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Published: June 30th 2010
In 1956, National Geographic published an article on Trieste, depicting it as a cultural melting pot of the surrounding influences - Slovenian, Croatian, and Italian. Somehow that article caught my attention, and I have always wanted to go to Trieste. I finally got my chance on this trip.
Jan, Jennie, and I flew into Venice and took a water taxi to the train station. Checking on our train departure, we discovered that a train was leaving in a few minutes, about 2-1/2 hours ahead of our scheduled departure, so we hopped on board. Actually, given the amount of luggage, the term “hopped” sounds much more sprightly than the situation warrants. The train journey took us along the coast, past marble quarries and Prosecco of the fruity sparkling wines, into Trieste. We met up with Alan and Sue Velie and had a wonderful lunch at the Montecarlo restaurant, around the corner from our hotel. That evening, after a nap required by the time changes, we walked down to the Grand Canal and had dinner.
The winds of history have swept over Trieste like the katabatic Bora wind that drops down so fiercely from the mountains in the winter that
the city has erected poles with chains to hang onto along walking routes. Its location at the intersection of Germanic, Latin, and Slavic cultures has resulted in multiple government changes, and its ability to serve as a port for much of Europe, with closer overland routes than other cities such as Venice and Genoa, resulted in a flourishing economy and significant importance throughout much of its history.
It was under various governments throughout much of its history, including notably being one of the most important ports of the Austro-Hungarian empire from the late 1300’s to the late 1800’s.
Following World War I, Trieste became part of the Kingdom of Italy, but in the process lost some importance since it lost some of the surrounding territory. It became for a time a favorite haunt of artistic, literary, and intellectual luminaries, including Sigmund Freud and James Joyce (who wrote significant portions of Ulysses, Dubliners, and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man here, while moving constantly due to lack of money for rent).
A rising tide of Italian fascism resulted in severe steps, including bombings and murder, against the Slovenians in the city, who at that time comprised
up to about 25% of the population. Many left, and others Italianized their surnames and stayed. Thousands of Italian speaking people from Dalmatia moved to Trieste during this period. The result of all this was that Trieste largely lost is multiple cultures and languages.
After World War II, during which Trieste was heavily bombed while under German control, the Free Territory of Trieste was established for a few years, and in 1954 the southernmost part of that territory was ceded to Yugoslavia and the northernmost part became the province of Trieste in modern day Italy. It continues to be an important port, but has not regained the status it had in that regard in the past.
Our touring took us first to the Castello di San Giusto. The castle itself was constructed over about two centuries, beginning in the late 15th century, but it occupies a hill that has been built upon for much longer. The hill complex includes a Roman basilica dedicated to Venus and other Roman ruins. Further down the hill is the Roman amphitheater, facing the sea.
After visiting these sights, we walked to the train station and caught a bus. Upon arriving at
its final stop, we discovered that we were still quite a long walk from Miramar Castle and decided to skip it. We finished the day with another wonderful dinner on the Grand Canal.
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