Trieste

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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 the former Yugoslavia. This border area is fraught with tensions, as the city has not yet learnt to coexist peacefully with its foreign neighbours.

Surrounding the highly urbanised areas in the centre 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 which extends a friendly welcome to people of all nationalities. Until 1954, it was under U.S. 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 the Carso and a meal in a good restaurant? Just sit back and watch the frenetic pace of everday life grind slowly to a halt.

Trieste is a beautiful and extraordinary city, anchored to a past which it can not forget. It is constantly battered by the Bora - an icy and powerful north-easterly 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 orientated ' geographically at least.

N.B. There is no metro service in Trieste, but there is a good bus service. However, if you are travelling to the Carso or any other suburban region, make sure you have consulted the bus timetable, or alternatively hire a car as after a certain time (and also in certain areas) buses become less frequent.

Muggia

This is a small town (one of six) which lies around ten kilometres from the centre 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, you need simply set sail in the opposite direction to Venice.

Frenetic building work is now taking place where the glorious shipyards of San Rocco once stood. A giant tourist complex is being built; this will comprise of hundreds of moorings for boats, hotels, sports centres, restaurants and apartments. Accomodation bought here would be a shrewd investment.

The industrial region stretches out just beyond the town, but does not, in any way affect its tranquil atmosphere.

Val Rosandra

Val Rosandra lies to the east, somewhere between Muggia and Trieste. It is the most beautiful and evocative corner of the Carso and consists of the extraordinary valley which has been carved out by the Rosandra river. For those who live locally, this is an ideal place for spiritual retreats as well as for spending relaxing Sunday afternoons in the summer. It is an unmissable spot where you will be able to go on delightful walks and take in enchanting views.

Valmaura, Servola and Chiarbola are all in the immediate periphery of Trieste and are for the most part residential districts. Here, you will find the stadium, the new Palace of Sports and the Risiera di San Sabba which was the only Nazi concentration camp in Italy.

House prices here are considerably lower than anywhere else, but the area offers few amenities. However, it is only around ten or fifteen minutes away from the city centre. The Servola district ' which has unfortuntately been polluted by the pungent black smoke from the gigantic railway complex - is also nearby.

Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia andCittavecchia

This area consitutes the heart of Trieste. Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia is the largest seaside piazza in Europe. Right behind it stands the historic city centre which streches back to the hills upon which stand the castle and the San Giusto Cathedral.

It is here that you will find the Town Hall, Prefecture, Police Station, Chamber of Commerce, Stock Exchange and several cafés with historical significance, such as Tergesteo, Specchi and Tommaseo - a particular favourite with the locals.

A lesiurely stroll through this predominantly pedestrianised area will enable you to take in the various book and antique shops, the ancient Teatro Romano, the remains of the Forum, the priniciple museums and the narrow streets of the historic city centre. Behind the large piazza stands the beautiful Teatro Verdi. To live here is a luxury permitted only to a select few. The prinicple reason for this is that bicycles are virtually banned in Trieste. Navigating the numerous steep ascents and sheer drops along the city's streets will therefore exhaust all but the most hardy.

Borgo Teresiano

The old heart of Trieste stands by the sea, near the train station. In order to get here from the Piazza dell'Unità d'Italia, you would simply need to walk along the shore for a couple of hundred metres in the direction of Venice. This area is a little unwelcoming, and visiting at night is not recommended. It is often frequented by Slovenians and Croatians who come to buy discount clothing and merchandise from shops which are small, but always very busy. Recently, a number of commercial enterprises run by the immigrant Chinese community have been set up in the area. From here, you can visit the ancient, glorious port of Trieste.

Corso Italia, Barriera Vecchia, Via Battisti

This is the commercial heart of the city, situated around ten minutes from the sea. It is characterised 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 kilometres. Along here you will find over half of the cinemas in Trieste as well as a number of excellent ice cream parlours. At the bottom of this street, in the direction of Longera stands the Il Giulia shopping centre, behind which stands the Boschetto (or 'little wood'), an oasis of green in the middle of the city.

San Giacomo and San Vito

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 highy 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, on the other hand, is a typical residential district ' both quiet and sleepy. It is here that the headquarters of Lloyd Adriatico (the insurance giant) and Lloyd Triestino (historic local shipping company, recently acquired by a foreign multinational) can be found.

