Trieste is the smallest province in Italy, and perhaps also the most isolated. For evidence of this, simply take a look at any map: it consists of a thin stretch of land which runs between the sea and the upland plains which border Slovenia. This border area is fraught with tensions, as the city has not yet learned to co-exist peacefully with its foreign neighbors.
Surrounding the highly urbanized areas in the center and the south, stands a veritable constellation of small towns and villages such as Sgonico, Monrupino, Duino, Basovizza and San Pelagio which are predominantly inhabited by the Slovenian-speaking minority. In recent years, these areas have witnessed the construction of a number of country cottages and villas of considerable market value.
The city's geographical isolation is reflected in its personality. It is at once lonely, mysterious, alluring, conservative, pensive, a little primitive, perennially tired and taciturn. It is chock full of banks (unlike other Italian administrative towns), but is nonetheless lacking in any great entrepreneurial spirit, unlike the nearby Friuili, an industrious boom town. It is a fairly old city and a hotbed of science and the arts, a city that extends a friendly welcome to people of all nationalities. Until 1954, it was under American military rule. It is a carefree city with a love for the finer things in life. What could be more pleasurable than a glass of wine, a walk around
Trieste is a beautiful and extraordinary city, anchored to a past that it cannot forget. It is constantly battered by the Bora - an icy and powerful northeasterly wind, which is tolerated as an inevitable feature of life in Trieste. Below, you will see that Trieste has been sub-divided into eleven zones (beginning with the most southerly) in order to make it easy for any visitor to get geographically-orientated.
Trieste offers visitors a good bus service. However, if you are traveling to
Muggia This is a small town (one of six) which lies around ten kilometers from the center of Trieste. It is a seaside town with a strong fishing tradition, and was the last fortification before the state border. It has recently been completely restructured and contains features which are reminiscent of the istroveneto period. Take a walk through its narrow streets, past the fishing boats, which are anchored in its beautiful port. The shops are small and relatively modest, but life here is still extremely pleasant. To get here by sea, simply set sail in the opposite direction to Venice. A giant tourist complex exists where the glorious shipyards of
Valmaura - Servola - Chiarbola These districts are all in the immediate periphery of Trieste and are for the most part residential districts. Here, you will find the
House prices here are considerably lower than anywhere else, but the area offers few amenities. However, it is only around 10 to 15 minutes away from the city center. The Servola district, which has unfortunately been polluted by the pungent black smoke from the gigantic railway complex - is also nearby.
Piazza Unità d'Italia - Cittavecchia This area constitutes the heart of Trieste.
Borgo Teresiano The old heart of Trieste stands by the sea, near the train station. In order to get here from the
Corso Italia - Barriera Vecchia - Via Battisti This is the commercial heart of the city, situated around ten minutes from the sea. It is characterized by numerous office blocks, fashion boutiques, chaotic traffic and a frenetic pace. From Via Carducci, Via Milano and Via Battisti to Via Valdirivo and Via Fabio Severo (where you will find the Court of Law and the prison) - you will waste precious time caught between traffic lights. An exception is the Viale XX Settembre - a beautiful tree-lined avenue which runs for several kilometers. Along here you will find over half of the cinemas in Trieste as well as a number of excellent ice cream parlors. At the bottom of this street, in the direction of Longera stands the
San Giacomo These two major districts are situated on the hills around San Giusto. San Giacomo is fairly self-contained - it has its own shops, nightclubs and restaurants. It is highly valued by its inhabitants, despite perennial parking difficulties and the chaotic traffic. It is also home to the Burlo Garofolo Children's Hospital, which is considered to be one of the best in Italy.
San Vito San Vito is, in fact, a typically residential zone, very quiet and calm. In the neighboring area, the beautiful palazzi of Lloyd Adriatico headquarters (the insurance giant), and Lloyd Triestino, the famous local navigation company which was recently purchased by a huge multinational corporation.
Montebello A non-descript and typically residential area, if there were not the
Università Walking down Via Coroneo, and then Via Fabio Severo, you arrive in the beautiful residential area that contains the University. Here, many departments and different schools of the University of Trieste are located, and there are not many shops.
Barcola – Miramare – Sistiana – Grignano - Duino These districts are found somewhat outside the city, near roads that head towards Venice. The panorama is extraordinary and is a location of many of the city's wealthy residents. Barcola provides visitors with many beautiful walks, at the end of which you find the
Opicina – Plateau On the outer boundaries of the city, there is
Padriciano Padriciano corresponds to the last exit on the autostrada and there is the Area di Ricerca, one of the largest scientific and technological research parks in Europe, under which is the large ring of light that is one of the most notable laboratories, the
Trieste is a small city which has only recently begun to realize its potential to attract tourism. For this reason, there are often not enough beds available in the city during peak travel seasons. This shortage generally occurs at times when exhibitions, international conferences and other frequently organized large events are hosted in the city. Places such as the Area di Ricerca (one of the largest technology parks in Europe) and the Congress Center of the Stazione Marittima beside the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia have become points of reference for international medical, scientific and social institutions. The programs of exhibitions and meetings offered are always of the highest standard.
