When my husband first got a phone call while we traveling through Albania about a potential job offer, he shrugged off the idea pretty quickly. He was working as a freelance designer at the time and was pretty comfortable with what he was doing.
He hung up the phone and in passing mentioned that a friend he worked with years ago called about a job but he turned it down. I asked a few more questions, starting with where the job would take us. The moment he said Italy I cut him off.
"You instantly turned down a chance for us to live in Italy?!"
He thought about it for a minute before responding, "Wait, should I call him back?" Followed by a quick, eager nod by me.
Now, over a year since that call back, we're happily living in Trieste, Italy. And believe it or not, he does like the job, even if it's not something that was on his radar at the time.
If you find yourself lucky enough to get a phone call with a job opportunity in Trieste or are able to build your own way here, this is what you need to know about living in Trieste and if you should call it home, too.
A Brief History of Trieste
Although an Italian city, Trieste is uniquely its own. Located in Northern Italy in the lesser-known Friuli Venezia Giulia (FVG) region, this city sits right on the Adriatic Sea and the border with Slovenia, so much so that when zooming in a map you'll be surprised that it's actually part of Italy and not Slovenia itself.
Trieste has a history unlike anywhere else in Italy which makes it feel like super different than other Italian cities you might visit while living here.
I won't dive too deep into the city's history but once upon a time it was part of the Austro Hungarian Empire, which adds to the architecture feeling a bit more like Vienna than say Rome. After World War II, Trieste even became the Free Territory of Trieste, only to be absorbed back into Italy in 1954. Being on the border with the Former Yugoslavia also adds to the rich cultural heritage of this small yet vibrant city.
Some people still dream of that freedom. Head to Piazza de la Borsa and you'll see a big sign in a 2nd story window saying, "UK & US COME BACK," hinting to the time that these governments established Trieste as a free territory. Others I think are happily part of Italy.
Today, Italian is the official language but many locals speak English and even Slovenian. While you'll be fine with English for a basic trip, if you want to really settle in, I highly suggest you start practicing Italian now. Mondly is the app I use for my daily lesson.
Best Areas of Trieste to Live
Although a small city (Trieste's population is just over 200,000), there are still a few distinct areas that you'll want to consider when apartment hunting. Rely on the map above where I've generally outlined some areas of Trieste and in some cases, I've lumped actual neighborhoods into general zones.
Since the city is so walkable and connected by public transport, the exact line from one neighborhood to another doesn't matter as much as it might on a big city. This isn't all of the areas but the ones that I would recommend and have the most experience with.
Let's start here because this is where we're currently living and the area we decided to sign our long-term lease in.
Personally, I love living in San Vito. Although it's the farthest walk from the train station for those days we get back in town late from a weekend getaway, for the day-to-day, I think this area is very liveable.
It's just next to the trendiest area of town, Cavana, but with much more affordable rent prices and without the bar and restaurant noise each night. Plus, since this area is on a hill, we're rewarded with fantastic views of the city and the Gulf of Trieste.
This area also has some parks, even if they don't show up on Google Maps, so if you're moving here with pets like we did, it's convenient to take them out for a walk and get off the streets and sidewalks and into some grass.
Since we love being able to go out for a drink, coffee, or just a livelier stroll, being right on the outskirts of Cavana is the perfect location for us.
For reference of cost of living, we pay €1200/month for a spacious 2-bedroom apartment with a large balcony and fantastic sea views.
Cavana is the most fun area of Trieste. Here, you'll find a large number of bars, restaurants, and coffee shops. This area looks the most stereotypically Italian, with small alleyways, brightly painted buildings, and a large number of great spots for an aperitivo.
We originally looked at living in Cavana, and did have the chance to stay in a serviced apartment here while looking for our long-term lease. The reasons we ended up choosing San Vito though is namely for the cost of living. We could get a much larger, nicer apartment for the same or even cheaper price. It was also due to the noise. We're heavy sleepers but it is nice going to bed without loud, drunken conversations outside your bedroom window. Plus, our dog, Bandido, is a nervous one so having a quiet environment for him to call home was important to him.
When looking at apartments in Cavana, we couldn't find a place so spacious in our price range. A big balcony for the pets and a good view for more were out of the question.
Most often when you look up pictures of Trieste, you'll see two things: the Grand Canal and a wide open piazza with looming white buildings (Piazza Unità d'Italia). Both of those are in the city center. We have many friends that live in the city center and it is a convenient location. If you live here, everything is really within walking distance or just a bus ride away usually without a transfer.
