How to See the Best of Trieste in One Day

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Trieste was our final stop on our road trip around Northeast Italy. It’s a city often overlooked, only two hours by train from Venice. Which makes it a perfect day trip destination.

It was our last stop in Italy to enjoy one more delicious pasta dish, another gelato, oh and one more glass of Italian wine. And not just any wine, but Prosecco, from the nearby village to Trieste, where the grape and wine originated.

And with nearby Ljubljana in Slovenia or as a start to your road trip to Croatia, Trieste highlights can be seen in one day.


A Brief History of Trieste

Historic building with fountain in front
The stunning architecture of Trieste

Trieste is the capital city of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in northeast Italy.

It was once ruled by the Roman Empire under Julius Caesar between 52 and 46 BC.

As a seaport city occupying a thin strip of land between the Adriatic coast and Slovenia’s border, Trieste was the 4th largest city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The architecture and city layout from Austro-Hungarian rule between 1509-1919 was influenced by its connections with Italy, Austro-Hungary, and Slovenia.

The city of Trieste was annexed to Italy in 1954. Although Italian is spoken in the province, the Venetian dialect called Triestine is spoken in Trieste.

With just over 205,000 population, Trieste is a safe city to visit and is a perfect travel destination in Italy.

Get the Best View from the Opicina Tramway

View over a city to the sea
The view over Trieste from our campsite

If you decide to stay in a hotel or Airbnb in the city, then take a ride on the Opicina electric tramway. You will be rewarded with panoramic views of the city.

Tip: The Obelisk stop on the tramway has access to the village of Prosecco, a Slovenian name given to the wine. It’s also the start of the famous Napoleonic Road.

10 Things to Do for the Best Day in Trieste

If you arrive by car in Trieste, there is plenty of parking in the port area near the Miela Theatre.

The port is a great place to start your day tour to experience the must-see places of Trieste.

When you only have 24 hours in Trieste, these top 10 things to do in Trieste will give you an appreciation of this beautiful Italian city.

1. Exquisite Beauty of Grand Canale

View of a canal leading to a church
The view up the Grand Canale to the Church of Sant’Antonio Nuovo

The Grand Canale would have to be one of our favourite places in Trieste.

Along the canal, which links to the Gulf of Trieste, small boats are moored, waiting for their sea captains and nice weather to go and explore the bay area.

If you wander alongside the canal, you cross over the Ponte Rosso or Red Bridge. The original wooden bridge built in 1756 was replaced with an iron structure in 1832.

You will also find a statue here to celebrate the visit of James Joyce, the Irish writer who stayed in Trieste for 15 years (1904-1920).

As you look up the canal, you will see six impressive columns of the Church of Sant’Antonio Nuovo. It took nearly 25 years (1825-1849) to construct and was modelled on Rome’s Pantheon.


2. Serb-Orthodox and Greek-Orthodox Churches

View of a church from above
The domes of Saint Spyridon Church seen from the castle

Just a little bit along from Saint Antonio is the Serb-Orthodox Temple of the Holy Trinity and Saint Spyridon.

The Orthodox community in Trieste was established in 1748 by Serbian traders’ immigration. In 1781, the community split into Greek-Orthodox and Serb-Orthodox.

Saint Spyridon Church is the Serb-Orthodox church of Trieste. Its domes can be seen from many points in the city and stand out from the San Giusto castle.

Of course, the Greek-Orthodox community has its own church, Saint Nicolò.

The church is dedicated to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of sailors, ship owners, and those involved in maritime trade, and to the Holy Trinity.

View of a church over the water
Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Nicholas

3. Stop at Molo Audace Pier

View of a pier leading to the ocean
Molo Audace Pier, Trieste, leading to the Gulf of Trieste

The Molo Audace Pier is named after the destroyer Audace, the first ship of the Italian Navy to arrive in Trieste on November 3, 1918.

However, the pier was originally built on the wreck of the ship San Carlo between 1743 and 1751.  Make sure to look for the large memorial stone.

Audace Pier is 246m long, extending from the city, separating the basin of San Giorgio from the basin of San Giusto of Porto Vecchio.

And it is a perfect place to watch the sunset.


4. History at Piazza Unita d’Italia

A town square with stunning architecture in Trieste
Piazza Unita d’Italia, Trieste, Italy

The Piazza Unita d’Italia is the largest square in Trieste.

On one side is the Gulf of Trieste, with the other three sides to prominent buildings:

  • Town Hall of Trieste
  • The Palace of the Regional Junta of Friuli Venezia Giulia
  • The Prefecture of the Capital

Within the square is the impressive Fountain of the Four Continents, built between 1751 and 1754.

The fountain has four allegorical statues showing the features of the people who lived in the four continents known at that time (Europe, Asia, Africa, and America).

5. Coffee at Piazza della Borsa

A historic building with columns, two storey with a terrace on top
Chamber of Commerce Palace, Trieste

The Chamber of Commerce Palace is the prominent building in this area, formerly the commercial centre of Trieste.

