Saturday, 29 March 2014

A big wind in Trieste (and James Joyce!)


I always thought that Wellington, New Zealand, was the windiest city in the world, but Trieste tops it by several knots.  The wind comes in off the Adriatic and swirls through the streets as if through canyons and blows hard across the wide piazzas.  People's hats go flying - table cloths lift and flap from cafe tables - and drifts of paper scraps and plastic cups eddy and dance in invisible air currents. Neil lost 10 euros while trying to pay the waitress in the water-side bar and a glass of wine blew over in a sudden gust.  There are hand-rails on the bridges for people to cling on to as they cross.


Trieste is a fabulous city.  On the waterfront the massive buildings tell the story of a wealthy trading nation - insurance, banking, ship registration, a Borsa and a chamber of commerce.  Most of them date from the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  Further back are the more modest houses of the ship owners and Captains in narrow streets with quiet piazzas where you can find buskers like this.

There's also a wonderful Roman theatre in the centre of the town.


On the top of the hill, more Roman ruins and a 1st century church.  We climbed to the top of the tower where the medieval bells still hang


and there are spectacular views out over the city to the borders of Slovenia.

I couldn't resist doing the thing everybody does with James Joyce, whose statue is on one of the bridges.  According to the inscription, he wrote to his wife that he had left his soul in Trieste. They are looking after it well - there are James Joyce bars, restaurants and  a Joycean city trail.


At the centre of several different cultures, Trieste also serves different faiths - there's a synagogue, an English church, a multitude of Catholic churches and an Orthodox church - San Spiridione.  This was very impressive on the outside, with its domes and gilded mosaics, but also utterly beautiful inside too.



It all made up for the big adventure of driving into Trieste earlier in the day and discovering that the Sat Nav data base wasn't up to date with the current one way system.  'Jane' tried to get me to drive up every street the wrong way and had a hissy fit when I couldn't obey instructions that would have had me either arrested or hospitalised!  'Turn left in 18 yards' was followed by  'turn right', finally, 'turn around when possible' and then she went blank.   Probably drove down every street in the city at least once before giving up and parking at the kerb to walk to the hotel.

Teatro Verdi
While Neil took some photographs I went to the Piazza Verdi to look at the Verdi theatre and discovered that they were doing La Traviata that very night.  Not only that - there were some of the cheapest seats still vacant in the upper levels.  Neil and I had a mad moment and bought two, had a very quick snack instead of the dinner we'd promised ourselves and climbed to the top floor.  We could just see (and hear), but it was worth it for the experience.



The soprano and the tenor singing Violetta and Alfredo were very young, with light, sweet voices and it was a very well designed production.


It was an unexpected treat.  Fell into bed late and exhausted after driving 350 miles (on Italian roads), a blood-pressure raising tour of the city by sat-nav, walking further miles round the streets and then surviving 3 hours of opera on hard seats.  Tomorrow - Istria! 

3 comments:

  1. I love Trieste! For me, it's that mixture of Italian and Mittel Europa and something else as well. Have you read the Jan Morris book on Trieste? Very interesting....

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  2. No, I haven't read Jan Morris - must put it on my list immediately. Trieste has become one of my favourite cities - it has something you can't put your finger on that instantly fascinates. I'm hooked!

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