The CARSO is the Italian name for limestone uplands that rise from the Venetian plain south of Monfalcone and eventually merge into the Istrian plateau. Although within a thirty-minute bus ride of Trieste, it feels like an entirely different country, and is geologically, botanically and demographically distinct from anywhere else in Italy. Most of the Carso now lies within Slovenia (its Slovene name is Kras), and even the narrow strip inside Italy, though supporting a population of just twenty thousand, remains distinctively Slovene in culture, boasting places with names like Zagradec and Koludrovica.
The particular shape and look of the karst landscape is due to the weathering of the limestone bedrock by water and wind, and the surface of the plateau is studded with sinkholes left by streams which have formed vast caverns, underground lakes and rivers. This distinctive landscape and the unspoiled natural environment make for fine walking, and you can stop for refreshments at an osmiza, a rustic eating place where farmers sell their own produce, such as cured meats, cheese, olives, hard-boiled eggs, bread and wine (ask the tourist office for a list of check osmize.com).
Like all limestone landscapes the environment is harsh: arid in summer and sometimes snowbound in winter. The thick-walled houses are built to withstand the blasts of the bora, the fierce northeasterly wind which can reach gusts of 145km/hr – when it’s at its worst ropes are strung along the steeper streets in Trieste.