Trieste

This is an excerpt from the book “Trieste and Friuli”. by Enrico Massetti. Get the ebook for the complete content.

Trieste in the evening – Photo © Gabriella Marino

Squares of Trieste

On the left before Piazza della Borsa there is the great square building called the Tergesteo, formerly headquarters of the customs and the city governor’s residence. While the exterior presents simple lines, the interior is built to a remarkable design: a huge glass vaulted cross.

It also acts as covered walkway between Piazza della Borsa and Piazza del Teatro di Trieste. Triangular in shape, Piazza della Borsa is bounded by buildings from a range of epochs and in varying styles. .

Seen from the front of the Old Trieste Stock Exchange, to the right is Palazzo Dreher (The New Trieste Stock Exchange), whose sumptuously curving facade gives it a striking presence in the square. In contrast with its richly decorated exterior is a soberly functional interior (1929), designed by the architect Geiringer after the style of G. Pulitzer Finali who, with the Stuard studio, formed the modern Trieste style of the time, especially in naval architecture.

Palazzo Dreher stands at the beginning of Via Cassa di Risparmio, at No. 10 of which is the seat of the bank of the same name, designed in 16th century style by E. Nordio. Opposite Palzzo Dreher is the Renaissance-style Casa Rusconi, designed by G. Scalmanini.

In the opposite corner, at the junction of Corso Italia and Via Roma, there is the Palazzina Romano, a sober specimen of 18th-century architecture. Opposite the Old Trieste Stock Exchange the green building of the Casa Bartoli (1905, designed by M. Fabiani) informs us of a direct contact with the Wagnerschule, to which Fabiani belonged.

Trieste Canal – Photo © paradiseintheworld.com

The triangle marked out by the buildings contains a column surmounted by a bronze statue of Habsburg Emperor Leopold I, erected to commemorate his visit to Trieste. This area is at the center of the district known as the Borgo Teresiano, named after Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa, the driving force behind its construction.

The Serb Orthodox church of San Spiridione bears witness to the long-standing peaceful coexistence of a range of faiths in Trieste.

Among the few surviving historic cafès (Caffè degli Specchi, Caffè San Marco, Caffè Tommaseo), in Piazza Sant’Antonio stands the old Caffè Stella Polare. On Via Ponchielli stands the Baroque Casa Czeike (1770, designed by Bubolini).

Further up Via Mazzini from the square there is the junction with Via Imbriani, along which is located the Morpurgo Museum.

Along Via Carducci, between Piazza Goldoni and Piazza Garibaldi you will find the covered market, one of the finest examples of the modernist architecture in which Trieste abounds.

Just off the right of Via Carducci in the direction of the station is the beginning of Viale XX Settembre (formerly Viale dell’Acquedotto). It was given to the city by Domenico Rossetti, who wished to endow the inhabitants of Trieste with a tree-lined avenue where they could stroll. This pedestrian thoroughfare is flanked by buildings of discreet elegance housing flats, offices and shops. It also boasts many bars, cinemas and a theatre, and offers a pleasant environment for walkers to linger on a summer evening at the tables placed outside between the long rows of trees (over a kilometers), which also provide plentiful shade.

Parallel to the Viale is Via Battisti and the Caffè San Marco. This cafè is on the same block as the Synagogue, which faces Piazza Giotti. From there, Via Zanetti leads to Via Coroneo, alongside which is the severe and imposing Palace of Justice (E. and U. Nordio, 1913-1934).

Piazza Oberdan is the city terminus of the “Tram de Opicina”, a funicular tramway which since 1902 has connected the Trieste city center with Opicina on the Carso uplands, winding its course a steep panoramic route.

Just off the square in Via Filzi there is the former Hotel Regina, an elegant building now home to the Faculty of Modern Languages for Interpreters and Translators, and close by at No. 12 in Via Ghega there s the Palazzo Rittmeyer, housing the Conservatorio Statale G. Tartini.

Trieste: The Hill of San Giusto

The city of Trieste is dominated by the Hill of San Giusto. The large square in front of the Cathedral at the top of the hill was the center of its political, social and cultural life from proto-historical and Roman times. Roman civic buildings nave left many and significant remains.

Inside the bell tower there are other Roman remains. In the 5th century an early Christian basilica was built on the ruins of this temple, and then replaced in the 9th and 12th centuries by two parallel churches, which in the 14th century were joined to form what we know as the Cathedral of San Giusto, patron saint of the city of Trieste. To the right of the Cathedral is the small 13th-century church of San Michele al Carnale, alongside which is the entrance to the Civic Museum of History and Art and the Stone Monument Garden.

The Cathedral square is distinguished by the 16th-century column which since 1844 has been surmounted by a melon and a halberd, the symbols of Trieste, the bulk of the Altar to the 3rd Army (1929) and the imposing First World War Memorial.

