The Guardian (UK) named its 6 walking wonders of Europe – and the beautiful Italian port of Trieste made the list. ItalyNews editor, Deborah Cater, agrees whole-heartedly with the title.
For me, the best way to explore a city is to head off on foot with barely a glance at map or guidebook. As you stroll a town or city’s back streets or clamber a hill for the views, you’re often rewarded with tucked-away treasures.
The Italian habit of passeggiata should be indulged by all. The UK’s Guardian newspaper named 6 cities as European walking wonders. Having meandered through 5 of them and with the sixth on the list for next year, I agree with the shortlist. Trieste, above all, is an absolute pleasure. We look at all six on the list, starting with Italy’s northern city.
As well as passeggiata, the Italians love good coffee, often combining the two – and that’s just what you can do in Trieste. This port city on the Adriatic is renowned for its superb coffee.
James Joyce plotted his masterpiece Ulysses as he walked the streets of Trieste. From its pretty seafront to expansive squares, and of course coffee houses, it is one of Italy’s unsung beauties. One of the grander cafes, the Caffè degli Specchi stands on the main square, the Piazza Unità d’Italia. Caffè San Marco is a spacious bookshop-cafe with an interior in the Vienna secession style (and upwards of 50 types of coffee available).
And why is Trieste the place for coffee? It has been at the centre of the bean-importing trade for centuries.
If you have energy for a long walk, continue along the wooded gravel path of the Strada Napoleonica towards Prosecco. You’ll see the Castello di Miramare, the summerhouse of Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte, at the foot of the cliff.
Alternatively, climb the hill to see the cathedral, visit the fort of San Giusto and the war memorial. The views are spectacular.
The historic core of Seville is a tightly-knit bundle of plazas, lanes and palaces. However, across the Guadalquivir River is the barrio of Triana – now you have a space worthy of a lengthy paseo.
Next to the cathedral is the Real Alcázar, a complex of palaces, fortifications, patios, reflective pools and beautiful gardens and olive groves laid out on a neat grid. Developed in the 11th century, when Seville was under the rule of the Arab Muslim Abbādid dynasty, it was added to and modified many times on its way to becoming a Christian royal residence.
Head over to Triana, meanwhile, and you find a different Seville. This is where the history of its ceramics industry, flamenco, Roma people and days as an important port are reflected. As the sun sets, grab a fino in Calle Betis before heading further into the barro for flamenco and tapas.
Vague, unplanned walks around the former East and West still demonstrate differences. There is the tank-friendly width of Karl-Marx-Allee and the glitzy shops along the Kurfürstendamm. For those who like something more planned than vague, take in the Hansa Quarter (Hansaviertel), a showcase estate where renowned architects (including Alvar Aalto, Walter Gropius, Arne Jacobsen and Oscar Niemeyer) designed modernist residential buildings at a site destroyed in the Second World War.
Try the Tiergarten inner-city park or Alexanderplatz, which still feels like something from the old East. For nice coffee shops there’s Prenzlauer Berg. Berlin is big, however, so jump on the S-bahn train if the legs are feeling the distance.
In his essay ‘Hashish in Marseilles’, philosopher and urbanist Walter Benjamin recounted an evening strolling around cafes after consuming the drug: “I now suddenly understood how to be a painter – had it not happened to Rembrandt and many others? – ugliness could appear as the true reservoir of beauty, better than any treasure cask, a jagged mountain with all the inner gold of beauty gleaming from the wrinkles, glances, features.”
Some visitors today may still find it ugly, although others may see the city as a romantic disorder of run-down districts cosying up to well-heeled ones. However, there’s no need to resort to hashish to find the beauty in Marseilles, an artisanal pastis at the old port will blur the lines sufficiently.
A stop-over on my way to the UK, gave me 10 hours to explore Copenhagen. Having taken the train from airport to city centre, I set off to explore this bicycle-friendly city on foot.
Starting at the most photographed spot in the city, Nyhavn Harbour, follow the water before looping back takes in some of the most popular sites. The multi-coloured buildings, many of which are now bars and restaurants, with the sailing ships understandably bobbing in front, make Nyhavn a photographic dream. From there head as if you’re going out to sea.
The striking statue of Mary Thomas is the first Danish statue commemorating a black woman. “I am Queen Mary” sits outside Copenhagen’s West Indian Warehouse, which once stored sugar, rum and other goods produced by Denmark’s former colonies in the Caribbean.
The Little Meremaid statue, Amalienborg Palace Museum, Castle, Frederik’s Church, King’s Garden and Rosenborg Castle all provide photographic opportunities. Although the price of a coffee and Danish pastry is also breath-taking.
Towns spread over steep hills can make for hard hiking. Lisbon sits on seven hills (reminiscent of Rome in that respect at least). Climb the streets of the Alfama, Bairro Alto and Chiado barrios and you’ll find lovely bars and cafes, some of which fill with the melancholy strains of live fado after dark.
Lisbon’s Alfama district, with its labyrinthine alleyways, hidden courtyards and curving shadow-filled lanes, is a magical place. The hills of Lisbon, often topped with fortifications over the years, provide amazing vistas. Roam the snaking ramparts and pine-shaded courtyards of Castelo de São Jorge for superlative views over the city’s red rooftops to the river. Its camera obscura gives you unparalleled 360º views across the city.