Like Cavana, the cost of living for an apartment is more expensive here but you can easily walk everywhere from here (without having to walk up a hill like you will in San Vito or the University Area).
A good friend of ours lives in the city center just two blocks from the canal and pays the same we do in San Vito for a much smaller apartment, albeit it's still a nice space.
The University Area is an obvious choice if you move here as a professor or a student. Like in San Vito, you'll get great views from here of the sea and the city center, just from a different angle. This area is also very green and more residential. It's a bit quieter than the city center and Cavana, which surprised me because most often the university area is the liveliest.
If you enjoy nature and hiking, this might be the best area of Trieste for you to live in. The biggest park is here and the entire area north of Trieste towards Slovenia is super green and full of excellent hiking trails.
The university area is very affordable. Here you'll be able to tick a lot of boxes without breaking the bank so if space and a view are important, this is a good neighborhood to consider.
Area Near the Train Station
Now, this I highlighted is really a few different neighborhoods lumped together, but for simplicity, I'm keeping it together. Our first Airbnb was near the train station in this area. There are 2 things I really liked about living here: it's obviously convenient to get to/from the train station and it feel like small town Italy.
This area feels very local, which is really nice but knowing Italian is far more important in this area compared to others. Like San Vito and the University Area, the cost of living is much lower in this area. The only thing I noticed when apartment hunting here is that the places tend to be more aged than those other two areas.
Barcola isn't on the map just because I ran out of space but this is "beach" neighborhood in Trieste. It's just north of what is shown on the map. This is the place to be in the summer months because the whole coastline here is where you can easily dip into the water. Know though that if you're used to a sandy beach, that's not what you'll find here.
Barcola is probably where I would live if stay in Trieste for a few years and have made a good group of friends or if we had kids. The idea of having water just steps away but still being well connected to city amenities is pretty dreamy. Like I said, in the summer, this is the place to be, but in other seasons, it's very quiet.
Most places for rent or sale in Barcola are quite large and offer sea views. It's very possible to get a good deal here especially if you move here during off season when the demand is low.
Finding an Apartment
After (or even before) you decide on an area, there are some helpful things to know about finding an apartment in Trieste. Come prepared for what could be a long battle. This will depend mainly though on if you have strict criteria, a low budget, or happen to move here during high season like we did.
High season is July, August, and since this is a university town, September can be equally competitive.
If this is your first time living in Italy, know that realtor fees might look a little different here. Even if you don't use a realtor but the seller/renter does, you'll be required to pay the realtor fee. This is typically 2 months rent. From everywhere I've lived, the seller/renter is the one who pays the realtor, and the buyer/rentee only pays for a realtor if they personally hire one. The only way to avoid a realtor fee here is if you happen to find a great place that is rented or sold directly from the owner but these opportunities can be hard to find.
On top of realtor fees, you can also expect building fees on top of your rent. These building fees go towards the upkeep of your building. Typically, the most green space and amenities you have, the higher the fee. Sometimes heating and gas can be included in this.
I suggest using these websites when house-hunting: '
Set notifications and don't wait to call, email, or message the listing agent the moment you see a property you're interested in looking at. It helps if you're able to send your message or make your call in Italian. Many agents speak English but knowing basic Italian will help you get your foot in the door.
I've lived in big cities and small towns all over the world and honestly have never struggled so much to make friends than I have here in Trieste. I've met plenty of friendly locals and expats alike but somehow it's been hard to bridge the gap between saying hi and becoming friends.
Maybe it's the people I've been meeting but it feels as though every time I meet another expat or a local, I'm at a networking event. The conversations tend to stay pretty professional and tend to revolve around work, even when I desperately try and drive them in another direction. Personally the last thing I want to talk about over a drink is my job but here it feels as though I'm the only one that thinks that way.
A great thing about living in Trieste is the expat group. Most cities tend to have a Facebook group for expats. These groups tend to organize meet-ups, events, or are just a platform for you to ask and answer questions. The one here is far more organized than the others and offers a weekly aperitivo. I love that this event is that the same time and place each Thursday so if I can't make it one week, I can make it the next.
Between that and your job (if you work here), you'll hopefully have better luck than I have had. It's not to say though that we have no one here, it's just that I'm usually able to make one really great girlfriend everywhere we live and I've yet to meet mine here.
