Last November, myself and a group of fellow bloggers (Nathan Rollinson, Whitney Haldeman and Jessica Hariana) found ourselves touching down in the beautiful city of Trieste (flown by Kirker travels) to spend a few days in a corner of Italy that’s relatively undiscovered. We were hosted by the wonderful team at the Savoia Excelsior Trieste, a stunning 5* hotel in the heart of the city. The team at the hotel were so hospitable and couldn’t wait to share with us all the beauty, history and culture that the city has to offer, of which it has in abundance. And although I had never been this far east in Italy, I can absolutely see why it’s such an attractive part of the country and why I’m sure I’ll find myself back there again very soon.
WHERE WE STAYED: Savoia Excelsior
During our stay in Trieste we were lucky enough to experience the wonderfully elegant Savoia Excelsior, one of the most exclusive hotels in the city*. Situated on the main bay of Trieste, the hotel has stunning views overlooking the beautiful Gulf of Trieste with an undisturbed vista of the majestic cruise liners coming in and out to dock. One evening we watched a cruise liner leave to carry on its travels, only to wake up to find an entirely new liner had docked whilst we slept. And although cruise liners come in to the city quite often – often when Venice is overwhelmed by fog – there is absolutely no feeling of over-crowding or mass tourism in the city. In fact, Trieste has a very local and authentic Italian feel to the city, which I very much appreciated.
As a hotel, the Savoia Excelsior is a wonderful spot to base yourself if you’re heading to visit the city. Located in the heart of the city, you’re just a stone’s throw from the main square Piazza Unita d’Italia, where you can take a stroll and enjoy your morning coffee. The Savoia Excelsior is also situated just opposite the City’s Eataly, which, for those of you don’t know, is an Italian food shop and restaurant with some of the best produce and wine from all over the country. It’s a fantastic place to get chance to sample some of Italy’s top cuisine and pick up some of their delicious products. We dined there on the first night, enjoying a plate of seafood pasta, which, being by the sea, Trieste is known for!
The rooms at the Excelsior were as elegant as you could expect – marble bathrooms, plush interiors, beds you didn’t want to get up from and of course, stunning terraces overlooking the bay. The corridors in the hotel we found to be very grand and wide, and upon enquiring why we learnt that when the hotel opened in 1911 under the Austro-Hungarian rule they had to account for the wide ballgowns the aristocratic women would wear…. what a different time that was!! I especially loved the lobby of the hotel which stuns you as you enter with it’s rich, turquoise velvet sofas offering a warm welcome to the hotel and your entire experience there, and what a warm and wonderful experience it was!
*Prices for a double room at the Savoia Trieste start at €130 during the winter and €300 during the summer
One of my favourite aspects of Trieste was its magnificent architecture, dotted with beautiful piazzas found around every corner. The entire city is extremely regal, given it’s history under the Austro-Hungarian empire. It has this very Northern European feel to it, particularly with the Viennese architectural style of the buildings. I am especially fond of Italian piazzas, often wishing we had more in the UK where people could congregate and enjoy their morning coffee or lunch alfresco. The main square, Piazza Unita d’Italia is one of, if not the, largest piazza in Europe that opens out onto the sea. We enjoyed a coffee one morning and a sundown spritz another afternoon at Caffé degli Specchi that you can see pictured above, one of the many coffeehouses the city boasts and watched the world go by. Along with this Piazza, I particularly loved the vista from Ponte Rosso, which was once an inlet from the sea that large boats could sail up to so then could dock all the way into the city. Now it’s home to smaller fishing boats and most beautiful, pink buildings dotted all the way along, overlooked by the grand Chiesa Parrochiale Sant’Antonio Taumaturgo church. Enjoying coffee, strolling and admiring the architecture is one of the many things you can do in the city, amongst all the other fabulous activities it has to offer, which brings me onto the next point – what we did whilst in the city!
Activities in Trieste: Wine-tasting & coffee shop tours
From wine-tasting to sailing, and from hiking to historic walking tours, there is truly so so much to do in Trieste. This is partly down to the rich history the city boasts, whether you’re talking the Austro-Hungarian rule, the coffee culture or the innovative wineries, or even its proximity to Croatia, it really is a place with so many layers.
