Solo Gay Trip Guide to Trieste in Italy
Trieste is the capital of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Located close to Slovenian border this amazing city is on a few hours drive to Croatia, Slovenia and Adriatic sea is right at its doorstep. It is one of the richest cities in Italy and it was an important port in Habsburgs dynasty and Austro Hungarian empire. Not a lot of people know this but this beautiful city played a pivotal role in WWI. The city is at the north Eastern top of Italy at the border with Slovenia and Croatia and has a mixed culture with a lot of influence from these Former Yugoslavian countries. The whole region of Istria was divided after WWII and Italy gained Trieste whereas the rest of the region was located to Yugoslavia which mostly lies in Croatia and some part in Slovenia.
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I happened to be in the city by mistake when I booked my flight back to London from Venice for the wrong date. An Italian friend suggested checking out Trieste airport and I booked a flight back through Trieste and I’m ever more thankful for the mistake and Marco’s suggestion. The flights from Trieste are ridiculously cheap and it is barely a couple hours drive from Venice.
I stayed in Trieste for a day and a half but the time was dramatic enough to remember a lifetime. I got food poisoning from Venice from a seafood pizza and that unfolded rather unpleasantly in Trieste but convulsions and stomach cramps aside, I learnt two amazing things:
1- The people in this city have hearts of gold. I was looking for a pharmacy and a passer-by walked 10 minutes with me to make sure I was safe and got to a pharmacy safely. He translated the notice outside the pharmacy and put me in the cab and instructed him to take me to the open one near the exchange. My Grindr friend who I met for dinner took me to hospital and made absolutely sure I was fine when he left 3 hours later because he was the only one who could translate my problem to Italian being a nurse.
2- The best and most amazing spot to watch the sunrise is right at the top of the mountain in from of Cattinara Hospital where you can see the city in the as well as a large chunk of the region.
All Things Trieste
Venice to Trieste
The train ride from Venice to Trieste takes roughly 2 hours and the scenery is so beautiful I felt my heart sinking at times. The train takes you through the beautiful northeast coast winding up and down the mountains through lush greenery and luckily the sun was setting so the sky was a beautiful orange/red/magenta combination. These are moments I consider myself lucky to be able to travel.
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To and From Airport
OMFG! Trieste has the cutest airport ever!!! I arrived quite early and lay down on the grass next to the airport in this big garden, where else could you do that? It is a very small airport with a small security checkpoint and a big room and barely a few flights. It is called International Airport of Ronchi dei Legionari and it is roughly 30 km from the city. You can take bus 51 from the main bus station (very close to the Train Station and a few minutes walk from Unita Plaza). The bus takes you around the coast and through very scenic green towns and villages and in roughly an hour you will arrive at this cute little airport, so exciting! (Never thought I would love an airport so much!)
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I stayed in an apartment next to Piazza Unita in the centre of town with windows facing the sea which is calm and deep velvet blue. You can walk around, lay down next to it and enjoy the sound of waves like it’s your mother’s lap…
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The streets of Trieste up and down in the city centre have lots of small and very cute cafes, bars and restaurants but beware they all close quite early. The area around Via Luigi Cadorna and Via Armando Diaz is full of good restaurants. The restaurants on the other side of Plaza Unita around the hills are also quite lively especially in the evening with the bars around. I loved Chimera di Bacco and its location after some sightseeing.
You can try the pastries here and a surprising variety of Austrian cakes like Sacher and Strudel and my favourite gnocchis stuffed with plums. Seafood is also very good and you get a lot of variety. I would highly recommend walking into some small cafe and trying some food yourself. It is quite cheap and clean throughout the city centre.
Trieste is quite a small town and the gay scene is very small to almost non-existent. The guys on Grindr and scruff all have no face photos and are quite far off but there are a few nice guys there for sure. There are a couple of gay bars and a monthly gay party which is straight friendly but it is mainly a family-oriented town and judging by the number of kids playing around everywhere it is not a very gay city. Italy generally isn’t great with gay life and there are hardly any gay quarters in any big city unlike other Europeans and North American cities. Checking online there is a Russian bar near Sant’Antonio square in the city which is gay and another entry suggests Iguana bar to be a good gay spot. There is another club called Jota Assassiana that organises a gay night once a month but overall, I wouldn’t go to Trieste for its gay scene.
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Trieste in a Day
You can easily see most of truest in a single day but this city is more about the serenity and call than magnificent churches and grand mansions even though there’s no counting of those either. A big part of the city was developed under the Austro Hungarian days and the buildings are grand and very elegantly placed and made. The city centre is small and if you stay another day (which I should have) you can also travel to Miramare Castle which is not far from the city. The trams in the city centre are also quite fun and I’d definitely recommend riding one.
