A thirty-minute bus ride from Trieste takes you up to the Carso. The number 39 bus is packed full of boy scouts and girls scouts and hikers out for a spring gita sul Carso. The Carso is the Italian name for the limestone plateau 400 m above Trieste. Most of the Carso now lies within Slovenia (its Slovene name is Kras), and even in the narrow strip inside Italy, you hear Slovenian spoken.
We have taken the bus to Gropado. It is one of the oldest “borghi” or villages of the Carso Triestino. As early as 1150 one of the thirteen noble families of Trieste (i Boromini – antica casata nobile triestina) had their vineyards in this area. The carsic stone houses are grouped around the small Church – Chieseta di San Rocco probably built in the 1600s.
Like all limestone landscapes the environment is harsh: arid in summer and even snowy in winter. The thick-walled houses were built to withstand the blasts of the bora, the northeasterly wind which can reach gusts of 145km/hr. The houses were also built in small groups. The shapes of the houses are basically rectangular and the houses are built on hills or slopes so as to leave the flat stretches for farmland. Walking along the narrow winding road leading from the church, you can feel the strength in these carsic stone houses still standing despite the fact that a number are no longer inhabited. Others have been faithfully renovated and the carsic stone is covered with bright pink, yellow and cream stucco.
It is a warm sunny day in April with a perfectly clear blue sky. The winter had been colder than usual so spring was a bit late arriving. But today the Carso is bursting with bright yellow forsythia, buttery colored daffodilas, mounds of snow white hawthorne (biancospino), and in the background the fuzzy green of new leaves on the trees.
We had lunch at an agriturismo that overlooks their vegetabile fields and the valley below Gropada. The long wooden tables were all filled with families and groups out for a caminatta sul Carso – a walk on the Carso.
We started with a tris – a plate of small portions of “il primo” offers – gnocchi di patate con ragu, crepes with prosciutto cotto and cheese, pasticcio, and a spinach ricotta strudel. This is where you get a real sense of the different cultural mixes- Austrian, Slovenian, Italian. One of these plates is a meal in itself. But we followed with” il secondo” – a grigliata mista – grilled sausage, chicken thigh, pork ribs and cutlet accompanied by “un cortono” – creamed spinach. And why not? un dolce – palacinke filled with strawberry jam and with nutella!
We very much enjoyed the view and the splendid spring sun seated on the patio in bella compagnia.