“Myself, my husband, Abdou, and my 12-year-old daughter, Amina, spend Friday night in our house on Grado, a little island between Udine, where we live, and Trieste. We always head into Trieste on Saturday morning, taking the sea road as it has beautiful views along the way.
Once there, we go to the coffee houses in the centre of town, on the edge of the old ghetto. Our favourite is called Chocolat. Trieste used to be famous for its little coffee makers and Illy is still based here – in fact, the family are friends of mine. We have a coffee and chocolate cake for breakfast around big outdoor tables – which are traditional here, rather than small tables – and we usually know a few people.
After breakfast, we’ll walk along the windy dock-front, with its perfume of the sea, and then back into town, to the Revoltella contemporary art gallery, housed in a building renovated by Carlo Scarpa in the 1970s. We also visit the Lipanje Puntin gallery, which is run by friends. I always go and say, “Hi, how’s it going?” and look at the installations. Although I appreciate painting, installations are my favourite medium. I understand the language, which is close to design – it’s about putting objects in space, and working with balance and atmosphere – although, of course, with art there’s no function, just feeling.
When it’s time to go for lunch, we meet up with friends, such as Lorenzo who works with us at Moroso, and his family. We’ll go to a typical Trieste restaurant, maybe Trattoria da Giovanni or Da Pepi, which are a kind of buffet – like a sushi bar – where we’ll eat bollito (boiled meat), which is fabulous with spicy white raffano (horseradish). These places are always steamy from all the boiling, and instead of sitting down and having one or two courses, you move around to talk to people – it’s very popular and informal.
In the afternoon, we head to the Parco di Miramare around the Castle, which was built by the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Austria in the 1850s and is like a big white rock on the sea edge. All around are beautiful exotic gardens; we’ll have a fantastic walk, and the kids can run around. Then at around 5pm, we’ll go back into town for coffee at my favourite literary café, San Marco, where you can detect the atmosphere of old Vienna, but it’s also very Italian. James Joyce started writing Ulysses here and there’s a beautiful statue of him on nearby Ponte Rosso. Later, we have a fish supper at Nero di Seppia, which isn’t the most expensive restaurant but is my favourite.
If we don’t head back to Grado on Saturday night, we’ll sleep at the Hotel Riviera, a beautiful old palace, high up on the road that comes into Trieste. Then we can wake up on Sunday, have breakfast and pass the morning reading while facing the sun and the sea. It’s the perfect place for a quiet moment. There’s also a lovely walk down through the garden and along the sea front. You can walk for miles, and all the locals seem to do it – it’s very, very nice.
For lunch, again with friends, we’ll head to Carso, just outside the city – a giant limestone and wooded area over 300m above sea level. There are beautiful walks, villages and farmhouses that serve food to the public for several days of the year, such as the Azienda Zidarich in Prepotto. It’s very Slavic, as you’re only five minutes from the Slovenian border.
We’ll finish with a walk along the famous Napoleonica road, said to be built by Napoleon’s armies and lined with wild herbs. You don’t see anything but the sea and the blue of the sky. Only the locals seem to know of this place, which is the case for the whole of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region; we’re at the end of Italy and few people come here – but to me, it’s paradise.”