So, I’m back here on Sipping Espresso… blogging. Weird. I’m in America. I’m blogging about Italy from America. Can I do that?! Is that even allowed?! Well, I promised you in my Final Blog Post From Italy that I would finish our tale of overseas adventure and intrigue (OK, OK – more like overseas adventure of gluttony and transparency), so I suppose that I’ll have to make good on my word. For those of you that are sick of hearing about these adventures… I’m sorry, but I’m OCD and I am not much good at leaving things unfinished.
So, let’s flash back; way, way back to this past spring when Jen’s sister came to visit. Just as they departed for Venice and Rome, we took our own leave from Como and headed toward the metropolitan city of Trieste. When I think about what brought us to Trieste, I finally understand the word bittersweet. We undertook the four-hour road trip to Italy’s easternmost city so that I could run in the Maratonina d’Europa (Europe’s Half Marathon). Despite having to add the somewhat embarrassing “ina” suffix to the end of Maratona (changing the meaning to “very little”), completing my first half-marathon was a very “sweet” accomplishment for me. However, the impetus behind the race was a very “bitter” one. Jen and I had started listing all the things that we wanted to do before our time in Italy came to an end. This particular road trip checked many of our boxes; competing in a race in Europe, a visit to the city of Trieste, time in the region of Friuli–Venezia Giulia, capped off with a visit to Slovenia (upcoming post). Now, that checked a lot of boxes, so careful planning began and hotels rooms were booked.
Here’s how I would sum up Trieste – it is a MUST-SEE city. Sometimes I find myself guilty of trying to label a city by comparing it to another city. “Rome is like New York, but much older and without the high-rises”. Sometimes, you’ve just got to stop and appreciate where you are for what it is. Don’t try to “label” the place or put it in a box; its easy to fall into that trap with Trieste. A city that has bounced back and forth between Slovenian, Austrian and Italian rule leaves us with a place today that is proud of its blend in architecture and attitude. Trieste is a city not at all confused about its confusing identity. With a rich mix of Slavic, Germanic and Latin influences – I am simply content to label this magical place as one of the most “European” cities I have ever visited.
My race was on a Sunday and so we arrived Saturday with a planned departure on Monday. After we checked into the hotel, we strolled down to the Piazza Unità d’Italia to register for my race. I had often heard this piazza referred to as “the most beautiful piazza in Italy” and what I saw did not disappoint. The grand square is the largest of any on the water in all of Europe. On this particular spring weekend the piazza was also the location of my finish line.
We didn’t have much to worry about the night before the race, so we strolled through the piazza and walked the roads along the water. They had all sorts of fair-type events set up for the race, including tents serving beer, desserts and carnival rides. I took Julia on the Ferris Wheel and got a great view of the city and the harbor. After the fun, we took in a spectacular seafood dinner near the harbor (mm’mmm I’m making myself hungry for fresh Italian food. Never had that problem while writing until now, when I can’t get it quite as easily).
On race day, I was up and at ’em early – ready to beat my goal time (which I didn’t do). Of course, I forgot that I was in Italy and so the start of the race was a little later than I originally planned. I kept warm by jogging around the parking lot and taking in the crowds. I was tickled when I ran past the snack tents used for refueling depleted calories (usually covered by bananas and power bars) and found brioche and other Italian pastries. When I finished, I could not have been more pleased to be greeted by Jen and Julia; and to have Julia wear my medal.
After the race, we stopped for a quick snack and beer (hey, I earned it) before going back to the hotel to change. Then, it was time to tour the city! Even though my marathon race was just a maratonina, I’m sure that we walked the remaining 13.1 miles as we wound through Trieste’s ancient streets. This was especially challenging, since the first part of the tour required me to carry Julia and her stroller up the Scala Giganti (Giant Steps). We capped it all off back in the Piazza Unità d’Italia for happy hour before a wonderful dinner.
If you ever find yourself in northeast Italy (I’m talking to YOU, when you plan that inevitable visit Venice) – do yourself a favor and carve out a couple of days to see Trieste. You’ll be glad you did!