Finding a place to stay can therefore be easier said than done, so it is best to book in advance in order to avoid disappointment. You will be faced with a perfectly respectable choice of accommodation. This choice stems from the fact that the city has had to make adjustments in order to cope with its newfound tourist status, which has lead to the construction of a number of new, high-end hotels. It should be noted that in Trieste, (unlike in other parts of the country) there is no one area where all the most elegant hotels are to be found (such as those along the seafront on the upland plains of the Carso), nor are there hotels which are predominantly aimed at business travelers.
As far as parking facilities go, the hotels offer limited parking spaces. If you are lucky, you will be able to find a space at a parking meter along the shore. Otherwise, you should leave your car in a nearby garage. On no account should you leave your car out in the street in areas where parking may be prohibited. This is less to do with the fact that it may get stolen (crime levels are fairly low in Trieste) and more to do with the fact that you may return to find a parking ticket stuck to your windshield.
Rive Here you will be no more than a ten or fifteen minute walk from the train station, a 45-minute drive from the airport (taking the traffic into consideration) and a stone's throw from the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia in the heart of the city. In the surrounding area, you will also find the Teatro Verdi, the splendid Cittàvecchia (historic city center), the elegant Tergesteo Gallery and many of Trieste's other tourist attractions. There are many excellent hotels in this area including the Jolly Hotel which tends to be favored by business travelers, the Savoia Excelsior on the banks of the Mandracchio (this hotel is elegant and modern, with Internet access in the rooms and fully-equipped conference rooms) and the unsurpassed Grand'Hotel Duchi d'Aosta. This is housed in a nineteenth century palace and is the only hotel which looks out directly onto the largest seaside square in Europe. It has a warm, Central European feel and an excellent restaurant. If, however you are looking for a modest room in the same picturesque part of the city, you could always try the Al Teatro which stands at the top of the Piazza Bartoli between the town hall, the historic Caffè degli Specchi and the small Trieste Stock Exchange.
Borgo Teresiano - Cittàvecchia If you move away from the sea and head inland, you will reach Borgo Teresiano and the city center. You should not expect to find large, imposing hotels around these parts. Instead, there are numerous old guest houses, most of which do not have en-suite facilities, as well as a handful of three-star hotels, such as the Milano (Via Ghega 17) which is housed in a modern building, around two hundred meters from the train station on a street which is notorious for its chaotic traffic. Then, there is the small Abbazia on Via della Geppa; it has a clean and well-designed interior with modern furnishings and a valuable collection of modern graphic art which can be found on display in its 21 rooms. In the same area, you will also find the Italia and Roma hotels.
Altopiano - Strada Costiera Once you have turned off the motorway on your way to Trieste, you will be faced with two possibilities: you can either take the coastal road which hugs the shore but is often very congested, or you can climb the upland plains behind the city and eventually make your way back down towards the sea. The latter option is considerably more convenient, but less panoramic. If you pick the former option, you will come across numerous excellent hotels including Riviera Maximilians, Hotel ai Sette Nani (in Sistiana) and the elegant and charming Greif Maria Theresa on the Viale Miramare along which the citizens of Trieste love to stroll. This five-star hotel (only a 15-minute drive from the center of Trieste) comes equipped with a swimming pool, sauna, garage, excellent restaurant and a whole host of other amenities. Although the prices are a little steep, the quality is excellent. Remaining in the Viale Miramare, if you are looking to spend a little less there is always the Ostello della Gioventù. It is a typical youth hostel but it has a location to die for: only 20 meters from the sea and 100 meters from the charming castle which was once the home of Maximilian and Charlotte of Austria. If you have chosen to take the road through the upland plains, you will come across the Daneu in Opicina which is a small, picturesque village at the gateway to the city. Daneu is a modern, recently renovated hotel with a swimming pool and other amenities. Nearby, you will also find an excellent game restaurant.
If you are here on business and you are intending to visit one of the numerous companies or institutes which have sprung up around the Area di Ricerca (which is the last motorway exit before you reach Slovenia), then you should seek accommodation in the guest quarters of the Padriciano science park, where you will perhaps be the guest of the organization with which you are dealing. Here, you will be far from the city center, but close to the drawing board.
Surrounding Areas Finally, we come to Muggia and San Dorligo. Muggia is a pretty little seaside town around thirteen kilometers from Trieste. San Dorligo is a small village at the edge of the Carso. It is home to the Rosandra hotel which is named after the enchanting valley in which is situated. Both these settlements are in the eastern corner of the province, near the Slovenian border.
