Rarely will you sense the cross-cultural edge present in the air in this sometimes melancholy but immediately engaging Adriatic city. Held on a spit of Italian territory (added in 1918) that lunges along the sea into the Slav world (of Slovenia), Trieste (Trst to the Slovenes) oozes the atmosphere of Mittel-europa (Central Europe), of an empire (the Austro-Hungarian) long gone, for which it was the only port.
The Habsburg spirit lingers in the neoclassical architecture and 18th-century town planning of the Borgo Teresiano. It wafts over you in the Viennese-style cafés and in the pungent central-European buffets. Vessels still churn the harbour waters, albeit not with the same bustle as when it was the Empire’s principal outlet to the high seas. But the city’s movers and shakers are expanding the port quickly. As borders fall and trade with Eastern Europe flourishes, Trieste hopes again to become a key regional port and relive its commercial glory days. It is already a strategic point in world petrol politics. Oil tankers unload crude here to a continental pipeline that supplies Germany.
Trieste is a vibrant city with a lively cultural scene. Roman ruins, castles, a handful of churches and some worthwhile museums offer distraction. It makes a good base for exploring coastal treasures such as Castello Miramare and can serve as a springboard for travels in Slovenia and Croatia.
Last updated: Mar 2, 2009