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April 27th 2019
Back in Trieste again!
My trip by train from Salzburg to Villach went upstream at first along the river the Salzach, that had been back in Salzburg a rather wide stream, but that the further south we came grew smaller and smaller between mountains that grew higher. Their names appear in the descriptions of the stages of the Via Alpina! The river was also wilder: tree trunks were laying on the river banks, that had been carried along by the meltwater, but I also spotted somewhere in a bend a crushed yellow road sign, probably with the warning that the road was closed due to high water!
From Villach I took the train this time and didn’t travel by bus like last year. That part of the journey was a little bit disappointing: there were more tunnels than panoramas… I was just able to take a picture of the Tagliamento river meandering with bright blue water through a very wide bedding. The sky had all shades of grey, so the yellow of the field with flowering rape seed was the only colour in the landscape.
At a quarter to two I arrived at the railway station of Trieste and followed the road that in the meantime has become familiar toe me to the Hotel Centrale, where I have already stayed last year. I got a room from which I had a nice view over the large square in front of the St. Antonius Thaumaturgus church. An extensive “European Market” (Mercato europeo) was taking place: the square, the quays and the streets leading to the Piazza Unità d’Italia (the Square of the Italian Unity) were full of booths from all European and other countries. A lot of food and a variety of nice things and other trinkets were for sale. The first thing I saw: a Dutch stall with flower bulbs and plants! There was also a booth which sold “mini crêpes olandesi“, the Dutch flag was flapping in the wind. A little boy was holding a tray of “poffertjes” in his hand with a skewer with a small Dutch flag, and seemed to like the small pancakes with icing sugar and chocolate sauce (?!) very much… Later on I would come across another booth, this time with Dutch cheese – the seller told me that he lived in the Betuwe, an area just to the south from Arnhem. That is me, travelling all the way from Holland…!
Going on to the water – just to have a look at the sea! – I stood by two bronze statues. These are statues to celebrate the Liberation from the First World War as well as from the Second World War. The first one is a Bersagliere, a sniper of the Italian Infantry, carrying the Italian flag ashore as a sign that the First World War is over, and the second consists of two girls who sow the Italian flag together (Le Sartine) as a token of joy that after the Second World War Trieste was allotted again to Italy. A nice detail is the large pair of scissors on the wall next to them. Many tourists considered this a beautiful photo opportunity. Somehow there was a patch of blue sky somewhere amidst the clouds over the sea!
As I had grown slightly hungry, I would like to go the restaurant where I had several nice meals last year (Antico Panada) on the Canal Grande. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed: within a few weeks a pizzeria would be opened. Because I didn’t like the idea of eating poffertjes, I decided to walk around and to make a choice of the uncountable, pleasant looking eateries. In the Via della Cassa di Risparmo was written on the marquee of “Buffet di Pepi” “Locale storico“: it sounded authentic and that was indeed the case. In this restaurant that already exists since 1897mainly dishes with pork are prepared according to the principle of the caldaia: the slow cooking of the meat in an excellent broth. The founding father was Pepi Krajnic, who was consequently called Pepi S’Ciavo (Pepi the Yugoslav): the inhabitants of Trieste are well-known for their liking of nicknames… Since 1952 the restaurant is called Buffet di Pepi. The dishes are inspired by the Slovenian cuisine. An advice on the menu reads that when you come in for the first time, you should order small portions of everything, just to try. So did I – in my finest Italian – and I got a plate ( in the shape of a little pig) loaded with all kinds of tasty bites and a lot of mustard. In addition potatoes with bacon. Later on I understood that the first choice the waitress had given had been sauerkraut (crauti). A “quatro di vino bianco” went well with it. That was how my first day in Trieste ended.
On April 27th it is King’s Day in the Netherlands and my plan for the day was a city walk through Trieste from the Roman era, when the city was called Tergeste. The name has been put together from “terge“, market and “este“, town. Many traces of this Roman town are still visible.
After I finished my breakfast with the usual two cups of espresso and a lot of sweets (they offered lemon tart again!) I set off. First thing I headed to the waterfront again. Today the sun was shining – despite the weather forecasts that the weather would be nasty. The sky was clear blue, apart from the billowing clouds, rolling in over the mountain range… The cold wind blew from the west and carried the smell of seaweed and salty water. Again the views were marvellous.
Near the waterfront I spotted again the hedges with Japanese Mock Oranges (Pittosporum “tobira”), of which the flowers as the name already indicates smell deliciously like orange blossom. Last year (although it was a week later) they were abundantly in bloom, but now they were still almost closed. Nevertheless their scent was activated by the warm morning sun. This is a real touch of spring!
Not far from the waterfront is the large Piazza d’Unita d’Italia: this is the largest square in Europe that is situated directly at the waterfront. Around the square the City Hall from 1875 is standing in the middle; to the right is the building in which at first a big insurance company held office (the Lloyd Triestino), but in which nowadays the board of the Regione Autonoma Friuli-Venezia-Giulia is situated, and to the left the Prefecture. Besides the official government buildings there are many restaurants. Today we were not allowed to enter the square: the area was closed off with tape, because according to the traffic wardens filming was going on (something around international football for under 21 year). The square would be closed for a whole day. No problem, I make a detour – in the meantime I can easily find my way by now!
