It has been a while since I have checked in. The Stoic One and I have been busy playing host to visitors and traveling.
Our latest stop was Trieste a city and seaport on the northeast corner of Italy bordered by Slovenia. A city I had never visited before. As a matter of fact, ask most Italians, and they will not have visited Trieste either, which is a shame. It is a city definitely worth a stop. Here are my reflections on the city.
Like a butterfly pinned to a board, Trieste is a city we admire up close and personal for her past splendor and unique beauty, and yet we, like her inhabitants yearn for this city to take flight. Like so many grand Italian cities, Trieste has one foot in the past, in this case the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the 18th century, and the other desperately seeking a solid footing in the 21st century.
This is a city whose history is long, complex and often bloody. She was colonized in second century BC by the Romans who called the city Tergeste.
The remains of this Roman theater are open to explore. Originally with a seating capacity of 6,000 the theater is only partially excavated.
During Roman times the Adriatic sea reached all the way to the edge of this Roman theater, so patrons could enjoy a beautiful sunset over the water in accompaniment of their entertainment. The theater was discovered in 1814 by Piero Nobile, but was not unearthed again until 1938 when Mussolini had plans to replace the Jewish ghetto with monuments to himself and Facism. Once he demolished the buildings, he was shocked to find the old Roman theater under his ambitious designs. As our guide told us, something good came out of the hatred and destruction. Mussolini's plans were put on hold and the ruins of the Roman theater remain.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city was variously ruled by the Byzantine Empire, Charlemagne, and most unhappily, by Venice. In 1382 Trieste begged Leopold III of the Hapsburgs to take over their city, and it seems to me their hearts have been with the Hapsburgs ever since.
I am always amazed when Italians talk about their history as if it just happened rather than events that occurred centuries ago. Wander the quarter of Borgo Teresiano and listen to how important MarieTheresa is to Trieste history, and architecture. She is talked about as if she visited and left her imprint on the city just last week.
One of the lasting gifts from the Hapsburgs is the Piazza Unita', which the Triestini say is more beautiful than St. Mark's square in Venice since it is open directly to the sea. If you look out between the two posts in the photo below, you will see the Adriatic Sea on the horizon.
The piazza is remarkable both in size and the fact that it is the only large piazza in Italy that does not have a cathedral or duomo as a center piece. The buildings that surround the piazza are all secular. Straight ahead, in the photo below, you are looking at the municipal building.
It is stunning at night and artfully lit.
Trieste, like Venice, boasts a Grand Canal, but truth be told, it is hardly the same. It was built between 1754 and 1766 upon salt marshes. The Triestini wanted an easy place to load and unload merchandise that was coming in from the port. The original intent was to have canals throughout the city, but the Grand Canal is the only canal that was actually built.
Today it is lined with cafes and restaurants which make for a picturesque tourist walk.
Trieste is known throughout Italy for its coffee. It is the home and headquarters of Illy coffee that was founded by Francesco Illy in 1933. He developed the first prototype of the modern espresso machine. Trieste prides itself on being a coffee society fit for intellectuals. There are coffee bars everywhere and the pace for drinking and chatting is slow and mellow. Trieste is not Milan or Venice or Rome. This is a city with its very own rhythm and style. illy coffee trieste
To say that Trieste is serious about coffee would be an understatement.
Since Trieste has been at the crossroads of various civilizations, the churches reflect this diverse history. There is a Serbian and Greek Orthodox Church that are definitely worth a visit.
Miramare Castle on the outskirts of town is worth a visit particularly for the gardens. The castle was started in 1856 and finished in 1860 for the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife Charlotte of Belgium. Unfortunately the Archduke was executed in Mexico in June 1867 so he never really stayed here.
After the end of World War I, the city and surrounding territory were given to Italy. After the Italian Armistice of 1943, the Germans occupied Trieste. Under their rule, the only concentration camp with a crematorium on Italian soil was built. It is estimated that 5,000 Slavs, Italian anti-racists and Jews died at Risiera di San Sabba.http://www.risierasansabba.it
In May 1945 the Allies rushed up the Italian peninsula wanting to liberate Trieste but they were beaten by one day by the troops of Yugoslavia. Trieste was divided into two separate zones, one administered by the Americans and the British and the other part administered byYugoslavs. Trieste became a hot bed of spy versus spy during the Cold War. Finally, in October 1954 The London Memorandum was signed by the US, Great Britain and Yugoslavia giving the city back to Italy. There is a movement underfoot to change this relationship.
The city is mainly unhappy about the Italian taxes. They are at one with the rest of the country in this regard.
James Joyce lived in this city from 1904 to 1920. He supported his drinking and writing habit by teaching English through Berlitz school. Dubliners was written here. There is a bronze statue of Joyce on one of the bridges.
Trieste has not only excellent coffee but also excellent pastries and food. My favorite meal was had at Trattoria NerodiSeppia. It is a family owned trattoria with creative fish and wonderful pastries. Highly recommend it.
In 2017 a new Eataly opened on the waterfront of Trieste. Wonderful produce and products.
Trieste is a city that is trying very hard to reinvent itself. Although the past is what will draw you as a tourist, the people will entice you to return. If you are tempted to go to Venice, do yourself a favor and take a tour to Trieste. The people are very welcoming, looking for tourists to help their economy. The restaurants and cafes are reasonably priced with excellent food. I can not say the same for Venice.