One day Mike and I took our bicycles into Trieste. We had two aims. The first was to do one of our audio tours of Trieste combing both cycling and walking. The other, more interesting aim, was to find two places where my mother had had her picture taken 72 years ago in Trieste and try and take a picture of the same spot today. We managed to do most of the audio tour and, as you will see below, we did find the places that my mother visited many decades ago.
The main square in Trieste is Unity Square, which is said to be Europe’s largest seaside square. The buildings facing onto the square as especially impressive. We enjoy taking these self-guided audio guides because we learn so much and appreciate and understand what we are seeing much better. Having time for multiple visits to any city is lovely because that means that some days we can just wander wherever our interests take us without being in “learning” mode. The statue shown here is called the Four Continents on Unity Square. After listening to the interesting information in the audio guide I looked up the statue using the web’s AI tools. Here is what I found.
The Four Continents statue was created in the late 18th century. The four female allegorical figures represent Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, which were the continents known in the Western world during the 18th century.
- Europe: A woman holding a scepter and a globe, representing the power and knowledge of the continent.
- Asia: A woman wearing a turban and holding a bowl of spices, representing the riches of the continent.
- Africa: A man holding a palm leaf and a lion’s skin, representing the wildness and exoticism of the continent.
- America: A woman wearing a feathered headdress and holding a bow and arrow, representing the primitiveness and savagery of the continent.
The fountain is also decorated with four statues of rivers: the Nile, the Ganges, the Danubio, and the Rio de la Plata. These rivers represent the major waterways of the four continents.
The statue is intended to show the global reach of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, of which Trieste was an important port city.
In addition to these impressive “meaningful” statues, I like “normal people” statues as well. Europe does such a great job on both. Here is one that was on a dock in Trieste that I quite liked.
Trieste has an interesting Roman history. In one area we saw a old Roman gate from the days when there was a wall around Trieste. Today there is no wall, but the gate is still there. It has been well attached to a standing building. Here is a picture of a Roman era outdoor theatre that we saw riding around.
One of the nice things about these self-guided tours is that you can really go where you want and catch up with the tour at any point. I made it a point of criss-crossing Trieste’s Grand Canal which is lovely.
Many of you know that during Covid I had all my photos and many of my mother’s scanned and digitized. I now keep them in a super photo organizing app called Mylio, that runs on Windows, Android and Apple without the need for a cloud service. In 1953 my mother and a friend visited Trieste where her sister and brother-in-law were stationed after the war. I had two pictures of Mum with her friend and her sister at different WW I monuments. We decided to try and take photos from the same spot 72 years later.
Getting the first picture was easy as it was right on Unity Square at the base of two large flag poles. Getting the second picture, shown below, was much more difficult. It was up the hill where the old castle was located. The path we found to get up there was made up of really, really old cobblestones. The unevenness of the cobblestones combined with the steepness meant that we had to walk or push our bikes up much of the hill. It was not easy. After we got to the top and took the picture, we saw that there were a few cars up there. If we were willing to go out of our way, which is easy on e-bikes, there was a real road to ride down. I wish that we had found it earlier.
On our last free day Mike and I decided to drive to Venice and listen and walk (no bikes allowed) to another self-guided audio tour. This one was supposed to be 3 hours long, 21 stops and 5 km (3 miles) of walking. Well we spent 6 hours there, finishing the tour in the dark. I walked almost 15,000 steps, so a lot more than 5 km. We were exhausted but pleased that we had done it. In 2021 Mike and I flew into Venice and had booked a hotel for 3 or 4 days. It was Valentines Day and I was quite ill. At 1am in the morning I remember going out to the car in the dark to see if I could find some meds that I knew I had in my suitcase. Early the next morning we decided to leave without ever visiting the city. If I was going to be ill, I was going to be ill at “home” or at least in our RV.
Previously, in 2006 Mike and I rented a boat and spent one week travelling in the Venetian lagoon and mooring overnight on some of the main islands next to Venice. We took a vaporetto or water bus back and forth between the islands. Well, it turns out that we got to travel on a vaporetto this time as well. Although the cost of the tickets has certainly increased it is still a great way to commute. Mike and I took a 40-minute ride from the car park to San Marcos Square around the outside of the island. 6 hours later we continued the round trip this time up the Grand Canal and back to our car. It was a nice addition to the day.
I cannot get over the crowds in San Marcos Square. The first time Mike and I ever went to Venice was in 1977. I disliked the crowds then and it has only got worse – and this is only mid-November. You couldn’t pay me to visit this city in July or August. The further you get from San Marcos Square the less pedestrian traffic you encounter. I remembered that from our previous visit as well.
If you look closely at the picture above, you will see that there are people in rubber boots walking along a raised platform. It was just the same when we where here 17 years ago. The difference is that, in the meantime, Venice has invested massive amounts of money building a seawall that can be raised to prevent flooding. I read somewhere that over the last few years the water levels have been getting much higher than ever expected. It sounds like this is happening all over the world.
If you click on the picture above to enlarge it and then hold your phone or your computer over your head, you might start to get an idea of what you are looking at. This is the ceiling of the Church of San Pantalon. It is said to be the largest ceiling painting on canvas in the world. The artist spent about 25 years creating the painting and then, just as he finished, he fell off the scaffolding and died. The things you learn on these audio tours.
Mike enjoyed the day, but I think he would have preferred to split the 6 hours into 2 different visits. We may go back in the spring. There are a few places, away from San Marcos Square, that I would like to see again. I must admit that overall, Venice isn’t my favourite place or Mikes. We have seen lots of cities with canals that are very pretty, just without the gondolas. I will say that the artwork in some of the churches is pretty spectacular but it is even more so in Florence. That said, if you are anywhere within a few hours of Venice, you cannot not go there. And, when you do, it will be a memorable visit.
After San Marcos Square, the next place that we hear the most about is the area around the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal. It was actually quite dark when Mike and I got there at the end of our tour. It is amazing what the cameras built into phones can do these days. All along the alleys leading up the bridge are shops and kiosks for tourists. They did look quite nice lit up at night.
Italy isn’t a country that we can explore easily in our North American sized motorhome. We have been on roads in our car, when I was so glad all the parked cars had their mirrors folded in. If they hadn’t, we would have made it. Without Mike driving, I would never have made it even with folded mirrors. Where we have the motorhome at the moment is right off a main highway from Slovenia. The last time we stayed for quite a while in Italy we were only about a mile inside the northern border from Slovenia. Any other trips have to be done in the car or our e-bikes.
I am finishing writing this post on our flight back to Canada for the winter. Mike and I will be returning to our RV in the spring. I will write one more post with a quick summary of our 2023 trip and then take a break while we are in Canada. After that Mike and I will be back here in the spring to start our 2024 season. I will keep the “Current Status” section on our home page up-to-date as things firm up.
Here is a nice picture of the Grand Canal in Venice to finish this post.