Trieste

 

Home of the Prosecco wine, capital city of Italian coffee, stage of many horrific episodes in the history of the country and fairytale background of the life of the most beloved princess of them all, Trieste truly is the town of a thousand souls. Its geographical position right on the evershifting border with various tumultuous countries made it the center of several unique events in the history of Italy, which are palpable to this day as soon as you set foot on its impeccable roads.

In the early Eighteenth century Trieste was annexed to the Austrian empire, which made it into its main access to the sea. The city took on the distinctive imperial architecture, while the seaport attracted lots of workers from the nearby Serbo-Croatian and Slavic regions contributing to a lively multicultural environment. In the late Nineteenth century its citizens had grown rich and established enough to feel oppressed by the empire, so Trieste saw the rise of a separatist movement pushing for re-annexion to Italy. This eventually happened by the end of WWI, but the change also exacerbated the ethnic conflics and brung a heavy financial crisis for the city – Fascism only worsened the situation, which culminated in the 1943 Nazi occupation. The Trieste area became the only Italian location for German extermination camps. The city was subsequently occupied by the Jugoslavian regimen of Tito, who proceeded to further terrorize the population and to seize most of the outskirts. Full peace and a stable Italian identity only came in 1963.

With such a complex history, it is no wonder whether locals still half-jokingly express their nostalgia for the Austro-Ungaric empire and the prosperity that came with it. The city itself looks more Austrian than Italian both in its buildings and in the behavior of its population. Further cementing the feeling is the splendid Miramare castle, just out of town, where princess Sissi drama unfolded as the empire was crumbling and which is regarded as a monument to the beautiful and beloved heroine.

The sense of longing for its past grandeur is continuously celebrated in the extreme attention to the city’s heritage, both in small things like its food traditions and in the love for its territory, be it in the form of it karst caves or its architecture. The Piazza Unità d’Italia square, for example – the largest seafront square in the world – is a breathtaking jewel also for the unusually (for Italy) spotless conditions. The locals even manage to make good of the bora, the 100 kilometers per hour-plus wind typical of Trieste, that is almost worshipped as a badge of honor for the city!