she visited Italy years ago, so we also asked for a plate of gnocchi in a mushroom cream sauce. We got a bottle of wine to share, and a big piece of Tiramisu for the end.
Our pizzas were much bigger than we anticipated, but we didn’t mind in the least. Besides, we had an oven back at the house, and heat a leftover pizza in the oven and it’s good as it was the first time it came out! Rachel’s pizza had an abundance of artichokes (yum!), while mine had an abundance of peas. When I ordered it I thought they were capers (I went off a picture), but nonetheless they were peas. Turns out the peas were surprisingly good! That sounds strange, I know, but it really was a great pizza!
The gnocchi was…how should I say this…heavenly. I’ve since made gnocchi 4 times since I’ve gotten home. Each time I get closer, but I still have a long way to go. Now I’ve eaten a lot of gnocchi, both homemade and professionally prepared, and it has never tasted like this. It was mainly the texture that haunts me; firm enough to hold a shape, but when you cut into it with your fork there was hardly any resistance, and when you popped one in your mouth it just melted away into buttery, sweet nothingness. Light, fluffy, potato pasta pillows. They were amazing…and I will crack the code before my next visit to Italy. I have to!
Finally, we ended the night with Tiramisu, a dessert so delicious yet so easy to get wrong. Once I ordered it at a sushi restaurant because I just had to try Tiramisu done by a sushi joint and they brought out some whipped cream coffee truffle nonsense. I mean I still ate it, it’s coffee and cake and stuff but yeah, that wasn’t Tiramisu. This was, and it was another level.
I’m a bit disappointed with my lack of photos of our dinner, but the fact is, we just ate it too fast to care. It was that good. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to grab a towel to wipe the drool off my keyboard before it short circuits or something.
On our last night in Trieste we took a walk by the port to look at the water and the sailboats. It was all so peaceful. That same warm breeze blew in from the ocean, the sun slowly sinking in the sky. Leila slept for most of it, but woke up just in time to see the sun dip below the water, the sky turning a vibrant shade of pink. There are many memories that will fade as she gets older, but watching the sun set in Italy as Leila sat in my lap and pointed out the changing colors of the sky definitely won’t be one of them. And just like that, I have fallen in love with Italy.
Tips for Trieste:
Don’t bother driving here. The streets are tiny, the cars are tiny, there’s hardly a road sign to be seen yet cars zip past going what can be no less than 70 miles per hour. It’s not Los Angeles traffic and it’s not New York traffic. It’s different, and trust me, you want no part of it.
Stay with Marco! His place was perfect, within walking distance to everything, full kitchen and he was one of the most knowledgable and helpful host I’ve stayed with! He definitely helped make the trip as amazing as it was!
Have a good stroller. The sidewalks are incredibly narrow, and not particularly handicap accessible. It can be difficult to navigate the side streets if you’re pushing a large, lumbering stroller. Consider a tiny one with one sturdy front wheel so you can make sharp turns.
Eat at Pizzeria La Napa. Order the mushroom gnocchi (or any gnocchi for that matter), and the tiramisu. All of their pizzas are fantastic. Just go here and eat all the food is what I’m really saying. Don’t worry, I have it marked on the Trieste Visitor’s Map, all ready to go for you!
Partake in the night life. Trieste loves it’s nightlife! As soon as the sun even thinks about beginning to set, people are out. Coffee and alcohol go hand in hand here. Grab a table outside anywhere that serves alcohol and food (pretty much everywhere), enjoy the live music and make some new friends!
Use my Trieste Walking Guide! I put together all my favorite little stops just for you!