On a broad green slope below the summit of the hill the city’s war dead are also commemorated in the Park of Remembrance. San Giusto hill can be toured by means of a circular route.

Starting from Piazza della Cattedrale, Via San Giusto and Via T. Grossi lead around the perimeter of the Castle to the fountain belonging to the Scalinata dei Giganti (Giant’s Staircase, designed by R. and A. Berlam). To the left of this is the Parco della Rimembranza, which leads to Via Capitolina and the top of the hill, on which stands the Castle of San Giusto. The walkways on the Castle walls provide splendid views of the whole of the city.

Religious Buildings and Worship of Trieste

Anybody observing Trieste from the air will be struck by its rich architectural fabric formed by red and brown roofs, high blue domes, slender and soaring bell towers.

One interpretation of Trieste is suggested by the variety of styles, faiths and religions that have marked the city since the beginning of its development. The Catholic, Jewish, Orthodox and Protestant faiths all have in Trieste their own symbolic buildings because it is here that their members have met, worked and lived in harmony, manifesting the city’s multiethnic and multicultural imprint made possible by the far-sighted political, economic and religious policies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The itinerary proposed here starts from the original nucleus of Trieste at the Cathedral of San Giusto and proceeds down the Capitoline Hill to the medieval Church of San Silvestro. From there, passing by the Roman amphitheatre and through Piazza dell’Unita’, it reaches the seafront and the churches of San Nicolo’, San Spiridione and Sant’Antonio Nuovo. Its final leg includes the Lutheran Evangelical Church and concludes with the Synagogue in Piazza Giotti.

The waterfront of Trieste

The waterfront of Trieste stands as an imaginary interface between the Mediterranean and Central Europe. To a visitor arriving from the scenic road, it provides a backdrop for an entry to the city whose visual impact reflects the peculiar identity of a place on the cusp between the Mediterranean and central Europe. The predominant colors are those produced by the fusion of the grey-blue of the buildings and the orange of the timeless sunsets that have so often been at work through the palettes of local artists.

The prominent buildings in Piazza della Liberta’ are the neo-Greek Palazzo Economo, housing the Superintendency of Fine Arts with the Gallery of Ancient Art on the second floor, and the neo-Renaissance Trieste Central railway station. On the seaward side of the square there is the entrance to the Old Port, a kind of city within the city, which is now being redesigned for a thoroughgoing conversion.

Proceeding away from the Trieste station, on the left there is the area occupied by the Canale Grande, which used to reach inland as far as the Church of Sant’Antonio Taumaturgo (Sant’Antonio Nuovo) and allowed the docking of ships full of cargo from the Orient. It is no coincidence that by the entrance to the canal stands the refined shape of Palazzo Carciotti, which was home, office and warehouse of the Greek merchant after which it is named.

Further along on the left there is the old Hotel de la Ville, for decades the city’s most important hotel, the Greek Orthodox Church of San Nicolo’ and the Caffè Tommaseo. These three buildings are redolent of a cosmopolitan 19th-century Trieste in which trade was rapidly into wealth which allowed the satisfaction of a number of appetites, from the modern to the strictly cultural. This mixture was symbolized by Trieste’s historic cafès, of which there was a great many.

The seaward side beyond the Trieste Stazione Marittima narrows down at the level of the old Fish Market (1913, designed by Polli), shortly to be reopened as a multi-functional exhibition center.

Trieste Miramare Castle

From the eastern end of the Coast Road into Trieste the eye is drawn to the tip of a headland on which stands the Castle of Miramare. The Castle and its gardens were built at the behest of Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg, brother of Emperor Franz Josef. Born in Vienna in 1832, Maximilian came to Trieste for the first time in 1850.

Four years later, appointed Rear Admiral in the Austro-Hungarian Navy, he decided to settle in the city. He decided on the promontory of Trieste Miramare as the site for his residence and appointed Carl Junker to take charge of the construction of a castle there (1856), giving him detailed instructions as to its design.

With his young wife Charlotte of Belgium, Maximilian took up residence in the Castle in 1860.

Four years later the couple set sail for Mexico, whose throne had been offered to Maximilian in an attempt to end the civil war that was raging in the country. The enterprise met a tragic end, however, when he was captured and shot at Quaretaro in 1867. Charlotte, who had returned to Miramare a few months earlier, was so devastated by the news that the balance of her mind was disturbed. She withdrew to the Castelletto in the Castle gardens and then moved back to Belgium, where she eventually died in 1927. The couple lived in the Castle for just four years. The ground floor is given over to the imperial couple’s apartments.

Where to stay in Trieste

There are high quality hotels, apartments, condo hotels and B&Bs available, check them out and make a reservation here.


This is an excerpt from the book “Trieste and Friuli”. Get the ebook for the complete content.