Grab yourself a coffee and perhaps a piece of burek (a flaky dough/pastry filled with meat, cheese or potato) from one of the cafes in the area and enjoy some people-watching.


6. View the Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre of Trieste, stone seating with a grassy area
The Roman Theatre of Trieste

At Via del Teatro Romano is Trieste’s Roman Theatre, built between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Concerts are still held here from time to time as it holds up to 3,500 people.

To the left of the theatre is Via di Donota, where you can visit the Museum of Archaeology Antiquarium di via Donota.


7. Trieste Cathedral (Cattedrale di San Giusto)

The inside of a church
Inside Trieste Cathedral, Cattedrale di San Giusto

The uphill trek takes you to San Giusto Hill, where you will find Cattedrale di San Giusto, San Giusto Castle, and Roman Forum ruins.

Cattedrale di San Giusto is the Cathedral of Trieste, completed in 1320. The church is a combination of two earlier churches from the 9th and 10th centuries previously on the same site.

The beauty of the inside and outside is a joining of Romanesque and Gothic.

To the side of the cathedral are the Roman Forum ruins, which were uncovered in the 1930s.

Roman ruins near a building
Roman Forum ruins and San Giusto Castle

8. San Giusto Castle

View over the top of a city
View over the city of Trieste from San Giusto Castle

Near the cathedral stands the San Giusto Castle, built between 1471 and 1630 under the orders of Friedrich II of Habsburg.

In prehistoric times, there was a fortified village on the site, which became an important urban centre during the Roman times.

You can visit the San Giusto Castle Museum and The Square Tower for panoramic views of the city and sea.

After your visit, you can walk down the hill to see the oldest church in Trieste.

9. Santa Maria Maggiore

A church on a hill
Santa Maria Maggiore and San Silvestro.

It’s not the first time we have seen two churches next to each other. It was Porto in Portugal, near the Lions Fountain we found two churches side by side.

In Trieste, the two churches side by side are Santa Maria Maggiore and San Silvestro.

Santa Maria Maggiore is the larger church built between 1627 and 1682 by the Jesuits.

San Silvestro, the smaller Romanesque church, was built in the 12th century. It is also the oldest church in Trieste.

10. Taste Italian Gelato

lady standing outside of an ice cream store
Gelato Marco, Trieste Italy

As a reward for the climb up to San Giusto Hill, we treated ourselves at Gelato Marco on Via Malcanton.

Marco’s gelatos are full of flavour and very smooth to eat.

But if you prefer a more adult beverage, head back to the streets near the Piazza Unita d’Italia. Via Pozzo del Mare has several good cafes and bars.

Eating gelato is another reason to visit Italy.

Where to Stay in Trieste – we went camping

View over city to sea
View of Trieste from San San Giusto Castle

By the time we arrived at Campeggio Obelisco, sitting high on the hill overlooking Trieste, it was early evening.  The campsite is open all year round, close to nature walks and with great amenities.

Part of the deal in buying our car was to save money on accommodation instead of using our usual favourites, or Airbnb.

However, since arriving at the campsite, the temperature had been slowly dropping. And when the heavens opened along with cracking thunder and lightning, there was no way we were tenting tonight.

What to do? Sleep in the car? At least it is a station wagon.

In the meantime, we took shelter in the campground restaurant bar with free wifi and pasta on the menu. We ended up staying for a few hours to keep dry, have a drink and a meal and wait for the rain to stop.

Book a Hotel or Sleep in the Car?

Well, the rain would not stop. A table of UK cyclists nearby said they would be sleeping in their tent tonight! Do we tell them we have ditched the tent for tonight?

Na. We were pleased to have the car so we could wake up in the morning dry and not damp.

After a few hours, the rain wasn’t going to stop, so we made the call to sort out our car while it was raining.  It was difficult to hold an umbrella (well, Maura did) while moving bags from the back to the front seat.  Eventually, it was done, the camp beds inflated, and we were in our hotel room for the night.

Here is a link to our YouTube clip of us in the car at night and the next morning.

Surprisingly, we had a good sleep despite the heavy rain, thunder, and lightning, and we woke around 7 am. With the forecast for the next few days for more of the same, we decided to see the best of Trieste in one day and then travel south to Croatia.

Trieste for another side of Italy (literally)

We found Trieste an interesting city, small enough to see in one day. But large enough to spend a few days absorbing its incredible history, viewing its amazing architecture and visiting its many museums.

There are enough museums to keep a history enthusiast busy for weeks.

Trieste is also a gateway to Slovenia and Croatia if you want to break your journey before exploring these amazing countries.

If you are looking for new travel ideas, a city break in Trieste, Italy will not disappoint with its sea views, shopping and restaurants. It will be a highlight of any Italy trip you are planning.

And to see the best of Trieste in one day is easily navigated on foot.