Driving to Trieste took approx. 7 hours (with an intermediate stop for dinner), changing drivers every 2 hours. Some traffic, mainly before the toll booths. Note: on a 3-lane highway, the slow drivers go on the right, the fast ones on the left, and the normal ones in the middle. On a 2-lane highway, the slow drivers go on the right, the fast ones on the left, and the normal ones are fucked: if you stay on the right you are going too slowly, if you try to go on the left you have the annoying italian drivers every 1-2 minutes flashing their lights at you, even if you are following the car in front of you, because everyone should make room for the kings of the asphalt!
1st day: Trieste. The synagoge, the orthodox church of St. Spiridione, a sculpture of James Joyce, the Piazza Unita d’Italia, but most interestingly, struggling against the Bora, the quasi-permanent local wind which makes the Vardaris of Salonicco seem like a gentle breeze! On the Lungomare (promenade) you could actually see people walking while leaning sideways to compensate for the wind!! Another interesting sight was the Castle of St. Giusto, with not much to see except for a very well-done (but too long) exhibition organized by the Hellenic Foundation for Culture (titled «Il Furto della Storia», the robbery of history) about the stealing of ancient national treasures in the last decades… Noteworthy: the UK signed the UN bill against illegal purchasing of national treasures only in 2003!
Question: What is it with Italian restaurants and timetables? At 12:05 the kitchen was not yet open (we were told to come back in half an hour), then at 14:45 it was already closed. Apparently in Italy when sightseeing in a place you have to organize your visits around the whims of the Italian cooks! (That’s why I took with me the card from the restaurant in Ljubljana that said «open from 07:00 to 23:00»).
2nd day: Venice. Train to Venezia S. Lucia (which is actually on the main island!), the train completely full in the last part of the trip. Visiting the chiesa di S. Rocco, the chiesa della S. Maria dei Frari (with some very amazing pieces of art inside, like the Macchina Macabra, as well as the pyramide-shaped grave of Canova). Then on to the S. Barnaba which was a church converted into a 2-year long exhibition of working models of DaVinci’s machines; really-really fascinating (for an engineer :-). The S. Moisè, the S. Stefano (with a roof resembling a boat’s keel) and finally the famous P.za S. Marco, with long queues to enter the church and the tower. Afterwards we asked around for the price for a ride on one of the gondole, but €80 was too much, so we just took the regular boat to the Fondamente Nuove (for €6 each) and then walked to the Ponte di Rialto and the train station to go back. On the trip home I enjoyed a very tasty Italian lollipop..
3rd day: we miss (by 2 minutes) the 9:04 train to Venice, and since the next one was at 10:45, we decided to leave Venice for the next (and last) day and instead see some more things in the vicinity: the Miramare castle, with a beautiful garden around it and inside furniture and paintings exhibitions, along with the life stories of Maximilian&Charlotte and of Duke Amadeo d’Aosta. In the evening we tried to find a restaurant with a nice view of the city and the gulf, but it seemed impossible, so we ended up in a greek restaurant («Filoxenia») in the centre of Trieste; the food was excellent and mostly indistinguishable from the original greek one!
4th day: Muggia (a small village on the sea just before the border with Slovenia). Then we decided Venice was not worth the trouble and decided to change route in favour of Ljubljana, Slovenia. The highways were excellent, the city was beautiful (some call it a smaller version of Prague), with a 2nd hand market along the river, several churches, a castle on a hill and quite good food at a restaurant called Sokol (highlights: a mushroom soup inside a loaf of bread, some strange contorni, a desert called «prekmurska gibanica«). In front of the Ljubljana University we witnessed an excellent example of a man who does not know how to take pictures: in the picture are our entire bodies, including a lot of the pavement in front of us, and less than half of the beautiful university building behind us.. A second guy (after precise directions from my part) did a much better job! And a funny (to me) story: a king built a bridge across the Ljubljana river, and named it after himself. Then he put a pair of dragon sculptures guarding each entrance, and since then it’s called the Dragon Bridge, and no one remembers the name of the King who built it 🙂
On the trip back we met much less traffic than the first time, mainly because no trucks are allowed to travel on the Italian highways on weekends..