It’s been awhile since I posted on Friuli, but the gracious city of Trieste needs it’s moment of blog glory. We were undecided about going to Trieste, it’s at the very eastern edge of Italy and it meant that we couldn’t do a loop but would have to ride the same way out there and back. Let’s put it this way, no matter how out of the way it seems: go to Trieste.
Trieste’s history is unusually shrouded in myths and legends: Jason and the Argonauts landed in Trieste on their search for the Golden Fleece. It was an outpost of Ancient Rome and there are significant Roman ruins still standing. In 1382 Trieste was officially under the Austrian Hapsburg rule and it remained an Austrian city until the end of World War I when it was annexed to Italy.
We rode on the Costeria road from Monfalcone to Trieste which it turns out is a very popular bike route with the fast biking lycra crowd. The road is in good condition and hugs the water so we had to make a number of stops just to admire the view and that wild rock tunnel. There is a beautiful seaside esplanade leading into the city, with small beaches and little showers set up so that wind surfers can clean up before they head back into town. Extremely civilized.
Not wanting to risk missing lunch, we stopped and ate at a little sandwich café in the formal gardens surrounding Castella Miramare. No hot food, just pannini, which was fine with us as it was so delicious to sit in the sun and smell the sea. Jeff starts to chat up the bar man and pretty soon Jeff comes back outside with an incredible glass of 2006 Skerk unfiltered chardonnay and a very large smile on his face. One of the most appealing things about this Friuli adventure was finding so many people passionate about their wine. No matter how humble the place, the wine was always stellar.
Little did we know that Trieste is also home to “Barcolana”, one of the largest regatta racing events in the world and we had come into town about two days before the main event. The most incredible sailboats just kept coming into port. I don’t know a thing about racing sailboats except that they are very lovely to look at. By Friday, there were so many boats and masts you could barely see across the harbor.
After a long ramble exploring the city, we were hungry, it was dinnertime and someone we met had recommended Arco Riccardo ristorante. The Arco Riccardo is an intact Roman arch that is at the entrance to this lovely little retreat of a restaurant. The lights are soothing, the music is relaxing and the food is sublime. The overall experience is sensuous and satisfying. Bits of smooth pureed baccala, tiny marinated anchovies, perfectly grilled gamberoni and a knock out drop-dead bottle of Kante 2004 unfiltered chardonnay. Even though the wine was unfiltered it wasn’t cloudy and it had a gorgeous nose full of fresh cut apples that gave way to a persistent violet finish. I’ll probably never find that wine again, and I’ll have to live on the memory of it, but that’s ok because it was one of life’s great moments.
The next day we decided to ride out to the small fishing village of Muggia that is truly the last stop in Italy. I do not recommend bike riding to Muggia! It’s a lot of nasty highway and tunnels and not at all fun, but the insanely good lunch we had there made up for that rotten ride. We wandered into the tiny Enoteca di Patriarca and when I say tiny I mean it had three tables and one of the tables was occupied by the owner/waiter/husband/sommelier. His wife is the cook and man can she cook. We’re both fans of ‘sarde in saor’. It’s a typical dish of the region, marinated sardines with onions. The sardines are very lightly fried, then covered with hot onions and left to marinate for a day or two. This lady’s sarde in saor was hands down the best we’ve ever tasted. I pestered her for the recipe and she let us know that Muggia is home to the best tasting sardines. You can find them in Grado or Venice, but they can’t compare to Muggia sardines. Who knew?
The other brings-tear-to-your-eyes dish was a simple plate of grilled ‘caposanto’ or scallops in their shells. Perfectly done, sweet, tender, yielding like a virgin on her wedding night. OK, I’m getting carried away but these were some seriously good scallops. We floated on a happy foodie cloud all the way back to Trieste.
The next day we reluctantly headed out of town, actually we were kicked out. There wasn’t a hotel room to be had because of Barcolana, so we packed up our gear and headed to the oh so chic beach town of Grado.