Arts & Culture Trieste is one big, open-air museum. As you walk through the city's streets and squares, open your eyes and take a look around you. Ancient Roman buildings are interspersed with beautiful 18th-century ones, Austrian-style landscapes, churches of all dominations, Art Nouveau façades, rural towns and villages such as Muggia and those on the upland plains.
Trieste is also the city of historical cafés, of literature (it is home to favored haunts of James Joyce, Saba and the contemporary writer Claudio Magris), of carefree Sundays spent in the beautiful Carso and also of science — some of the most important scientific and technological research institutions in the country are based here.
Museums Trieste has a huge selection of museums, as it is rich in both artistic treasures and historical curios. Thanks to the 19th-century patronage of the arts, the city was flooded with valuable art collections, including the collection of contemporary art which is housed in the Museo Revoltella. It is one of the most renowned and complete collections of art in the country. Also worth a visit are the Civil Museum of Natural History, the museum of Castello di San Giusto (a typical example of a military building), and the Museum of the Risorgimento which charts the events leading up to Trieste's annexation with Italy. The Museo Teatrale Schmidl is second only to the museum of the Scala in Milan. Here, instruments, scores, records, photographs and other important evidence of the Italian theatrical scene can be seen on display. The disused Campo Marzio train station (from where trains once ran to Central Europe) today houses an interesting collection of electrical and steam locomotives, while the small Ethnographical Museum of Servola contains a remarkable collection of items which were used in daily life and charts the history of traditions and costumes which are long gone. The Risiera di San Sabba is the only Nazi concentration camp in Italy and the Foiba di Basovizza bears witness to the horrors committed here by the Yugoslavian Communists; both have been preserved as national monuments. The Castello di Miramare (the magnificent, romantic and ill-fortuned residence of the Habsburgs, Maximilian and Charlotte, is another location no to be missed. Among the curiosities which should be visited are the Piccola Berlino (a network of underground passageways used by the Nazis to conceal themselves and to travel around the city), the extraordinary Grotta Gigante (a natural cavity so huge that it could house the whole of St Peter's Basilica) and the Casa Carsica — an ancient rural settlement on the upland plains.
Classical & Opera The oldest theatre in the city is the Teatro Verdi. This building (only a stone's throw from the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia) was inaugurated in 1801, and its structure resembles that of the Scala in Milan. Today—along with a variety of shows and performances throughout the year; it hosts an extremely popular Operatic Festival. Opera has a long and consolidated history in Trieste, in fact the city is often said to be Italy's operatic capital. The Teatro Verdi is also very popular with lovers of classical music.
Comedy & Drama For those who prefer drama, the Teatro Rossetti (which is especially popular with young people) often stages both classical and modern plays with which some of Italy's best actors are involved. Extremely entertaining comedies in local dialect are often put on in the Teatro Cristallo and in the small Teatro dei Salesiani — usually by local theatre companies. The Teatro Miela on the coast puts on shows and performances of all genres.
Cinema Most of the cinemas in Trieste can be found along the Viale XX Settembre, where many new cinemas have been built over the last five years. In addition to the Excelsior and the multi-screened Nazionale, you will find the large Ambasciatori, the Super and the Giotto — a dynamic cinema containing all the latest technology. The nearby car park is often full, and at weekends and on days of national premieres there are always huge queues outside the box office. The Ariston (which also stays open during the summer months) alternates between showing blockbusters and animated films, while if you are looking to spend a little less, try the Capitol or the giardino pubblico on the Via Giulia in the city center. The Teatro Miela often shows short and long films from Alpe Adria. These are often shown just once and are sometimes sub-titled.
Music Don't expect too much on this front. Trieste has the highest number of elderly citizens in the country, and when the clock strikes ten, the city center seems to magically empty itself. It is only in recent years that the Valmaura Stadium has been used to host large rock concerts; smaller events are often hosted at the Teatro Rossetti and the Palazzetto dello Sport. As for nightclubs, try the Mandracchio and the Machiavelli (which is on the road to Miramare). In the summer, if dancing on the beach is your thing, visit the Cantera Cafè in Sistiana, while Jazz fans should visit Around Midnight — a small club in the city center which hosts musicians both from the Trieste region and foreign locations. The Trieste Song Festival also deserves a mention. Over twenty of these have been held and they consist of a number of local groups and soloists performing folk music.
The history of Trieste is an intricate patchwork of myth and legend, flights, passion and races, of culture, peoples and painful victories, of elegant worldliness, successes and failures, of surprising contradictions, lives of artists, commercial traffic and pagan rituals. Traces of its earliest past have almost all been lost, but according to scholars, the first inhabitants of this region lived in large caverns in the upland plains at the beginning of the Ice Age.
