Don’t be fooled by the title, because it was anything but! As they often say on TV after extreme events, ‘don’t try this at home’ unless you’re with someone who knows what they’re doing. In the case of Brexit, the Brits never had a plan A, let alone a Plan B, but not so with Alessandra.
On Saturday, Plan A was to meet at the Giardino Pubblico and take her car to Basovizza for a semi-serious hike (an oxymoron?). With a flat battery, Plan A was dumped, and she seamlessly applied Plan B that entailed heading off on foot to the viale XX Settembre, then climbing several sets of steps to the wild blue yonder – and the skies were fairly blue after the previous few days of rain. What followed was like Alice disappearing down the rabbit hole into a magical world of make believe. Who’d have thunk it? Over the next 12+ km, I would see such a wide variety of interesting things and scenery so close to the centre of Trieste. The city never ceases to amaze, and a casual visitor might be none the wiser.
For most of the hike we encountered barely a soul, except at two mansion houses atop the hill overlooking the Adriatic. After a long set of steps, we were up in the woods on an old gravel road. With knowledge of the history of the area, Alessandra told me that the extensive woods – now the Parco Urbano Farneto — had once belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef, who used them as hunting grounds for wild boar and deer. Apparently, one very cold winter when the temperatures dropped to -20°C, the townsfolk came up to chop down some of the trees for firewood to keep warm. But the emperor had his soldiers patrol the area to stop this happening.
How beautiful it is to walk among the trees in winter when the leaves are absent and we get to see so many fascinating shapes, silhouetted against the blue sky, with the added bonus of seeing impressive houses in colourful pastels. Then, all of a sudden, we were out of the woods, crossed the road, and there was the Emperor’s magnificent hunting lodge. A mere lodge to him, this would be a palace for we mere mortals.
Next up, after crossing another road we reached the fence of the park that surrounds the villa that once served as the home of Baron Pasquale Revoltella. First sighting was what might be described as a “folly”, a kind of gazebo. Just inside the main gate is the delightful lodge, with the inscription “Portiere”, obviously almost untouched since it was built. There is also a large old greenhouse, what appears to be a chapel, and the lodge itself with intricate metalwork, and several statues.
After a brief stop to take on water, we headed for more remote areas, following a steep ravine with a narrow stream at the bottom. On a fairly steep and muddy path, among the trees, we came across several clusters of primroses, often the first flowers to herald the start of Spring. Out into the open, we first followed the bed of an old railway track, encountering a magnificent magnolia tree in full bloom, then an old bridge over a currently operating railway. Alessandra said she had seen a little yellow train running along once or twice, which I suspect carries materials of some kind.
A very small village consisting of a few abandoned houses, and some currently being renovated, and a vineyard was next. Also, the somewhat strange sight of a prickly pear, full of fruit – very tasty for those of you who have never tried them. Crossing a small meadow, we then followed beside a babbling stream, until we hit some very wide old stone steps, and soon after back into civilization just above the via Giulia.
What an awesome hike with Alessandra that was. She really knows the hidden gems of Trieste. Thank goodness for dead car batteries! Not that Basovizza, I’m sure, wouldn’t have been equally fascinating…ma, un’altra volta!
By Nick Day