Episode 319 – Our Final Week In Trieste

We jammed a lot into our first two weeks, which means these last few days have been slow, relaxing ones: more like living here than being tourists. I’ve heard other travellers mention this “week 3” phenomenon as well, and it’s why we generally prefer to stay in one place for at least a month.

In week 3 we ate more dinners in, and drank more really tasty, really inexpensive wines. We both like sparkling wine, so Prosecco, Moscato, and Lambrusco have made frequent appearances on our little table.

Top left: sacchetini stuffed with gorgonzola and speck, in a 4-cheese sauce. Bottom left: mixed mushroom risotto (yup, home-made!) with a garnish of vallerian (lambs lettuce) Bottom right: if we ate lunch out, dinner was just antipasti.

We ate more mid-day meals out. We ventured beyond our (really good) neighbourhood pizzeria La Tana for lunch at an Austrian/Italian fusion restaurant (Ted says that doesn’t sound like it should be a thing, but 600+ years of Hapsburgs in Trieste beg to differ) called NOVA Foraperfora, where the wooden booths, murals, and German sayings painted on the ceiling arches are pure Austrian ambience, but the food is a blend of tastes unique to Trieste.

While Ted enjoyed Italian cured meats and cheeses, his bread basket included both ciabatta and German springwater rye. I treated myself to Zwetschgenknödel (prune dumplings), which were called Gnocchi di Susine on the Italian menu; they were served in a bit of their sweet broth (“Brei”) and properly dusted with lots of cinnamon. Drinks? Why a spritz made with white Fruilani wine to go with my Austrian dish, and German blonde beer to go with Ted’s Italian charcuterie of course! Plus espressos to finish.

Top left: the ambience of a Bierkeller or Stube. Top right: mural.
Bottom: Austro-Italian fusion = Trieste!

We also had an Austrian country-style feast at Buffet Da Pepi in one of the charming downtown pedestrian zones, where we literally “pigged out” on multiple cuts of boiled pork (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) with Kren (fresh horseradish), mustard, mild warm sauerkraut and boiled yellow potatoes smashed with bacon. No room for their apple strudel after all that.

We took time to enjoy late afternoon drinks and aperitivo, the snacks intended to carry people over until the typically late dinner hour.

L to R: seeded crostini with salumi, plain crostini with ricotta and grilled zucchini, meatballs in chili sauce, warm pita chips baked with melted cheese.

We walked the harbourfront in the sunshine, where Ted got some great shots of the blooms of Adriatic jellyfish for which that the area is known: giant fried-egg looking Cotylorhiza, and purple-fringed Rhizostoma. Below the surface of the water we could also see schools of small, transparent Mnemiopsis (you can see a few in the upper photo).

We stopped for drinks and tramezzini, the triangular sandwiches made on crustless soft white bread, traditionally accompanied by either espresso or wine, that are intended as a light lunch substitute for those not eating their big meal mid-day.

A tramezzino with mortadella, provolone, rocket lettuce and the obligatory mayonnaise. The fresh potato chips come automatically with drinks.

We returned to the Piazza del Unitás at night, to marvel at the beautifully lit government buildings facing the serene Adriatic harbour.

I may or may not want to remember this in later years, but Trieste is also where I slipped and cracked a rib. No, not on the crazily uneven and crazily steep streets, but right in our apartment when I stumbled and fell really hard into the wooden table and chairs during the night (getting up for the bathroom, of course). And no, #2 son, I was NOT “under the influence” – just getting older and klutzier. I’ve never exactly been a graceful gazelle, even when I was young. Anyway, nothing to do about a cracked rib except give it 6 weeks to heal, take Tylenol/paracetamol as needed, and “let” Ted lift our suitcases into luggage racks.

Ted has not survived Trieste unscathed. He managed to scrape up his knee and bruise his hip falling on one of the uneven stone ramps/curbs near our flat, but I definitely win the injury prize for the summer.

We finally explored the interior of San Giacomo church, which is the one we see from our windows each day, and whose bells let us know when we’ve “overslept”. The simple elegant interior reminded me of the churches in Central America, and the Missions in Texas, right down to the glazed wooden statues (although the Madonna and Child here is far lovelier than most we’ve seen).

We walked to the Civito Orto Botanico (municipal botanical gardens) high up on Via Carlo de Marchesetti, in a clearly upper-class neighbourhood with lots of gated villas and a spectacular view over the city and harbour.

Although not much was in full bloom, the garden’s winding pathways and many shaded seating areas made it a glorious respite from the heat.
Bottom left: one area of the garden is focussed on the local karst, and the dinosaur fossils found here.