Montebello

This area is typically residential and would be somewhat anonymous if it weren't for the presence of the Hippodrome and Trieste's small exhibition complex. It is on the periphery of the city, at the end of the Viale D'Annunzio. Traffic poses relatively few problems here.

Università

To get to this beautiful residential district you would have to first ascend the Via Coroneo and then the Via Fabio Severo. Here you will find most of the faculties and departments which make up the university. Shops are few and far between.

Barcola, Miramare, Sistiana, Grignano and Duino

These small towns lie outside the city, along the coastal road which leads to Venice. The panoramic views here are unsurpassed ' the local residents are fortunate indeed.

Barcola is only a walk away from Trieste and is home to the Castello di Miramare which was the magnificent residence of Maximillian of Hapsburg ' a symbolic figure in the history of Trieste.

Then there are Grrigniano, Sistiana and Duino (at the northernmost tip of the province) ' three enchanting little towns which stand between the sea and the upland plains. Visit these for elegant bars, fashionable restaurants, delicious seafood and enchanting walks. A word of warning: take care when driving along the coastal road (the principle means of entry into the city). It is narrow and dangerous, so make sure you respect the low speed limits which have been put in place to reduce the risk of accidents.

Opicino and the upland plains

Just behind Trieste stands the Carso - beautiful countryside consisting of woods, clearings, moors, canyons, valleys, and rocks piled high above the sea. It is an area which local residents hold especially dear, with its small, but characteristic towns and villages, its restaurants, farms, cycle paths and walls to climb. Situated around twenty five minutes from the city centre, it is an area which lies very close to the border and which is therefore home to the majority of Italy's Slovenian community.

There are hundreds of places which are worth a visit in this area, including the imposing Faro della Vittoria, the Passeggiata Napoleonica and the Tempio Mariano.

Opicina itself is the largest of the villages on the upland plains. It is fairly self-contained and well worth a visit.

Finally, there is Padriciano which you reach by turning off at the last exit on the motorway. Here you will find the Area di Ricerca which is one of the largest science and technology parks in Europe. It is here that the Elettra - a synchroton light source ' is being developed.

History of Trieste

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 two thousand B.C. 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 B.C. Tergeste became a colony of the Eternal City. Commerce and trading began to increase at an astonishing rate, particularly during the second century A.D. 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 Austro-Hungarian Empire, or rather to Duke Leopold of Austria.

In 1382, an indissoluble bond was created between Trieste and the Hapsburgs. 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 castle on San Giusto hill, 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 Hapsburgs (a huge international power) that Trieste was swiflty 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 Hapsburgs until 1918.

Merchants, entrepreneurs and adventurers from all over the world flocked to Trieste and the city was radically restructured in the eighteenth century by the energetic Empress Maria Teresa. By the end of the nineteenth century the city numbered over one hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. Large insurance and shipping companies began to appear and shipyards and factories also opened their doors.

Trieste became an important port under Viennese 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 unpararalled 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 laiden with charm, charisma and mystery; it is full of places of historical 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 Garibaldi's forces and the Risorgimento. By the end of the First World War, Trieste had become part of a united Italy. However, the upheavals did not end here. The Second World War brought with it new tragedies. Italy lost the war and Trieste was invaded by Tito's Yugoslavian troops. The 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 interventention of Allied troops and the city ' with feelings of both euphoria and disorientation ' came under U.S. military rule until 1954. It was at this time that Trieste was finally and defintively returned to Italy and it became the administrative seat of the smallest province in Italy and the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region.

When the Ameicans left however, there were further problems. Many people found themselves being made redundant and the region underwent a progressive de-industrialisation. The crisis facing the port and the undeniable lack of business acumen among the citizens of Trieste were 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 unemployed in Venezia-Giulia is one of the highest in Northern Italy.

It has only really been in the past twenty years that Trieste has been able to carve out a new niche for itself. It has now become the most important centre for scientific research in Italy and this is a sector which is providing work for an increasing number of young people. Numerous research institutes can be found in the city including the Area di Ricerca (one of the largest technology parks in Europe), the Sincrotrone Elettra, the International Centre of Physical Theory, the Laboratory of Marine Biology, the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology and many others, as well as the avant-garde university which was built under Fascist rule in the 1920's.

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