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The Historical Cafés of Trieste

If you travel to Trieste, don’t fail to visit its historical cafés. Part of their patina is due to their connection with literary figures – writers such as Svevo, Saba, Stendhal and Joyce frequented these establishments in search of conversation, inspiration and rest.

While these cafés enjoyed their moment of splendour in the late-19th and early-20th century, they have endured to the present, albeit with some changes, transporting their customers back to a bygone age. Visitors can admire their wooden furnishings, framed in tall architectural devices, the classic marble tables and an atmosphere redolent with the aroma of coffee.

Here are some of the standout historical cafés of Trieste:

Caffè Tommaseo (Piazza Tommaseo, 4/c)

Opened in 1830 by the Paduan, Tommaso Marcato, this is Trieste’s oldest café. It was decorated by the painter, Gatteri, who among other things commissioned the mirrors to be brought from Belgium. It was once a meeting place of merchants and writers and the first establishment in the city to serve ice-cream. It also used to host art exhibitions and concerts, a tradition still kept alive on its premises.

Caffè degli Specchi (Piazza Unità d’Italia, 7)

Founded in 1839 by the Greek, Nicolò Priovolo, it is located in one of the most privileged spots in Trieste, the Piazza Unità d’Italia, on the ground floor of the Stratti building. When you get to this café, you are hard put to decide where to sit – the interior is still tinged with the charm of its glorious past, while the terrace affords lovely views of the square and the sea. Curiously, during World War II it was used to garrison troops, and also as a warehouse and even a stable.

Caffè Tergesteo (Piazza della Borsa, 15)

Housed in the shopping arcade of the Tergesteo Palace, the former seat of Trieste’s stock exchange, it is famed for its stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the city’s history. It was once frequented during the day by businessmen who attended the stock exchange, and by night by the cultural elite.

Caffè San Marco (Via Battisti, 18)

The early years of this café were troubled ones. Having opened in 1914, the following year it was closed down and destroyed by Austro-Hungarian troops for having been the meeting place for the irredentists. It was rebuilt in the twenties, when its regular clientele featured such literary figures as Saba, Svevo and Giotti. It is now a café, cultural centre and library and still breathes the atmosphere of another age.

Caffè Torinese (Corso Italia, 2)

The first thing that strikes one when entering this bar, opened in 1915, is its Art Nouveau decoration, the work of the Trieste cabinet-maker, Debelli. Another stunning feature is the spectacular crystal chandelier that lights its comfortable interior. The current owners have managed to endow the locale with a cool, modern air in the guise of its cocktails and its wine list, which includes local wines.

How to Order a Coffee in Trieste

While this might sound outlandish, Trieste has its own names for different types of coffee and you should bear this in mind unless you want to end up gawking at the waiter who has just served up your order. An expresso is called a nero, while a capuccino is known as caffè latte. If you want a macchiato, you have to ask for a capo (capuccino) and, if you’d like your coffee served in a glass, you should specify “in a b”, as “b” is the abbreviation for glass (bicchiere) in Italian.

Ready for a good cup of coffee in Trieste? Book your Vueling here.


Text by ISABELYLUIS Comunicación

Photos by dani7c3, Caffè TommaseoCaffè TorineseCaffè degli Specchi

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