It seems appropriate to spend Canada Day in a port town. Being from Vancouver, I’m used to seeing the ocean and feeling the breeze off the water. Honestly I didn’t remember it was Canada Day until Agent R mentioned it. Canada seems a world away.
Trieste – A city on the Edge
Trieste is slightly different than Vancouver. It has been on the edge of empires for centuries and because of this really feels like an outpost. The place is tough and gritty. Where Vienna is a person of refinement who boxes at the club, Trieste is less polished and a street fighter.
The trappings of a grand empire are here – magnificent architecture, statues, fountains. Somehow it seems like Trieste tolerates theses fineries as a price paid for protection against her enemies. Trieste choose to become part of the Hapsburg empire rather than become part of Venice or Yugoslavia. Venice would take more than her share and Yugoslavia wasn’t an option. So Trieste picked Vienna because it was far enough away that she could remain herself.
This is an interesting city, compact and easily walkable. She has been home to many writers from Germany, Slovenia, Great Britian and of course, Italy. You can have your picture taken with the statue of James Joyce on one bridge. Italo Svevo in Piazza Hortis. I can see why they liked it. The people and city are not fancy and not easily impressed but are very proud of who they are. They have a reputation of being cold and aloof but I get the impression that once they get to know you, there are no better friends.
Caffé San Marco is a bar dating back to 1914 where literary types hung out all day, writing prose. It’s an old school bar with a huge book store in the back. No tourists go here because it’s way off the beaten path. I tried a typical cocktail called a Spritz. Basically a white wine spritzer with a bit of aperol in it.
Trieste’s Favourite Hapsburger
I spent the day at Miramare, the beautiful seaside retreat of Maximillian and Caroline. Maximillian fell in love with the city and stayed. Unfortunately Napolean III decided Maximillain should be Emperor of Mexico and he was executed there by firing squad at age 34.
What a beautiful spot overlooking the water and the magnificent garden. Maximillian personally oversaw all the construction and gave detailed instructions. The stairwell filled with weaponry and animal parts is truly impressive.
There are 2 types of food in Trieste: that influenced by the Austrians and Fish.
A buffet is a selection of boiled meats with salads and condiments, clearly an Austrian influence and kinda of an acquired taste. Certainly not something I need to try again. I had boiled pork loin with a Russian salad (mayonnaise, pickles, potatoes, carrots), baccala, a version of lipitauer which, unlike the Austrian version, was whip cream, very little paprika and tiny bit of horseradish. Colli white wine was a good accompaniment.
Seafood shows up in many dishes such as in pasta with clams, with squid ink, with prawns, with mussels. You get the picture. I had the pleasure of eating at Savagente Osteria who’s menu only features fresh fish caught that day. My meal was the Orata, a delicate little white fish, lightly sautéed in butter with a light white wine called Malvasia. Agent R had a really nice dish of squid stuffed with ricotta and mint. Unusual pairing but it worked nicely with a big squeeze of lemon on top. Then there is the free for all plate called Frito Misto: sardines, squid, small shrimp and white fish all fried up and put on a plate. Kinda yummy.
With good fortune, we came upon a lovely gelato place near piazza Hortis called Natura Gelato. I tried a very refreshing peach and basil gelato. Really a brilliant combination. The I tried the chocolate with fleur de sel. Mindblasting! Incredible, I could eat a whole container of that. What flavour!
After the second world war, Trieste was created into an independent state. Tito of Yugoslavia tooke over for a while but left, not before killing hundreds of people. Then eventually Italy took over.
Now there is a move a foot to return Trieste a free territory. After so many centuries of being under a foreign power’s rule, I understand the need for self determination. But transitions to freedom are not always easy or peaceful. With the Russian bear in the distance and the lack of love for Italy, Trieste might have a difficult time. There is a definite tension in the air. As our tour guide, Allessandra said, “I fear for the future of my city.”