Tuesday: Trieste

Today we visited the Castle of San Guisto, a fortress that protected the town in the late 1300s when it was under Austrian rule. Most of the castle is now a museum to display ancient armory, and the range of very old sword types is sort of startling, but impressive. Written explanations in English were throughout the armory collection, which made it more interesting.

I most enjoyed the panoramic views of the harbor from the windows of the castle and then out on the back deck (they probably didn’t call it a deck). Even with the constant rain today, it was still something to be seen. Afterwards, I met Marija, who runs the visitors center there. She wanted to talk about the Chicago Bears, who I know almost nothing about. Her husband runs football camps in Trieste and invites retired American football players to come over and participate so Marije knows many of them. She was fun to chat with.

Last night we tried to get into the Antiquarian Umberto Saba bookstore, a historical landmark I had read about and was anxious to check out. It wasn’t open when we went, so we tried back today but it was still closed. Perhaps the owner is sick, although I did read that he tends to keep his own hours despite what is posted.

On to lunch at the wonderful, charming Tavernetta. This small restaurant was fantastic – what could be better than five enticing choices written on a blackboard and a kind owner who was happy to make us comfortable.

Today we experienced Trieste’s “bora” – the intense winds that are unique to the area. When they are accompanied by rain they are called the “dark bora.” So today was a dark bora day, with winds so strong they pulled you with your umbrella. Or in the case of my traveling companion, wrecked your umbrella altogether.


photos: The castle provided the most beautiful views of Trieste; dessert- fantastic; part of the sword display at the castle museum.

Monday: Trieste

Trieste is a beautiful seaport city with a complicated history. It is just 12 miles from Slovenia, and has a wide mix of cultures. Trieste became an important music and literature center in the 19th century. Many writers, poets, and otherwise well known people have lived in Trieste: Italo Svavo and James Joyce among the more interesting.With all that said, it is a very cool, non-touristy place with excellent restaurants, bakeries, bookstores, and an arts scene that won’t really get underway for a few more weeks – late November.We had read about the osmisa, a tradition unique to the Trieste area. Osmisas are gathering places in a person’s home. Each day of the week, some of them are open. Anyone can go.We checked the osimisa website to see that of about 15 total, five of them were open near (30 minutes away) us today. We chose the one that sounded the most interesting (the owner makes honey, cheese, and salami) and set out. Like most, its open hours were pretty much all day: 9am-midnight.The osimisa was not easy to find, even with GPS. There are dirt roads, narrow passages, and unmarked roads, and then finally a small sign.We walked into the home sort of timidly. No problem – they welcomed us and the owner went to get his wife once he realized we spoke English.We ordered red wine (they make it), cheese and salami. We sat by the fireplace and it was a very interesting, very unique experience. People stopped in every few minutes for a quick glass of wine, or to sit and eat.We enjoyed our wine and snack (which turned out to be lunch) for about 45 minutes. I wished I had brought my book in from the car since it was a perfect reading setup. We left after paying €9.30 (about $12) for all we had.A traveling group of folk singers randomly stops in at osimisas during the week – in the early evening – and it would be fun to be in one when they showed up.photos: the center of the city at night; at the osimisa; interesting windows we walked past

Sunday: Trieste

We said goodbye to our excellent Viareggio host, Roberto, and left for Trieste at about 9:30. It was a nice, sunny morning – perfect for our five-hour drive.We stopped in Rovigo, a city about three hours outside Viareggio and had lunch at Tavernetta Dante 1936, a small place where we were lucky to get a table. When we walked in and said we hadn’t called first, it looked at first as though we didn’t have a chance. After a moment, we were seated and content. The restaurant’s eight tables filled up quickly.The menu was included mainly fish dishes and we both decided on spaghetti with clams. Whenever I see tiny clams being served, it brings me back to my youth and growing up on the bay. Little clams there were seed clams and illegal to dig. This is certainly a different variety but I still reminisce about clamming in the bay.We continued our drive to Trieste, and it is so close to Slovenia we may check it out while we are here over the next few days. Now it is dark and we are happy to have easily found our lodging.photos: Clams; a crazy 20€ ($25) lollipop at a rest stop; our neighborhood in Trieste at night

Saturday: Viareggio

Today was our last day in this city and we enjoyed it. We got some food to make for dinner, we found a laundromat and did our wash, I had a hair appointment, and we strolled around our corner of the city. We stopped in to say goodbye to a few friends we made while here – what a friendly community of people who were so kind to us Americans who speak very little Italian.

