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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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6 Keys to Unlock Trieste

Here are some pointers to discover and delve into this surprising city on the Adriatic.

1. A Meeting of Cultures

Any mention of Trieste conjures up an idea of cultural blending, thanks to its geographical location in the far north of Italy, on the Adriatic coast and very near the border with Slovenia. It has long been coveted by its neighbours for its strategic position, as attested by this titbit: although it now belongs to Italy, from 1382 to 1918 it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hence, although we find ourselves in Italy, it is not unusual for visitors to feel as if they are in Austria, partly on account of the buildings, or because of touches in the local cuisine. A case in point is Borgo Teresiano, built in the mid-18th century during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa, traversed by the prominent Canal Grande.

This meeting of cultures was characterised by coexistence between various religious groups living in harmony, including the Greek Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Jewish, Lutheran and Helvetic denominations. No wonder, then, that among the religious buildings worth viewing we find the Byzantine-style Cathedral of St Justus, the formidable Neoclassic Synagogue on the Via San Francesco, and the Serbian Orthodox Church of the Santissima Trinità e San Spiridione (Holy Trinity and St Spyridon).

2. Trieste and the Sea

One hallmark of this city is its siting on the sea; indeed, throughout its history it has been one of the leading ports in the Mediterranean. During the Middle Ages it vied with a well-known neighbouring city – Venice – for hegemony over maritime trade, while nowadays it is Italy’s major seaport.

One of the best spots to savour the Adriatic Sea and the Gulf of Trieste is the marvellous Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia, one of the city’s major landmarks. Located between the Borgo Teresiano and Borgo Giuseppino, it has the honour of being the largest sea-facing square in Europe. Rectangular in shape, it is fronted by 19th-century public buildings and palaces in the Neoclassic and Viennese styles. A noteworthy example is the Prefettura or seat of government, and the Palazzo Stratti.

3. Roman Past

Needless to say, the seaport’s strategic potential did not go unnoticed by the Romans, who wasted no time in adding Trieste to their colonies. Dating from that period are a number of vestiges, including the Roman Theatre, from the 2nd century AD, and the Arco di Riccardo (Richard’s Arch), from the 1st century AD. The latter is named after Richard the Lionheart and was once an entrance gate into the old city.

4. The Historic Cafés

A visit to some of Trieste’s historic cafés comes highly recommended. Dating from the city’s age of splendour, these were the haunts of such illustrious writers and poets as James Joyce, Italo Svevo and Umberto Saba, who met to chat, deliver literary readings and exchange ideas. Some of the most renowned cafés are Caffè Tommaseo, Caffè degli Specchi, Caffè San Marco and Caffè Torinese.

5. Refined Cuisine

Triestini cuisine is heir to a blend resulting from the aforementioned cultures. Mediterranean-style dishes, like those based on fish, can be found side by side with predominantly meat-based Central-European recipes. Among the most typical dishes we find jota (a soup of beans, cabbage, bacon and potato), which is Slavic in origin, bolliti di maiale (various boiled pork cuts) and sardoni in savòr (sardines marinated in vinegar), of Venetian origin.

6. A Wind Known as Bora

Another characteristic feature of Trieste is a wind known as the Bora, which blows into the Gulf from the continental mass further north. It can reach sustained speeds of around 120 km/hr, with gusts of nearly 200 km/hr. It has the effect of drying out the atmosphere and clearing the sky of any cloud cover. Pavements in the city are fitted with ropes for people to hold on and avoid being carried off when the Bora blows. For those wishing to inquire further, we recommend a visit to the Bora Museum.

Now that you have the keys to unlock the city of Trieste, book your Vueling and embark on a trip of discovery.


Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by Stephen Colebourne, John W. Schulze , stefano Merli , Xenja Santarelli


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