For those of you thinking you’ll be missing the rich fall foliage display customary in the US, you are in for a surprise — the Carso, also known as the Altopiano Carsico or Karst, offers an impressive display of its own.
The protagonists here are what they call La vigna Americana or Virgina Creeper and Sommaco Selvatico or Sumac, but in reality it is Scotano (Cotinus coggygria) or the European Smoketree. The former produces a creeping vine with an ivy shaped leaf that clings to the rocks — it starts off a bright lobster red and then progresses to a deep burgundy later in the season. Sommaco has small roundish leaf and the color displays vary from vibrant yellows, oranges, reds to deep burgundy. These pops of color are quite impressive against the classic natural tones of the Region, the blue of the sea, greys and whites of the rocks of the Carso and green of the pines and brush in the surrounding environs.
The region offers many walking and biking trails from which to take it all in. Particularly breathtaking at this time of year are the “Sentieri” or trails that edge the coastline; the fall colors here are accentuated against the blue of the Gulf of Trieste.
Two of the most famous of these are the Sentiero Rilke (2 Km in length) named for the famous German poet who was a frequent guest at the Castle of Duino in the early 1900s and known for taking long inspirational walks on the nearby cliffs. The second is La Napoleonica (5 Km in length) that starts under the Obelisk in Opicina and ends in an area favored by rock climbers near the town of Prosecco (yes, Prosecco where the sparkling wine gets its name — which– in and of itself, is reason enough to undertake this hike!). Along the way you’ll find the Vedetta d’Italia — a look out point which affords soaring views of Trieste and the Gulf. While legend has it that Napoleon’s troops made their way along this path (hence its nickname) in reality it is called Passeggiata Vicentina after the civil engineer that is responsible for its creation.
To access the Sentiero Rilke begin at the AIAT (Agency of Information and Tourist Reception) in Sistiana, at the entrance of Sistiana Mare. It runs along the steep cliff offering breathtaking views and on good days, you can see the Alps in the distance. If you want to walk on the Napoleonica, the best bet is to go to the Obelisk in Opicina and start there. Again, amazing views of the Gulf and fall foliage.
Here is a short list of other hikes in the surrounding Trieste area offering great fall foliage views:
The Natural Reserve of Val Rosandra: not a particularly difficult trail, it is a 3 hour hike in Val Rosandra and offers beautiful views, lots of fauna and a stunning waterfall. Visit their site here.
Monte Calvo: A two-hour circular walk up the mountain it is a gentle climb to the top and back. It is located between Padriciano and Basovizza.
Mount Stena (Griza): The end-point is a hilltop almost completely devoid of vegetation – an example of true Carso landscapes. It offers a breathtaking panorama of Val Rosandra and this hike has the peculiarity of always being whipped by gale-winds.
Alta Via del Carso At marking #3: The Alta Via del Carso, completely surrounded by nature, is 55 km long, but you can break the journey in several stages, the best season is autumn, for the beautiful colors. This trails runs along the Italian Slovenian Border from Trieste to Gorizia.
La Traversata Mediterranea: A combination of several of the smaller hikes makes up this longer (30km) trail, which offers unforgettable views of the city and the gulf — it is also suitable for traveling by mountain bike. It is essentially made up of the “Tiziana Weiss path” between Aurisina and Santa Croce (CAI trail n ° 7); the walk through the pine forest between Santa Croce and Prosecco passing through the Scipio Slataper lookout (CAI trail n ° 6 °) or through the interior (CAI trail n ° 6); the “Napoleonica” between Prosecco and Opicina; and the “Derin trail” between Conconello and Monte Spaccato.
Il Sentiero di Josef Ressel: The trail is named after Josef Ressel, forestry expert and inventor. The trail goes from Basovizza to Lipizza and is 4 km in the woods and is equipped with many resting points and benches because it was designed specifically with sight-impaired people in mind, there are audio information points throughout.
A visit to a local bookstore (TransAlpina in Via di Torre Bianca #27/A – Tel. + 39 040/662297) or the Tourist Office should provide you with a guide to these hikes in the area or you can research them further on the Internet. Or check out the Club Alpino Italiano Website for Sector 0 which encompasses the Trieste Carso area with specific trail instructions.
To learn about the folklore behind the changing colors of the Karst, see my article on the Bora.