In a scenic setting near the rugged Slovenian border (on the northeastern coast of Italy), this diverse seaside city has been shunted back and forth between Italy and Slovenia for centuries. Slavic influences distinguish Trieste from other cities in Italy. Man-made attractions include Romanesque churches, a Roman theater, San Giusto and its 16th-century castle and the Museo di Storia e Arte (a collection of coins, art and other exhibits). The city also boasts a world-renowned coffee culture, with sidewalk cafes that roast their own coffee. Hikers and walkers will revel in the Carso, the plateau surrounding the city that is rich in rocky terrain, natural caves and botanical gardens. The Val Rosandra area offers adventure to mountaineering enthusiasts, too. Trieste is an excellent stopover point for those heading to the east, and the perfect gateway to the brilliant coast of Croatia. It’s a bit out of the way for those not continuing on to Croatia, but if you are in the area, it deserves at least a day, if not two. 95 mi/154 km northeast of Venice.