It was pleasant weather almost all day, although about ten degrees cooler than it has been all week – it is in the mid- fifties.

We stopped in to a coffee shop after dinner and had a final pastry before we head off to Trieste in the morning.


photos: Elena – who runs the grocery in town; Daniela – who runs a hair salon; sfogliatelle – lobster claws pastry. My favorite. Lucky they are small here.

Friday: Viareggio

Today was mainly a relaxing day. I did some reading and some work, and we went to lunch in the city – the same restaurant as Tuesday since we liked it so much. I have been eating squid at every opportunity since it is so fresh and we don’t have it often/ever in the Midwest.

We did some planning for the weeks ahead and walked around the city.

Of course it was raining.


Photos (it was not much of a photo day, especially with no sun) – a typical apartment building in the city; my favorite food around here; our home here.

Thursday: Manarola

We visited Manarola in the Cinque Terre region today. The five old towns are all linked along the Italian Riviera coastline. In good weather it is possible – and fun – to hike from town to town. This takes about six hours with few stops, but to enjoy the towns and their breathtaking scenery, at least a couple days’ trip is a better idea.

Another option to visit the towns is to take the train from La Spezia, which stops in each town. The stops are about five – eight minutes apart, so getting off the train and getting back on later is easy.

We did none of those, but still enjoyed a very nice day. Since two of the hiking trails were closed today and the others were full of mud because of all the rain the area has had in the past few weeks, hiking was off the list. Instead, we took the train to the second stop: the town of Manarola. It has arguably the most beautiful views in the region.

We arrived there at about 11a.m.(the La Spezia train station is about 45 minutes from where we are staying). We were immediately amazed at the colorful buildings of the city seemingly built into a mountain.

We walked past some fishing boats that were covered up, and I imagined they had been used that morning to catch fish for the community and the restaurants. There were about a dozen boats near the launch area.

We hiked up on the narrow trail above the sea and the view got more and more fantastic. The only people around were a large group of Korean tourists and their guides. A tour guide didn’t seem necessary though – all we did for a long time was just walk and look and take photos.

Most of the restaurants have closed for the season but we found one that looked good and we shared delicious spaghetti with seafood. Soon the large group of tourists found their way to the restaurant too, and the atmosphere became lively and fun.

I asked our waiter about the fishing boats – what time did they go out in the morning and what did they catch. He laughed and said the last fisherman died two years ago and the boats are used as pleasure boats by their owners, who don’t typically take them out this time of year.

Fantasy squelched.

We walked around a bit more, got some gelato (the owner said he is closing tomorrow for the season), met two American couples and chatted with them for a while, then took the train back to La Spezia.

photos: the fishing boats that apparently just sit there must of the time, to my disappointment; two beautiful views of the city

Wednesday: Viareggio

It rained for so long and so hard last night that the power was out this morning and water had come in under the balcony door in both of the two bedrooms in our house. Since the floors are a nicely finished wood, I dont think water comes in very often if at all. It seemed to be an unusually heavy and constant downpour.

Our host texted me first thing this morning to tell me where the circuit box is and how to reset the breaker. A half hour after I did that, it rained hard again and the power went out. I reset for a second time and we were good (= hot coffee).

It continued to pour most of the day, with thunderstorms regularly. We had planned to take the train to Cinque Terre today, but will try that tomorrow. Today we ran some errands, got food to make dinner, and hung out – a nice quiet day except for the rain hitting the roof.

photos: a lime tree across the street from where we are staying. The limes are huge and round; our Airbnb home; the scene almost all day today