The garden is part of an international network of botanical gardens who collect seeds from their thousands of plants and offer them for exchange between scientific botanical institutes. It is only open to the public until 13:00 each day; after that it becomes the realm of the gardeners and scientists.

I found the lotuses particularly fascinating, because I don’t think we’ve ever had the opportunity to see them active in so many stages.

It took us until week 3 to “discover” Trattoria de Carmine, a little 16-seat restaurant where we enjoyed an amazing mid-day home-cooked meal.

Ted put it this way when he posted pictures on Facebook: We wanted some of the local experience. We found a Trattoria that was a 6 minute walk from our flat. The waiter, cook, and winemaker were all the same guy (Carmine). There was a refrigerator in the dining area where he kept the homemade wine, grappa, and “medicina”. Essentially, we had real homemade dinner for lunch (my add: gnocchi and pasta, both with beef goulash and fabulous crusty bread to sop up the gravy) and drank a whole bottle of his white wine. After lunch, we walked an additional 5 minutes to a local piazza, and had cappuccino and a brioche. It does not get any better than this. Honestly, we are just pinching ourselves. We never dreamed that we would ever be able to do the things we are doing. Heck, we are going to be in 30 different countries this year. Life, for us, isn’t just good. It is amazing. And, for me, being with the woman I love and adore makes it even more amazing.

I think HE is amazing.

Notice the lack of label on that screw-top wine bottle! Who needs a label when the winemaker is right there beside you?
There are apricot preserves inside that brioche – a typically Austrian touch.

This week we were inspired to try a new dessert: Presnitz. This pastry, which looks a bit like a huge flaky sausage roll, and is traditional to the area that includes modern-day Trieste and Slovenia, was apparently served at Castle Miramare as part of a contest between bakers to present the best sweet pastry for the Hapsburg Empress Elizabeth (the well-loved “Sissi”, of Schönbrunn fame). The dessert was awarded the title of “Preis Prinzessen” (Princess Prize), which was modified over time by the Trieste inhabitants into “Presnitz”.

To ensure we got the authentic experience, we bought our Presnitz at a Trieste pasticceria that has been baking wonderful goodies since 1836.
The filling inside the rich buttery pastry is a combination of walnuts, sugar, raisins, orange peel, candied citron, pine nuts, butter, egg whites, lemon peel, rum, cinnamon, and vanilla. Absolutely delicious!

We were lucky enough to be able to have lunch at Trattoria da Ucio, just down the street, but which had been closed for vacation until our last day in Trieste. This was another tiny (28 seat) family-run restaurant that wowed us with the quality of food produced by Papa in the tiny kitchen, assisted by his son doing prep, and Mamma serving and washing dishes. In halting Italian, I asked for spaghetti con vongole (spaghetti with clams) and the proprietress asked if I liked the look of the dish the man at an adjacent table was having. I said yes, and got spaghetti with button clams, mussels, lobster, shrimp, cod, fresh tomatoes, parsley and a liberal lashing of garlic.

I explained that Ted was “non pesce”, and got the response “quello è grave” (that’s serious) and an offer of lubjanska, which can be best described as a cross between chicken cordon bleu and chicken fried steak: pounded rib roast filets filled with prosciutto and cheese, breaded and fried crisp. From the vantage point of our table we watched the meat being pounded, the ham and cheese being sliced, and the stuffed meat being breaded and fried. Everything was “molto bene” (very good)!

Not every new discovery was amazing though. Trattoria al Moro looked great on its website and had good reviews, but despite an initially promising ambience the food didn’t compare to Carmine’s home-cooking, was more expensive, and came with the added bonus of invisible stinging insects and a dog at the adjacent table that barked throughout our whole meal. We finished uncharacteristically quickly and headed “home” for a reward of gelato.

Trattoria al Moro was not a win, despite having a pretty patio.

Yes, during our final week we continued to visit our local gelateria regularly. Limone (lemon), stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate flake), melone (cantaloupe), fragola (strawberry), nocciola (hazelnut), ciocolatta, menthe, caramello, amarena (sour cherry), mango, pistachio, caffè, zuppa inglese (English trifle) … the list of flavours we tried was a long one. No wonder I’ve gained weight in Italy!

Tomorrow we fly to England, where we’ll be based in Greenwich for a month. While we’re in transit, I’ll post a blog entry I’ve been working on that includes some reflections on these 2 months in Europe, and returning to travel in a (mostly) post-Covid19 world.

6 comments

  1. Wishing you both a speedy recovery from your mishaps. Your in house meals look absolutely delicious. I love the variety of the restaurants and all they have to offer. How do you stay so slim? Hoping you have a safe and uneventful trip to Greenwich.

    Liked by 1 person

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