However, it was only in 2000 BCE that a settlement of sorts began to take shape on the summits of the hills. These were the first villages or castellieri which were surrounded by defensive walls, designed to keep out both invaders and bears which were frequently spotted in the surrounding areas. Inhabited by people of Indo-European (rather than Venetian or Gallo-Celtic) descent, these villages rapidly became commercial trading ports, as they were a natural gateway between east and west and between land and sea.
It was on the site of one of these castellieri, probably the one that dominated the hill where the San Giusto Cathedral stands, that the village of Trieste originated. Its name (derived from the Latin Tergeste) indicates its original purpose: Terg is a Paleo-Venetian word meaning market and este means town. There is no shortage of myths and legends surrounding the place: according to ancient texts, it was here that Jason and the Argonauts were said to have landed on their quest for the mythical Golden Fleece; it was also the place where Antenore and Diomedes were said to have disembarked during the battle for Troy.
Next came the Romans: the area was conquered and in 52 BCE Tergeste became a colony of the Eternal City. Commerce and trading began to increase at an astonishing rate, particularly during the 2nd Century CE. This went hand in hand with rapid architectural development. Many remains from this period are still visible to this day including the Arco di Riccardo, the Teatro Romano, the patrician villas and the Basilica Forense.
The fall of the Roman Empire heralded a period of great uncertainty. After a succession of Barbarian invasions, the region passed through the hands of the Goths, the Longobards, the Byzantines and the French. The situation was barely any better throughout the Middle Ages. Violent battles for control over the Adriatic lead to Trieste pledging allegiance to the Holy Roman Empire, or rather to Leopold I, Duke of Austria (1290-1326).
In 1382, an indissoluble bond was created between Trieste and the Habsburgs. It was a bittersweet bond based on love and hate, respect and submission. It was indeed the Austrians, towards whom many people of Trieste still feel conflicting emotions that ordered the construction of the Castello di San Giusto, between 1470 and 1630. This castle has now become one of the principle symbols of the city.
It was in accordance with the wishes of the Habsburgs (a huge international power) that Trieste was swiftly transformed from a sleepy seaside village to a large European port. With the exception of a few other periods of foreign rule (Venetian, Spanish and finally Napoleonic), Trieste remained subjugated by the Habsburgs until 1918.
Merchants, entrepreneurs and adventurers from all over the world flocked to Trieste and the city was radically restructured in the 18th Century by the energetic Empress Maria Theresa (1717-1780). By the end of the 19th Century the city numbered over 150,000 inhabitants. Large insurance and shipping companies began to appear and shipyards and factories also opened their doors.
Trieste became an important port under Austrian control and numerous economic and cultural initiatives were set up. Thousands of people arrived here from Greece, Turkey and other countries even further afield. This migration gave rise to a multi-ethnic community unparalleled in the rest of Europe. Numerous religions and corresponding places of worship were welcomed to the area; many of these remain standing to this day. Great writers such as Italo Svevo Scipio Slataper, Rainer Maria Rilke and James Joyce lived here. The city's streets are laden with charm, charisma and mystery; it is full of historical places of interest such as the ancient café or bookshop owned by the poet and intellectual Umberto Saba.
In keeping with the Irredentist movements that were taking hold all over Europe, many inhabitants of Trieste began to show their support for Giuseppe Garibaldi's forces and the Risorgimento. With the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War One, Trieste was annexed to Italy in 1920; however, the upheavals did not end here. The Second World War brought with it new tragedies. Towards the end of the war Josip Tito's Yugoslavian troops arrived and liberated the city; however, those thousands of Italians who spoke out against the Communist regime were incarcerated in large underground rock cavities called foibe. They were eventually released thanks to the intervention of allied troops, and the city, with feelings of both euphoria and disorientation came under American military rule until 1954. It was at this time that Trieste was finally and definitively returned to Italy. It was then that it became the administrative seat of the smallest province in Italy and the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region.
However, after the Americans left, additional problems followed. Many people found themselves undervalued and the region underwent a progressive de-industrialization. The crisis facing the ports, and the undeniable lack of business authority among the citizens of Trieste was the final straw. The city's economy was transformed into an anomalous phenomenon. Regaining the wealth and prosperity of the past was to be a difficult task. Even today, the percentage of unemployment in Venezia-Giulia is one of the highest in Northern Italy.
It has only really been in the past 20 years that Trieste has been able to carve out a new niche for itself. It has now become the most important center for scientific research in Italy and this is a sector which is providing work for an increasing number of young people. Numerous research facilities can be found in the city including the Area di Ricerca (one of the largest technology parks in Europe), the Sincrotrone Elettra, the International Center of Physical Theory, the Laboratory of Marine Biology, the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and many others, as well as the avant-garde university which was built during the 1920s.