(RTTNews.com) – With an ever-increasing number of holiday-makers descending on Europe, there are fewer and fewer hidden gems to discover.
Cheap airfares and an impressive infrastructure of trains and highways have sent droves of visitors to formerly exotic outposts like Estonia, Croatia, and southern Portugal.
While many cities have been overrun by tacky tour groups and sketchy scam artists, a true taste of European culture is often a quick train ride from even the most overcrowded meccas.
The fanny-packer is virtually absent from smooth and sophisticated Trieste.
The city, tucked neatly in a corner of Italy that hugs its Slovenian neighbors, is an easy train ride from Venice.
Influenced by its location at the crossroads of Germanic, Latin, Austro-Hungarian and Slavic cultures, this rarely touristed city feels a world apart from the rest of Italy.
The region of Friuli Venezia Giulia has four official languages (Italian, Slovene, Ladin and German), but most locals fall back on their own Triestine dialect of Venetian Italian.
Cradled by the Adriatic Sea and the dramatic highlands of nearby Slovenia, much of Trieste’s former grandeur is still clearly apparent in the form of imposing buildings with elaborate Neo-classical facades.
The city is a pilgrimage site for devotees of the the famous Irish writer James Joyce, who began writing his opus “Ulysses” while living in Trieste from 1904 to the start of World War I.
Perhaps the safest city of its size in Italy, a tourist is more likely to be accosted for a lack of a fashion sense than badgered for spare change or pick-pocketed.
The food in Trieste is delicious, and decidedly continental rather than Italian. After hopping off the train at Centrale Station, sprint for Buffet da Pepi for its luscious pork sandwiches with sauerkraut, hot mustard and freshly grated horseradish.
The mouth-watering meats are also offered as a platter — order at the counter and try to keep your composure as the burly butcher slices the cured pork and pours you an ice cold beer.
A platter of Cotechini (pork sausages), porchetta (roast pork), bollito di maiale (boiled pork), and prosciutto is the best 10 euro you will ever spend.
Well-fed, waddle further from the train station toward one of Europe’s quintessential small hotels, Residence L’Albero Nascosto.
Immaculately clean, artfully decorated and well-equipped with amenities, Nascosto is nestled in a narrow alley, perfect for Vespas and pedestrians but a tricky path for anything with four wheels.
The absence of traffic means opening your window in the morning to the sound of the fish monger and the easy chatter of stylish locals on their way to work.
Just around the corner, the sun comes up on one Europe’s most glorious town squares. The pristine Piazza dell’Unita D’Italia, or simply Piazza Unita, is the biggest open space in Trieste.
The piazza truly comes alive later in the day, as a majestic sunset over the Gulf of Trieste is the backdrop for the Triestini to see and be seen.
Strike up a conversation with the friendly locals while ordering a glass of wine from one of the numerous cafes around the piazza.
Chances are they will point you in the direction of Suban, a renowned trattoria on Emilio Comici in the quiet North-east part of town.
The ancestors of Giovanni Suban have labored for five generations to advance the culinary tradition of Trieste, pairing a delicious fusion of Istrian and Viennese with fresh, aromatic wines from the Fruili region of Italy.
A taxi from the city centre will whisk you to Suban in ten minutes.
Wind down your stay in Trieste by visiting some of the city’s historic sites. The Roman Theater was enclosed by walls built in 33-32 BC on Emperor Octavius’s orders.
The theatre lies at the foot of the San Giusto hill, and, facing the sea, must have provided breath-taking views before the rude intrusion of modern construction.
Numerous trains depart Venezia S. Lucia for Trieste Centrale throughout the day ($32 r/t). The glorious, two hour train ride straddles the coast of the Gulf of Trieste, the northern part of the Adriatic.
If Venice is not on the itinerary, affordable direct flights from Munich, Frankfurt and London Stansted are available to Friuli-Venezia Giulia airport, about 30 kilometers outside of Trieste.
A bus service (number 51) runs between the airport Trieste’s bus station (next to the railway station).
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