The Hotel Roma proved to be one of those offbeat older urban hostelries where the elevator stops between floors (stairs up to one landing and down to another) and the breakfast room is at the very top of the building. Desk staffers were very helpful and the rooms were fine, if a bit strange in a way I couldn’t quite define.
The obligatory view from the room:
With the train station at the end of the street.
On Tuesday it was a gorgeous sunny day in Trieste. The Bora was still blowing (it faded away later that afternoon), and after some deliberation over coffee we decided to begin our walk with another visit to the waterfront.
As viewed from the Audace Pier, above is Piazza Unità d’Italia, which is reputed to be the largest square in Europe that opens onto the sea. It dates to 19th-century Austrian times. Behind the square can be seen the Castello di San Giusto — less a castle than a fortress — which was our ultimate destination.
On the Trieste waterfront, next to Audace Pier, there is a sculpture dating to 2004 called “Trieste Maidens.” They’re weaving an Italian tri-color flag. The city of Trieste belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire until the end of WWI, when it passed to Italy. After WWII, there was a ten-year period of inter-ally control (as in Berlin), ending in 1954 with the city’s return to Italy. In truth, the maidens celebrate nationalism, but nonetheless we found their presence by the sea to be beautiful.
The symbolism here is a tad more obvious. The Audace Pier is so named because the Italian Navy destroyer Audace moored here in November of 1918, a tangible indication of Trieste’s forthcoming absorption into Italy.
After a coffee stop, it was time for a winding walk up to the Castello di San Giusto.
The Lapidary Garden di Trieste and J.J. Winckelmann Museum of Antiquities are around the corner, testifying to the ancient origins of these hilltop fortifications.
In the prehistoric age on the hill of San Giusto there was a castelliere (fortified borough), which in the Roman age became an important urban centre. The fortress, built by the Venetians in the Middle Ages, was pulled down in the 14th century by will of the Patriarch of Aquileia and, in 1470 only, it was rebuilt by Friedrich II of Habsburg; the square tower and the two-storey building, which today houses the Castle Museum, date back to this period.
Under the rule of the Republic of Venice, which at the beginning of the sixteenth century had re-established its rule over Trieste, the castle’s defences were strengthened and, under the Austrian rule again, the works continued until the building, in 1630, of the large ramparts and of the linking walls.
This said, perhaps the most important point to make about the fortress is revealed on this interpretive sign on the ramparts.
The imperial engineer Giovanni Pieroni (Florence 1586 – Vienna 1654), in fact, stressed the complete inadequacy of the castle in case of any sort of attack or siege as early as 1639 (only a few years after the building was completed).
But the views were fantastic, and the indoors exhibits worth the hike.
The walk back downhill to sea level.
A light lunch at Hops Beerstro. No food photos; it’s an Asian-influenced menu, and we both had the house version of pad thai.
There was even more strolling prior to a siesta. Later that evening we found our way to an eatery called Al Barattola for magnificent pizza, and perhaps my favorite beer of the trip. The brewery is Theresianer Antica Birreria di Trieste 1766, and the beer is Vienna, which is a neglected lager style in the current age. It’s actually brewed near Treviso in Northern Italy, roughly 155 km from Trieste, and cannot be beaten as a pizza accompaniment (my Italian friend Fabio says the brewery is a subsidiary of Illy coffee).
For a nightcap we heeded the advice of my friend Jane and dropped into Taverna ai Mastri d’Arme. It’s a gastropub and specialty craft beer bar, and I’d kill for the chance just once in my life to work in a space like this.
Next: James Joyce, Italo Svevo and Trieste.