Thanks to the eventful history of Trieste and its location at the shore of the Adriatic Sea, the Italian city is a hub of beautiful castles and churches. These places in our list below uncover the story of several local rulers, noble families, and even communities, proving how rich Trieste is with the stories of the past.
The majestic Miramare Castle is the first sight one sees upon arrival to Trieste. It is a true landmark of the region with a beautiful but tragic history. The 19th-century castle was the residence of the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium. That was, until the Archduke became the Emperor of Mexico, and lost his life only four years into his reign.
After being occupied by the Nazis, and later by the Allied troops during WWII, the Miramare Castle has been a public museum since 1955. It features over 20 majestic rooms with original decorations and furniture still intact. The most captivating are Maximilian’s bedroom and the Throne Room. The stunning architecture of the castle is all about a mix of styles, including Romantic, Gothic, and Renaissance. There is also a fantastic park with a view of the Gulf of Trieste and 22 hectares of gardens. In addition to the large ponds with fish and turtles, the gardens contain rare and exotic species of plants collected by Maximilian during his travels.
Duino Castle, located less than half an hour outside Trieste, is one of the most-visited places in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. It stands proudly on a cliff overlooking the vast and beautiful Adriatic Sea. The castle emerged in 1389, built on the ruins of the Roman military position. It combines several architectural styles, including Renaissance and Gothic, and is still the residence of the Thurn und Taxis noble family. This historical dynasty has owned the property since the 17th century. Over these years, the family hosted various events and welcomed some renowned guests. Among them were Rainer Maria Rilke, Mark Twain, Franz Liszt, Johann Strauss, Elisabeth the Empress of Austria, and many others. Visitors can enjoy stunning rooms with sophisticated decorations, original furniture, and other elements, like the staircase by Andrea Palladio.
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The Cathedral of San Giusto
For a cultural and religious experience in Trieste, the Trieste Cathedral, located on the San Giusto hill, is the place to go. It is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to Saint Justus. The construction of the current building began in the 14th century, but parts of the structure date back as early as the 6th century. The current basilica replaced the two basilicas that used to occupy the area. In addition to exploring the interior, the incredible mosaics, and the chapels, visitors can climb up the bell tower for a small extra fee. One of the most exciting highlights of the basilica is the Chapel of Saint Justus, housing his relics.
Saint Spyridon Church
The Saint Spyridon Church is a significant place of worship for the Serbian Orthodox community in Trieste, which now numbers over 10 thousand people. It was constructed in the 18th century, when the Illyrians received permission to exercise their religion freely and build a church. The current church, decorated with Istrian white stone and Verona marble, emerged in 1868. Built in the typical Byzantine style, it is a striking example of the Eastern Orthodox churches. The stunning church allures visitors with five beautiful domes and the façade decorated with mosaics by Giuseppe and Pompeo Bertini.
The interior is even more striking, with frescoes and paintings depicting the Assumption of the Virgin, the Christ with Apostles, and other important figures and events. One of the most noteworthy items in the church is the candle holder, donated by Grand Duke Paul Petrovich Romanov in the 18th century. Another unmissable element is the wall with precious gold and silver icons from Russia.
The Synagogue of Trieste
One of the most terrific places to explore the history of Trieste is the Synagogue. Also known as the Great Temple, it is the second-largest synagogue in Europe, with the largest being the synagogue in Budapest. It emerged at the beginning of the 20th century when the Jewish community of Trieste was robust and thriving. At the time, it consisted of over 5 thousand members, while today, less than a thousand remain. The architecture of the synagogue is rather original. Built by Ruggero Berlam and his son, Arduino, it features various styles with oriental decorations prevailing. The church has a rectangular praying room with three naves, a magnificent apse with golden mosaics, and a large organ.
The synagogue suffered immensely during WWII and even closed in 1942. However, it started operating after the war and has undergone several restorations. The Trieste Synagogue has limited opening hours, so arranging a visit in advance is best. Going on a guided tour by the rabbi is an even better way to explore the temple.
The Castle of Muggia
Muggia Castle stands uphill in the old town of Muggia, located only half an hour from Trieste, almost bordering Slovenia. The small castle was built in 1347 by the patriarch of Aquileia. It served as a military defense for the town until the 18th century. In 1990, it became the private residence of Dr. James Derossi, although it was later abandoned. The current owners, Villi Bossi and his wife Gabriela, bought the castle in 1991 and performed an astonishing job renovating it to its former glory. Today, visitors can see many restored rooms, including where the soldiers lived. The building often hosts various cultural events and soirees. However, town guests can only visit on specific days organized by the Consortium, which protects the castles in the region.
The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore
One of Trieste’s most significant religious buildings is the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Standing under the San Giusto Hill, the church is evidence of the importance of the Jesuits, who arrived in Trieste in 1619. The construction of the church started in 1627 and lasted until 1682. It is a baroque-style church designed by Andrea Pozzo and Giacomo Briani. This glorious church features a beautiful interior with frescoes by Giuseppe Bernardino Bison and Sebastiano Santi. Highlights are the altar dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the chapel of Madonna Della Salute. While exploring the church, visitors can also see the Jesuit Undergrounds and the Jesuit College standing next to the building.