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Piazza Unita a Trieste
Unity Square or Grand Square is the biggest square in Europe by the sea and it directly faces the deep blue beautiful Adriatic sea. The square is used for all sort of public life events for the city and it is an amazing spot to listen to people playing music in the evenings. It is close to pretty much everything including the train and bus station and is quite easy to walk everywhere from here and this is the perfect start for a day or night out. It has the main city hall and other public buildings and it is gorgeously lit at night.
Apparently, Plaza Unita is a bit of an anomaly because in almost all Italian cities the main square has a church in it with the exception of Trieste which is host to the principality buildings.
Trieste Commodity Exchange Palace
Walk a few minutes from the side street in Unity square and you will reach the very lively Borsa Square which has one of the oldest Commodity Exchanges in the world located within a gorgeous palace. The palace is impressive along with the beautiful square with lots of shops, bars, restaurants and the walk to the back of the city centre. It is still a functional exchange. I had some breakfast here after an agonizing night and the spring sun felt really good on a crisp morning with some Adriatic breeze.
You can learn how to manage your budget during travelling in this guide.
The Roman theatre is located behind the Unity square through a small walk from the Borsa square. It was built in the 1st century AD and it is quite big and in good condition. The city organises concerts and events during the summer at the Roman theatre and when I was there they had some school thing going on with a few girls singing in their sweet little voices. I sat down and heard them and saw them trying to impress their parents which were standing around, it was another beautiful moment, a reminder of sweet childhood.
Sanctuary of Santa Maria Maggiora (Santuario Santa Maria Maggiore di Trieste)
Behind the Roman theatre, a few stairs up stands the biggest and most impressive church of Trieste. There are plenty of churches throughout the city but this is the biggest and the main centre of worship. It was built in the 17th century by Jesuits and has an impressive nave. Right next door is another interesting find, a small Romanesque church (Church of San Silvestro) which kind of reminded me of a pair of women; a middle-aged daughter holding the hand of her old mother with love). I am way too romantically involved with Trieste I guess, not a bad thing at all.
Trieste has been one of the most tolerant cities in Italy with signs of religious freedom very evident. You can find ancient mosque, synagogue, protestant and catholic churches all in one city with a lot of religious tolerance. Years of incomings from all different part of the world being an important port has had some effect on this city which is a welcome change in this day and age.
Giardino di Via San Michele
Trieste is generally quite hilly and the trees that cover these hills create a very calm and tranquil environment. I have had some food and felt much better instantly and then walked a few steps up through Via della Cattedrale to this little beautiful garden. The best part is the view from the top. (If you take the other side you will have to come up through a lot of stairs so use this street). You can see the whole city and the harbour with a beautiful garden to chill out in. Grab some green tea or wine and make your afternoon great.
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Come down through the stairs and walk toward the harbour where you will find a massive calm blanket of deep blue that stretches till it meets the sky of slightly lighter colours. The waves come and go in a calm, easy fashion. I lay down on the concrete bench next to the statues on Molo Audace listening to the waves slowly healing my inside traumatized by last nights ordeal and the tiredness that surrounded me. I watched people come and go without disturbing the equilibrium and finally when it was time, I went to grab my bag from the place which was pretty close and headed to the bus station to catch my bus to the airport but there was one last stop on the way.
This canal is the Venetian influence on Trieste. Located between the Unity square and the train station it is a beautiful corner of the city that you admire every time you pass by it. The canal has a square at the end called Piazza Sant’Antonnio Nuovo and some museums and churches that make it an impressive spectacle, Carlo Schmidl Theatre Museum, the neoclassical church of St. Anthony Thaumaturge, Caffè Stella Polare, (a historic café); St. Spyridon’s Orthodox Temple to name a few.
A few more minutes and I reached the bus station and it was time to say Arrivederci to this stunning city which had taken such good care of me and which I fell in love within a single day, I shall miss the beautiful sunset by the harbour, the sunset by the hospital and the pleasure in pain that I gained here.
Habsburg palace Miramare Castle
Miramare Castle is picturesque, beautiful and after seeing Habsburg residences in Vienna I can imagine the grandeur of this place. The best way to get there is to take bus 6 or 36 from train station or taking an uber or taxi which are quite cheap here. You could spend the whole day there. It has the old stables, palaces, throne room and gardens which are really well kept. In summer it is also served a sea link. You can find more information here.
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