One of my favourite parts of the trip was visiting the Kanté wineries. The most interesting aspect of the winery was the tough terrain the vineyards work with. The earth surrounding Trieste is extremely rocky, not leaving much earth for the vines to burrow down to for their much needed minerals. Consequently, the vines grown in the region are extremely well taken care and the wine production is relatively limited, but a bi-product of this is a highly organic wine, rich in earthy minerals and totally delicious. We had the chance to try some of their wines whilst there, as well as get a tour of their production room and cellar which is hundreds of feet underground. What I loved most about the winery is how authentic it was, it is run by Edi Kanté who organises small and intimate tastings of his wine upon request – these are not commercial wine tours but rather a dive into understanding more about this unique way in which they product their incredible wine.
The next activity I very much enjoyed during our time in Trieste was a tour of the coffee houses. Thanks to the Austro-Hungarian empire, coffee and coffee houses became a huge part of the city culture, in fact, they say the cappuccino was first created and drank in Trieste. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the coffee brand Illy? Well, Trieste is the home of Illy coffee, one of the biggest coffee brands in the world set up by Hugarian businessman Francesco Illy back in 1933. We were given a tour by Friuli Venezia Giulia Live (a tour group located in Trieste that offers a variety of tours around the city) and it was absolutely worth it. We toured some of the oldest coffee houses in the city (Caffé Tommaseo opened in 1830, while Caffé degli Specchi started business in 1839), we learnt how much rich history there is surrounded the coffee culture in Trieste and also just how people enjoy coffee in the city today. Given how integral coffee is to the city’s culture, I wouldn’t miss this tour during your visit to Trieste. You can book a tour or find out more information on http://www.turismofvg.it.
HISTORIC TOUR OF CASTELLO DI MIRAMARE & VISITING CROATIA
Finally on our last day, it was time for a morning full of history and we headed along the bay of the city to visit Castello di Miramare. As you might have gathered thus far, Trieste has a rich history and cultural background that has influenced the city as it is today. Its location has often rendered it stuck in the middle of ruling parties, from the Austrians, to the French, even the Slovenians, many countries have had a piece of the Trieste pie. It was only until 1947 that the city was declared a free state and finally became totally independent. This deep history has contributed to it’s architecture, food and drink culture, amongst other things and Castello di Miramare is a wonderful place to truly step into the past.
We were given a tour of the stunning castle, built by Austria’s Chancellor Franz Josef’s younger brother, Ferdinand Maximilian. He commissioned it as a holiday home for his wife Empress Carlota of Mexico. It’s a truly magical place and gives you a wonderful idea of how Emperors and Empresses lived all those years ago. We learned how Ferdinand requested his ground floor to be designed similar to a boat cabin to make him feel at home once he had returned from sea and what stunning pieces of furniture you might find in Empress Carlota’s dressing room, including a Settimanale set of drawers (seven drawers each with an outfit the seven days of the week). What I particularly liked about the castle was it’s size, the tour is just two hours so you can see all of the castle in a morning. It’s not to say I don’t like touring around huge stately homes, but when you’re on a short city break, you might not want to spend an entire day walking around a museum so touring Castello di Miramare is the perfect way to dip your toe into Trieste’s history. We were given a tour again by the Friuli Venezia Giulia tourist board (Friuli Venezia Giulia is the region that Trieste is capital of) and you can book yours right here!
If historic tours aren’t your cup of tea, there are so many other things you can do whilst in Trieste. Depending on the time of year, watersports are a huge part of the culture in the city. They host one of the biggest boat races, the Barcolana Regatta, each year in October, which is a stunning sight to see on the gulf. Additionally, one of my favourite parts about Trieste is its proximity to Croatia. In just over an hour you can have travelled across the border into Slovenia then Croatia to visit some stunning towns such as Rovinj (Croatia) or Izola (in Slovenia) which give you a taste of the rest of the country and everything you could experience if you decided to do a trip there. What’s more it allows you the chance to add a little bit of travel adventure to your trip to Trieste, offering an exciting twist to your visit!
TRIESTE IN A NUTSHELL
Rich, interesting history and culture (ticks boxes for culture fiends and history lovers alike!)
Delicious coffee and wine (let’s be honest, why else did you book a trip to Italy!!)
Proximity to Croatia and Slovenia, perfect for day trips
Not overly touristic and a reasonably priced city