“Trieste has a surly grace. If one likes it, it is like a rascal, harsh and voracious, with blue eyes and hands too big to offer a flower; like a love with jealousy. (…) My town that is in every of its part alive, has a nook made just for me and my life, pensive and reserved.” Umberto Saba, “Trieste and a woman”, 1910
The poet Saba was quite correct while describing the city of Trieste and its surroundings. Despite being a graceful city with a long and proud history, the environment that surrounds it is formed of the unique karstic calcareous rocks, on which only plants with roots strong enough to pierce them are able to grow.
The shoreline is not any different. The natural beaches of Trieste are made of pebbles and stones being slowly washed away by the rhythm of the tides. This does not make them any less beautiful than sand beaches, nonetheless, if that is not what you are into, the inhabitants of Trieste have built for the past 200 years artificial shorelines out of pavement or concrete, which makes them unique in their architecture and incredibly pleasant for sunbathing, the local “sport” in Trieste.
Here’s a list of some of both natural and artificial beaches, and even if you are more of a “sand-person”, I promise you will not be disappointed by the experience and you could easily compete with locals in their “tanning competition”!
The waterfront Barcola serves as both beach and promenade for walks (also in the coldest of winters). It is also one of the centres of the famous “Barcolana regatta”, the largest sailing race in the world, which takes place every year in the first half of October. It might be a bit too cold to take a swim, but it might be a cool idea to come to Trieste during the regatta, as the city is filled up with vivid colours, flags, stands with tasty food and live concerts!
During summertime Barcola becomes one of the most popular destinations for people of all generations, even though it is made of pavement (which can get really hot in the hottest hours, so make sure to bring your thongs!).
13 kilometres long, the shoreline is divided into different areas: initially there is the “pineta” (where maritime pines and holm oaks provide some shade and refuge from the sun), the “topolini” (literally translated into “Micky Mouses”, they are semi-circular light blue terraces with a particular shape that, if seen from above, reminds you of the ears of Micky Mouse) and then the “bivio”, where the waterfront splits into two roads, one leading to the Miramare Castle.
The peculiarity of this place is that you have to make your way through the rocks to reach the sea, but don’t worry, some metal ladders spread all along the beach have been installed, leading directly into deep water.
La Lanterna (”Pedocin”)
La Lanterna is a bathing facility in the very centre of Trieste and is considered to be a historic place, and the last resort in Europe divided by gender. It is therefore a throwback to a time when Trieste was still under Austro-Hungarian rule. It was indeed 1903 when the municipality decided to build baths in the centre of Trieste, one of these was the bathing establishment La Lanterna.
In the beginning, the beach was divided by a simple fence in order to prevent any act contrary to public decency and against the morals of that time. Those who dared to cross the fence could face severe sanctions. In 1959 the barrier was torn down in order to expand the beach reserved for women, as they have always been the most assiduous visitors.
The barrier that divides the two beaches is still there since 1903 and, with its light blue walls (the same colour the bathing facility had when it first opened its doors), it maintains a timeless charm. If you want to live the true “Triestine” experience, I would recommend you to give it a try one day! You will find there mostly women with children and pensioners, La Lanterna is part of the culture of this city and this should not be seen as moralistic and traditionalistic, it’s the contrary in fact!
Locals find it a very liberating experience, especially women who can sunbathe topless and don’t feel judged. Whether you want to relax, sunbathe or play cards, this is the place. Entire generations pass and go, but this beach remains the same as when it was first opened more than 100 years ago.
Beaches along the “Costiera triestina”
If you prefer enjoying a more peaceful spot, there are some cosy natural beaches and bays all along the Gulf, you just have to arm yourself with a bottle full of water and go downhill through the many steep trails along the Costiera.
Come on, you can do it! Think of it this way: when you get to sea level, you have a little paradise on Earth with crystal clear water to welcome you.
Since I was born and raised in Trieste, I feel like I should tell you this little tidbit: during summer local workers often flee to these more secluded spots in order to escape the city hubbub after a tough work shift (my father used to do it too when he came back from work on his way to Trieste). Okay, sorry for the sentimentality and nostalgia from childhood memories, now let’s get back to our natural beaches.
- One of these is easily reachable from the path that starts from the “Tenda Rossa restaurant” that will lead you to the small port of Santa Croce.
- Another free beach worth mentioning is the “Filtri” beach, a small beach made of white pebbles overlooking crystal clear water. The beach per sé is not equipped like a resort, but the Bellariva restaurant is close by, so should you feel hungry, you now have a safe port.
- There are also some nudist beaches surrounded by nature, like the “Liburnia” beach and the “Costa dei Barbari” beach. If you feel inspired, try going there. They are very quiet places, there are no disturbing noises, only nature talking.
- Other very picturesque spots worth mentioning are “Le Ginestre”, a very peculiar place, where the cliffs in the background are covered with Spanish brooms flowers, and “Canovella degli Zoppoli”.
Of course I have limited myself to mentioning only the spots I consider to be most characteristic of the area, but there are a lot of resorts along the Gulf and also other more hidden natural beaches which, I’m afraid, will have to remain so.
I think that part of discovering a new place is to go looking for hidden treasures. Well, there are some other small and unspoiled hidden beaches all along the Costiera, I won’t tell you right away where they are, it is up to you to find out.
If you want other reasons to visit Trieste you should also check out this blog: A first taste of Trieste: 5 reasons to visit a true gem of North-Eastern Italy.
Map of Trieste beaches
Day trip into Slovenia
Neighbouring Slovenia makes a fun day-trip and an easy zip across the border. What many people don't know about the country is how beautiful the beaches are there too! If you have time, check out these pristine beach spots only a quick drive from Trieste.