Getting a Job / Visa
Trieste is home to a large amount of international companies thanks to its big port. The best chance you'll have getting a job in Trieste is if you apply to one of these. The biggest ones are Illy, Alliance Insurance, and BAT (British American Tobacco).
This is just a starting point but if you're aiming to get a job to relocate you to Trieste, these are good starting points. A job with these big companies will also mean a work visa which after time you can turn into a residency permit. If you're a spouse like me, your partners job will also get you a spouse visa to legally live here, too.
If you're an Italian or European Union citizen, you don't have to worry about this pre-req and can job hunt while here or take your online job to Trieste with you. If you're not from Italy or the EU, unfortunately Italy is not one of the European countries with a visa for remote workers.
Know that getting a visa for Italy can be a time consuming process. My husband is Colombian and his visa took almost exactly 1 year. We were told that other nationalities might not take so long but from experience, know that it can be a slow, slow process.
Things to Do in Trieste
Although small, there are plenty of things to do in Trieste but I have to say, they revolve around 3 main things: eating, drinking, and shopping. If though you enjoy outdoor activities, you'll love living in Trieste. If you can sail (or want to learn), Trieste opens a lot of doors. There are also plenty of hiking trails but know that we're not in the Dolomites (although we're nearby) but it's still fresh air and nice views.
In the summer, you can also swim, paddleboard, kayak, and even snorkel and scuba dive. Just know, it's rocky beaches, and not vibrant coral like you might hope for. Although near the famed Croatian coast, don't expect the same views and bright blue water you might be hoping for.
No matter what you want to see and do in Trieste, you're only a walk or a bus ride away. The bus system in my opinion is really great and easy to use. Google Maps works great for the schedule and where the stops are. You can download the TPL FVG app to buy your bus ticket straight from the app or get tickets from small kiosks (usually the tobacco shops) around town. If you go the route of a physical card, I recommend buying a ticket for 10 rides. This is the cheapest option. When you get on the bus, just remember to validate your ticket. For taking the train, I recommend the Trainline app.
A fun bonus of living on the coast is that not only is the public transport great for buses and trains, you can also travel by boat and ferry. In the summer, you can take a ferry to Grado (tip: they have a fantastic dog beach), Miramare Castle, and Barcola. All year, you can take the ferry to Muggia, a really cute small town that sits directly on the Slovenian border.
Best Places for Aperitivos:
Most likely your favorite bar and cafe will become the one in your neighborhood, when you want to stretch your legs and see more of the city, you'll be pleasantly surprised just how many options you have. This isn't nearly a complete list but these will give you a good starting point to living in Trieste for a 5 o'clock drink:
- Al Ciketo
- La Muta
- Anywhere on Viale XX di Settembre
We haven't had a bad meal yet here so you can't go wrong but my favorite go-to restaurants in Trieste are:
- Ristorante Baracca E Burattini
- Mug (for Sunday brunch)
- The Modernist
- Mimì e Cocotte
Weekend Getaways from Trieste
While you might quickly see where Trieste is located and think that it's not convenient. You might feel far away from famous Italian cities but let me tell you, there are so many fantastic places you can easily enjoy in a quick weekend train ride, bus ride, or road trip. Don't have a car? Renting one is super easy.
My favorite places we've been able to visit in Italy on a weekend getaway so far are:
- Venice (Murano & Burano)
- The Dolomites (specifically Sesto is fantastic and not so far)
- Verona (Lake Garda)
Nearby places in Slovenia and Croatia that you can also visit easily are (just know you'll need to take a car or bus):
- Ljubliana, Slovenia
- Koper, Slovenia
- Piran, Slovenia
- Motovun, Croatia
- Rovinj, Croatia
- Pula, Croatia
Other Great Italian Cities to Call Home
Now, I fully believe that living in Trieste is a fantastic choice but it's certainly not your only one when planning a move to Italy. All around the country you can expect to have beautiful architecture, delicious food, rich history, and a cafe and aperitivo culture that just doesn't quit.
But, if you find a job opportunity in another Italian city or just want to keep your options open, I suggest:
Are You Moving to Trieste?
Trieste enjoys mild winters, a low cost of living, fantastic restaurants and bars, and the ability to explore a lesser visited region in Italy. To me, it's given us a high quality of life that I was of course hoping for when moving to Europe but one that I wasn't sure if the expectations would meet the reality. They have.
Just across the Slovenian border, Trieste has been an unsuspecting gem for us to call home and one I can't wait to get to know better.