Let’s go to Italy for lunch! Splendid idea for a summer day trip if you are vacationing on Slovenia’s coast in Piran or Potorož. In colder months it’s also a great place to see an opera, and it’s doable by bus as a day trip from Ljubljana. Here’s how to do both:
Summer Day Trip to Trieste
We made the drive to Trieste in under two hours on a modern highway and zipped by the signs marking the border without even slowing down. No need to change money, either. Both countries are in the Euro zone. Actually, Trieste did not become a part of Italy until 1954. Before that it was ruled by the Austrians or the Venetians. The stones date back to Roman times, but there is also a strong influence from neighboring Slovenia.
Trieste has a walkable city center, once you solve the problem of where to park your car. We pulled into a huge parking garage adjacent to the railroad station. From there it was only a few blocks to the Piazza Unita del Italia, which local Slovenes call the Veliki Trg or Old Square. It is open on one end to the Adriatic Sea, and is ringed with cafes.
From the square, street signs pointed the way to a walking tour of other landmarks. This isn’t a knock-your-socks-off destination like Florence, Venice or Rome but it rewards a self-guided stroll on foot to explore the history from Roman times onward. Signs posted in several languages, including English, give a few basic facts about the landmarks. You can get by without a guidebook, but it was helpful to buy a map.
Continue up the hill to the Castello for splendid views, and a museum housing the city’s collection of Roman artifacts and vintage weapons. The city has posted this video in English with voiceover that sounds like it was done by a robot:
By the time we made the trek up, around and down the steep hills we were ready for lunch at Fratelli La Bufala on the Canal Grande. The pizza menu offered several vegetarian choices and the super cold frizzante was just what we needed!
Visiting the Miramare Castle was the highlight of our day trip to Trieste. The nicely restored rooms give insight into the life of second-tier nobility in the mid to late 1800s, including a Hapsburg son who was named Emperor of Mexico.
The approach by car is a bit tricky on a nice day, as the narrow road along the coast will be crowded with vehicles and people sunning or swimming in the sea. The waters around the castle are a marine reserve, so it’s a lot more peaceful after you park and walk inside the grounds.
Admission to the park is free, but the museum costs 8 Euros with a discount for students 25 and under. Details on their website. The parkomat pay station was broken when we visited in early August, so we paid a lady tending the gate on the way out. Open year round.
Opera Day Trip from Ljubljana by Bus
Buying Opera Tickets: It’s easy to buy tickets online for Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, the opera house in Trieste. You’ll pick up your tickets at the box office when you arrive.
Opera tickets are a bargain nearly everywhere in Europe, with a few notable exceptions like Vienna and Milan. We paid about 68 Euros for two tickets, compared to the Los Angeles opera where the cheapest seat in the house is often around $100 USD. We wish we had paid a little more to get out of the nosebleed seats, where our view of the subtitles in English and Italian was obstructed by the ceiling overhang.
Getting There: Choosing a Sunday 4 pm matinee allowed us to make this a day trip. If attending an evening performance, you may need to stay overnight. Several bus companies serve the 90-minute route between Ljubljana and Trieste. On Flixbus for about 20 euros round trip, we departed Slovenia’s capital at 10:30 am, arriving in Italy at lunchtime. Tip: reserve early on Flixbus for a cheaper fare. Also bring your passport. You’ll need to show it to board the bus.
We had plenty of time for authentic wood-fired pizza and local draft beer at Ristorante Pizza Bianco, and then toured the Museo Revoltella. This splendid, art-filled 19th century palace is the legacy of a local financier, Pasquale Revoltella, who befriended the Austrian royalty and frequently outdid them with his lavish parties. He also brought riches to his home city by developing the trade route through the Suez Canal.
Having filled our bellies and stretched our legs, we were ready to head for the opera. The classic opera house is located just off the Piazza dell Unita d’Italia. We enjoyed a performance of the rarely performed “Andrea Chenier,” by an opera company from Maribor, the second city of Slovenia.
Our opera day trip was during an exceptionally rainy spring, and not much was open on a Sunday evening. But we enjoyed waiting for the bus home at Cafe deli Specchi on the main square. Two hours flew by over margaritas and complimentary plates of finger sandwiches before we made our way back to the bus station. If you’re driving or don’t fancy a cocktail, the desserts are also famous.
Save Time and Money with Roma Pass
If you enjoyed this post and your trip includes a visit to Rome, please click on this link to buy a Roma Pass. You’ll save tons of money on sightseeing — and skip the lines, which can get pretty long in the busy summer travel season. Then check out this post for some tips on avoiding the crowds by visiting Italy in the off-season.