Trieste, as travel writer Jan Morris once opined, ‘offers no unforgettable landmark, no universally familiar melody, no unmistakable cuisine’, yet it’s a city that enchants, its ‘prickly grace’ inspiring a cult-like roll-call of writers, exiles and misfits.
Tumbling down to the Adriatic from a wild, karstic plateau and almost entirely surrounded by Slovenia, the city is physically isolated from the rest of the Italian peninsula. From as long ago as the 1300s, Trieste has indeed faced east, later becoming a free port under Austrian rule. The city blossomed under the 18th- and 19th-century Habsburgs; Vienna’s seaside salon was also a fluid borderland where Italian, Slavic, Jewish, Germanic and even Greek culture intermingled.
Devotees come to think of its glistening belle époque cafes, dark congenial bars and buffets and even its maddening bora wind as their own; it’s also a great base for striking out into the surrounding Carso and Collio wine country.