My friend Kate left this morning to return to the United States. Ljubljana-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-Seattle, Seattle-home. Kate spent three months traveling in Europe, mostly sleeping on friend’s couches and working in exchange for room and board. I was lucky enough to have her sleep on my couch for her 23rd birthday, and be her last stop on her way home. For her birthday we both had one last adventure together, and took a day-trip to the Italian coastal city of Trieste, just over the border from Slovenia. It was a birthday day so perfect I decided that if my birthday this year turns out to be a wash, I’ll just pretend like last Tuesday was mine, too.
Trieste is an interesting and beautiful city. There’s no major sights to see, nothing particularly special, except in the atmosphere itself. There are very few tourists and its a traditional working port town, so there’s a bit of grit mixed in with the traditional Italian charm, making it all more appealing. I don’t want to go into the history of it all right now, but Slovenia claimed Trieste for its own at one point, and looking at the map one can see why it might make sense. It looks a bit like gerrymandering to the extreme. The people in that region are quite mixed culturally, too. The dialect of Slovenian over there is the weirdest stuff. Think like Spanglish, only… Slovenalian, or something. James Joyce actually spent quite a bit of time here, too. We found a stature of him.
The first thing we did was get some delicious cappuccinos. Have you ever heard of the coffee brand Illy? It was created right here in Trieste! (People are shocked when I tell them that Illy is fairly available in the United States. They always look a bit wounded, like we’ve stolen something, or maybe surprised that me and my countrymen are capable of appreciating good coffee.) We crammed into a tiny coffee shop, standing room only, and were served by a charming older gentleman who flipped the coffee saucers up into the air before setting them before us on the counter. While paying, we discovered that he has family from Postojna, in Slovenia. “Nasvidenje!” “Nasvidenje!” we yelled to each other as Kate and I stumbled out of the crammed shop.
It was a great start to a great day. We had no guidebook, just a recommendation for the best gelato in the city and the addresses of two cookware stores. We climbed up into the hills and had lovely views of the Adriatic, peered into churches, and stumbled across ruins. We did make it to the cookware shops, which was part of my quest to find some odd pasta-cutting implement for my mother. I don’t think I found what she was looking for, but I bought two other odd pasta-cutting tools, so I will not be coming home empty-handed. One is an adjustable pasta-cutting roller, so you can make pasta the exact diameter that you desire. The other is a small one that rolls along and creates perfectly square ravioli. Only in Italy!
The gelato was indeed fantastic, some of the best I’ve ever had. It was so good, and so Kate’s birthday, that we went twice. I had pistachio and chocolate sorbet the first time, and melon and mascarpone with walnuts the second.
It was a wonderful day trip. I’ve passed through Trieste a few times, and always wanted to get out and look around. It was a treat to finally be able to do so, and I loved it. Moreover, as Kate put it, there’s something perfect about seeing a new place with an old friend.