Trieste, Italy: Having a short break – Part 1

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Trieste, Italy: Having a short break – Part 1

Once among the once grand cities of Europe’s Trieste has suffered a long slide into anonymity. However this once great city has an irresistible and charm; plus it seems to be on the rise again.

When the Cold War ended at the close of the 1980s, Trieste’s last claim to fame melted with it. In March 1946 Winston Churchill had named it the southern extreme of the Iron Curtain, giving the little city on the Italian - Yugoslav border a little bit of geopolitical kudos. It is wedged between a limestone plateau known as the Karst region and the Adriatic.

When the borders of former Yugoslavia opened for business, Trieste fell out of the history books. It’s not the city’s first fall from grace. In the 1700s it was the chief port of Vienna and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and a gateway to the globe. The First World War ended that period of relative eminence.

Today, Trieste’s symbolic centre is Europe’s biggest seafront public square, the Piazza Unità d’Italia , a legacy of its heyday and flanked on three sides by monumental buildings as imposing as any found in Milan, Rome or, indeed, Vienna. Surrounding it are the gridded streets of the Borgo Teresiano, where you’ll find yourself passing moody old bars and cafés, grand residential blocks, faculties for Trieste’s university and churches of every denomination. Everyone here seems so civilised, and it’s true that they are always happy to talk, walk or pass the time of day. Long before the coffee bean became popular, it was making perfect cups of Vienna grade coffee here. The city also has a superb art museum, fabulous Italian cuisine with a Slovene twist, boasts links to two European literary greats and is extremely walkable and cycle friendly. Why, then, is Trieste not uttered in the same breath as Florence or Barcelona?

Well, for one thing, Italy has a tendency to forget it even exists, not least because Venice is very close by. While Ryanair regularly flies there, it doesn’t have much competition in the skies so Trieste is not apparently a ‘push’ destination. Here is a port city with few ships, an Austrian city belonging to Italy that never really belonged at all. A city mesmerising to anyone who has ever felt rootless, dream prone or happily lost. That is to say, a traveller’s city, but one perhaps showing signs of a renaissance. On a recent visit it seemed that Trieste was not only one of Italy’s secret cities but one of Middle Europes unsung glories.

My advice is to go soon, before gentrification, bearded baristas and easyJet, Wizz Air and the rest of them beat you to it.

Continued in Part 2

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Page added on: 15 September 2018
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