At the Piazza della Borsa, the Square of the Exchange, the impressive, neo-classical building from 1806 is standing, where in the past the trade exchange was held, but nowadays it is the home to the Chamber of Commerce. Trieste has always been, because of its location, a trade town, especially when in 1719 it was given the status of free port. In that period the Canal Grande has been dug out to be able to unload the goods directly in the centre of the city. Also the “Casa Bartoli” catches the eye: this Jugendstil building with the white leave motives on the wall which seem to hang elegantly from the ledges between the green, chequered windows and the balconies with their geometrical forms is designed by the famous architect architect Max Fabiani (1865–1962), who has been living in Gorizia for a long time. The slogan in the conservatory on the second floor refers to the special status Trieste had in the period after the Second World War: a so-called free zone has been declared around the city of Trieste as an reaction to the claims on the territory made by Italy as by the communist Yugoslavia. Zone A with Trieste was governed by the Americans and the Brits, Zone B (to the south) was governed by the Yugoslavian Army. In 1954 the Free Zone was lifted and Zone A returned to Italy and Zone B to former Yugoslavia.
From this square it was a short walk to the Roman Theatre, dating from the period of Emperor Augustus (reigning from 27 BC to 14 AD). The theatre was used for gladiators’ games: in addition the audience had a nice view over the sea! The central, semi-round part with the stone benches is still reasonably intact, the façade with the statues has disappeared. Nearby a small museum is installed – I only had a look through the bay window before moving on.
It was a steep climb to the top of the hill with more elements dating from the Roman era. Halfway is the Giardino S. Michele with a beautiful view over the town and the blue sea. That is hopefully something of all times…
On top of the hill is the Cathedrale S. Giusto dating from the 11th century, which is partly built on the foundations of an earlier church from the 5th century. Before that time there has already been a “pagan” construction. The large rose window has only been placed during the big renovation in the 1920s, because it was too dark in the church. The interior is beautiful with wonderfully inlaid stones and marble floorings and large colourful mosaics with lots of gold. The bell tower dates back to the middle of the 14th century and has originally been built around a tower from the 1st century AD. In the course of the centuries old elements have been reused!
In the Roman times the Forum was situated on this hill: the administrative and religious centre of the city. The rows of pillars give an indication of the vastness of the Forum. Here can especially been found Ionic columns, the capital of one of the columns: the Romans had copied this Greek building style. On the ground also a capital in the Corinthian order was lying.
Like in Gorizia here also is a Parco della Rimembranza, a park with memorials commemorating the World Wars. On the hill it looks more like a broad avenue, paved with nice stones and lined with cypresses, leading to a large group of statues made of bronze on a high plinth.
Today the entrance to the Museo civico de storia ed arte, the Archaeological Museum, was free. The museum garden (originally the cemetery belonging to the church which however has been cleared in 1825) contains a large collection of tombstones or parts thereof from Roman times. There also is a neoclassical temple from 1833, where J.J. Winckelmann’s cenotaph is standing. J.J. Winckelman (1717–1768), born in Germany, is considered as the founder of the modern archaeology and antient history. In the temple alsoa marble bust of himself and many statues from the Greek and Roman antiquity is on display – an impressive collection. I especially appreciated the head of Demeter/Ceres, the goddess of Agriculture from the Roman era.
In the inner court of the Museo civico di storia ed arte a part of a capital of a Corinthian column was attached to a wall, decorated with acanthus leaves. Against the outer wall of the museum a planter was placed with a real acanthus! The Romans used especially the motive of the non-prickly variety of the acanthus mollis or bear’s foot – the Greek especially the leaves of the prickly acanthus spinosus, the spiny bear’s breech.
In the Archaeological Museum I have only visited the Roman collection – and that was already overpowering. There was a large collection of glass- and earthenware in all shapes, colours and sizes.
There was a lot of amber as well, mainly in the form of jewellery and gems, all very shaped in fine details. When in the 1st century AD peace returned again at the borders of the Roman Empire with the territories around the Danube a lively commerce started with “the North”, the Baltic coast. A real “via d’ambra“, an Amber Trail, was developed. Aquileia (in the Northwestern part of the Bay of Trieste) was the end of this trail: there a real processing industry has grown.
In a showcase in another gallery of the museum a bronze belt clasp was on display with an almost Jugendstil design, as part of the outfit of a Roman soldier in the form of an ivy leaf. This clasp is a part of a huge find made in 1908 near Škocjan in nowadays Slovenia. A farmer went somewhere to take along a pile of stones, when he discovered a large amount of bronze items. The then well-known archaeologist Carlo Marchesetti (1850–1926) has dated this treasure in the 4th century BC taking the into account the design of the fibula’s (closing pin for garments). It was a marvellous sight to look at all these items on display in a large showcase!
As to finish off my Roman adventure I visit the Arco di Riccardo, a Roman arch that looks as if it is glued to the wall of the row of houses. It is of course been the other way round: a part of this over 7 metres long arch from the 1st century AD is incorporated in the wall of the houses… The name is a corruption of the originally Roman name “Cardo Maximo“.
After this trip to the Classics it was about time to bring a birthday toast to King Willem-Alexander!