Trieste, “the forgotten city”

By Alessandra Goio

Italy owns a priceless heritage of cities. Rome, Milan, Venice and Florence are the most popular destinations, but there are a lot of other charming places that are worth visiting. One of these is Trieste. Situated at the extreme North-East of the Italian peninsula, Trieste is a border city, being tucked between Italian, German and Slavic lands. Due to this geographical position, through time the city has acquired cultural and artistic elements from different peoples. The result is the creation of a unique culture characterised by a cosmopolitan trait.

Most of its artistic heritage belongs to the nineteenth century. During this period, Trieste was part of the Austrian Empire and it was the most prosperous port of the Adriatic Sea. What is peculiar is that if you walk through the streets of the city centre, you have the perception that time has stood still, nothing seems to have changed. The historical buildings are still as majestic as they were 200 years ago and the wide boulevards which are busy at every hour resembles those in Vienna.

Two places in particular are worth mentioning for their beauty. Piazza Unità d’Italia (Unity Square) is deemed to be Europe’s largest sea-front square. It is the perfect place for a peaceful moment looking at the sun setting beyond the sea. Another place is the Miramare Castle. It was commissioned by Archduke Maximilian of Austria and it is possible to visit the interior which has remained essentially the same ever since. Its position – overlooking the sea – offers an astonishing view over the gulf of Trieste.

Despite its cosmopolitan culture and its imperial architecture, Trieste is one of the most unfairly underestimated places not only in Italy, but in Europe. Why is it not as popular as the other Italian destinations? What I think lies behind the city’s misfortune is its isolation from the rest of Italy, an isolation that originated following the First World War. After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the following annexation to Italy, it experienced irreparable economic decline. Indeed, the Italian administration failed to integrate Trieste in its territory and left the city to its destiny. Trieste was unable to stand the competition with other powerful Italian seaports such as Venice and Genoa and many activities in the industrial sector went bankrupt. Moreover, the railway communication system never developed further and subsequently lost many of its international links. By not intervening to save its economy, Italy also failed to address the city’s rebirth as a touristic place: resources were not deployed and tourists kept visiting to the same destinations.

The story of Trieste is a sad one, as it was forgotten by its own country. The lack of intervention on behalf of the State is still apparent, and the city is still suffering from this carelessness. The Italian government should start to put Trieste’s requests for development on its agenda and to appraise its cultural and artistic heritage. Trieste is an incredible place with many cultural attractions and it deserves to be visited and protected as other Italian cities are.


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