For many tourists, the first ports of call for an Italian getaway are the romanticised, glittering cities of central Italy. Pisa, Florence, and Rome (to name but a few), whilst teeming with history and culture, can also be something of a tourist trap. Little-known to a large number of us foreigners are the stunning towns and cities found in the North-Eastern end of the country.
The regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto are often overlooked by visitors – probably because isn’t the easiest place to get to (as I am quickly discovering). During my month of living here, I have been lucky enough to explore a number of these quaint, picturesque places, all of which have their own individual charm. Read on to find out more about my two favourite cities in this area (so far)…
Located on the part of Italy that’s very nearly NOT in Italy, it’s no wonder that Trieste is a mishmash of different cultures. Its Venetian-style canals and riversides are boardered by Germanic and Eastern-European architecture: a mixture which makes for a very unique atmosphere. Known by the locals to be absolutely freezing during the winter (thanks to the infamous ‘bora’ wind from the Adriatic), Trieste is an old harbour town which sits directly on the coast.
Found both in the centre of town and right on the seafront, the Piazza Unità d’Italia is probably home to the city’s most impressive architecture and history. Also a short walk from the main shopping and commercial street, the piazza is home to a large number of tourists and locals alike.
The Canal Grande di Trieste is not only beautiful, but offers also a huge range of restaurants and bars along its waterfront. Fun fact: British writer James Joyce lived along this canal (and the many, MANY statues and plaques around the city pay homage to this). This is the perfect place for an espresso, an aperitivo, or even a full-blown meal.
Trieste’s Castle, thanks to the ginormous hill it sits atop, is not for the faint-hearted (speaking from experience, and the 10-minute sit-down I had to take at the top). It does, however, make up for almost killing you in its beautiful views and rich history. Definitely worth a visit (especially as it’s free).
Treviso, for me, is Venice without the glitz and glamour (and ridiculous number of tourists). At every turn, there is a beautiful monument or church to gawp at – and if you’re feeling particularly cultured, you can visit the Chiesa di San Francesco, where infamous 14th century poet Dante’s son is buried. What Treviso lacks in size, it definitely makes up for in cute Italian-ness.
No trip to an Italian city is complete without a Spritz in the main piazza, and Treviso is no exception. The Piazza dei Signori is home to a plethora of bars, restaurants and shops, and also offers a quaint craft market on Sundays. The winding streets leading into this piazza are also worth exploring, with independent shops and cafes dotted along the lanes. For food, I would recommend Signore e Signori, whose pizzas are pretty near perfect. Having said that, it’s difficult to find a bad pizza in Italy.
The river Cagnan, which runs through Treviso city centre, gives the town its characteristic Venetian charm. Another perfect place to sit nursing your aperitivo (N.B.: everywhere in Italy is the perfect place for an aperitivo), the riverside restaurants and museums are full of culture.
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