13 August 2014

A Road Trip To Italy - Trieste & Modena

It was Wednesday morning in Vienna - the day after my birthday - and it was time to hit the road. The plan for the week was to drive down through Austria into Italy, spend one night in Trieste, head for lunch at a very special restaurant in Modena the next day and then continue onwards to Camogli where we would see out our holiday. And that was exactly how it happened.

The drive from Vienna to Trieste took five hours and fifty minutes.

Trieste has a very interesting history. It's an Italian port tucked inside the Slovenian border and a place often neglected by the tourist books, perhaps due to the small distraction of Venice just seventy miles away. The main reason Trieste is so fascinating is because this frontier city was variously owned or occupied by the Romans, Habsburgs, Mussolini's regime, Germans and Allied Forces only to finally return to Italy in 1954. The consequence of this is a fascinating mix of ethnic and architectural influence.

Trieste is embraced by green hills on one side and the Mediterranean sea on the other. It was a lovely place to stroll around and explore in the warm sunshine. There were coffee houses, shops, bars and restaurants on every street and we were seeking out somewhere great for a spot of dinner.

We found a modern little grill and lounge bar in the centre of town called Joia where I had one of my favourite dishes of the holiday - home made gnocchi with fresh mussels. I'm very fussy about my gnocchi having made it from scratch many times at home and these little potato dumplings were light, soft and absolutely delicious.

When the sun has set, Trieste looks even more stunning. The main Piazza dell'Unita d'Italia is brilliantly lit up, shimmering across the waters of the canal. 

We wandered for a while after dinner, taking it all in.

But then we had more important matters to attend to; finding gelato! Upon seeing my Twitter request for recommendations, fellow blogger India Alexandra - author of the wonderful See The Sparkle - recommended we visit a place called Zampolli describing it as the best ice cream in Trieste.

And what a recommendation it was! Alex - who is something of an ice cream fanatic - declared it the best he had ever had. It was certainly something special and ended our Trieste visit on a big (sugar) high. Thank you India! 


We were up bright and early the next morning for our three and a half hour drive to Modena; a medieval town known for its balsamic vinegar production, and for being the home town of Ferrari and Italian tenor Luciano Pavorotti. 

It's also the location of chef Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana, voted the third best restaurant in the world (see the full list here). 

Around six months earlier I had made our reservation for lunch and it's just as well I had as it was tiny inside! A square room with only five tables. It has to be one of the most intimate restaurants I've been to. We were treated to some wonderful breads with olive oil and a complimentary dish or two from the chef. The service was impeccable. 

The menu was exciting; dishes such as 'An eel swimming up the Po River' and 'Shellfish on the Reef' certainly sounded intriguing! In the photographs below you can see the exquisite presentation of:

Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in different temperatures and textures;
Snails in the vineyard;
Tagliatelle with ragu;
 Foie gras, leek & truffle ravioli;
Monkfish in lard crust with aromatic smoke

This is no doubt a controversial thing to say of a restaurant so highly spoken of but I was a little underwhelmed if I'm honest. Of course the food was very good indeed, fabulously inventive and looked beautiful but it wasn't the best I've ever had. It was just very good.

Having said that, what I tasted of Alex's 'five ages of Parmigiano-Reggiano' dish was pretty awesome.

For dessert I chose the amusingly named 'Oops I dropped the lemon tart'. It was, again, very good. Even better were the selection of petit fours at the end of the meal! They were all polished off in minutes!

Despite not being completely blown away by the food, it was a special lunch experience spent with my wonderful husband. It felt exciting being in a restaurant of such fine repute in this little Italian town, being presented with Michelin star food. The wine wasn't bad either!

The chef came out to chat to us at the end of the meal. He was softly spoken and friendly, telling us about the restaurant and advising us not to expect too much from the dining options in Camogli where we were heading  to next. I guess we would wait and see. We were given a little taste of a 43 year aged balsamic vinegar. It was delicious; remarkably sweet while still being very much vinegar. A fascinating end.

As we were leaving, we were given our own little bottle of Modena vinegar to take away with us - how nice! I might have to bake myself a loaf of Focaccia specially!


  1. I'm intrigued as to the next instalment of your trip...!

  2. I've only ever spent about 10 minutes in Trieste - I landed there and then continued by car to Croatia.
    I really need to explore more of Italy, all I know is Rome and Florence!

    {Teffy's Perks} X

    1. I've seen a fair amount of Italy now. I think I need to move onto pastures new...perhaps Croatia!

  3. Oh my gosh this looks so beautiful, I want to go back to Italy now! That gnocchi looks amazing and I love your white dress

  4. We spent time in Lake Como a few weeks ago and this post just confirms that we need to make our way through the rest of Italy! Just stunning!

  5. Firstly thank you for the mention and linking !!! Much love for that C!!

    Secondly, it was a delight to read this and remember some of my times in trieste.

    Thirdly , that restaurant in Modena looks heeeeeavenly , you really do frequent some rather fabulous tasty places. I think we may have to meet up for some delicious breads ( aka , nibbles ) , and drinks( aka fizz n' vino ) in London town soon ...

  6. You lucky thing, such fabulous photos and food! Love that dress, might have to make a sneaky purchase. x

  7. Aaaah this just looks so beautiful. Italy by night is one of the most heavenly things. Gaaaah I need to go travelling! I WILL be trying that gelato! Ix

  8. Trieste looks breathtaking so pretty. I am sure I was Italian in a previous life I love Italian culture and food. The Italian ice cream looks delicious. Shame about the restaurant the food looks lovely but often with these things the restaurant builds up a reputation and then unfortunately the reality never holds up. Driving in Italy I bet was fun Lucy x

  9. I love that they gave you your own special bottle of balsamic. Sounds like the service was truly spectacular. Love the 'Oops I dropped the Lemon Tart' pudding - literally looks like a dropped lemon tart. Fab!

    Katie <3


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