A literary city can offer something truly special to those who visit. Here’s a look at the literary hot spots and trails you can follow in Trieste.
Those who like to live vicariously through the greatest literary characters also love to travel in search of the places that inspired the stories. The most avid reader and passionate bibliophile will also want to see the place where their favorite author was sitting while thinking about how to develop the epic story of their protagonist, and see exactly what they saw. They will want to find that one bar, with its decorations, its countertop, everything that went into the backdrop for one of the most important scenes in that one novel that has stayed with them all their lives. They want to recognize those places and people that already seem so familiar.
Trieste is perhaps one of Italy’s most “literary” cities: the birthplace of two great Italian authors, Umberto Saba and Italo Svevo, and the adopted city of James Joyce.
For all the tireless readers and devoted bookworms, here is what you can see in Trieste, following the spirit of the great classics among the monuments, sites and literary trails.
The three said 20th-century writers have become something like patron saints, and statues have been put up in their honor, all stations on one’s literary pilgrimage to Trieste. Umberto Saba is located in Via Dante, with his signature pipe, hat and walking stick blending in among the inhabitants of the city. James Joyce is depicted walking across the bridge in Via Roma, while Italo Svevo welcomes those who visit the Piazza Hortis with his hat in his hand and a book under his arm.
Not only are there statues dedicated to these greats, but true and proper museums as well. The Museo Sveviano holds the manuscripts and first-edition copies of most of the works of Italo Svevo: plays, essays and articles, short stories, fables, diary entries and his correspondence, which takes the visitor on a journey through the history of literature, with letters from Joyce, Montale, André Gide and other writers. The Sveviano Museum also includes a very well-stocked library, which houses, among others, books that belonged to the author himself, as well as a body of original photographs that immerse the visitor into the atmosphere of the author’s era. The museum also organizes the Serate Sveviane (“Svevian evenings”), during which the Triestine author’s plays are staged. Likewise, the Joyce Museum celebrates “Bloomsday” every year, with readings of passages from Ulysses, conferences, movie screenings and much more.
Passing through the streets of the city feels like al pilgrimage through the pages of both history and literature. The Chiozza Arcades are those featured in Italo Sveno’s “Senilità” (As a Man Grows Older), a place where the author used to go every day with his friends, artists Umberto Veruda, Carlo Wostry and Isidoro Grünhut, supporters of the Artistic Circle of Trieste and top painters in their own right.
The Umberto Saba Antiquarian Bookshop
There isn’t any institutional museum dedicated to Umberto Saba and his work; however, this antiquarian bookshop is respectfully preserving all his heritage (in addition to being a bibliophile’s paradise). Here you can find books that belonged to the poet, photos and images as well as the legendary Olivetti typewriter on which he wrote “Il Canzoniere” (The Songbook).
Via del Monte
In Via del Monte, in the Jewish ghetto, one can find the house of Umberto Saba’s nanny. In his poem “Via del Monte”, the author calls it “the way of the suffering saints”, because he was very attached to this nurse, who took care of him during the first three years of his life. His mother fired her on the spot when it was discovered that she had secretly tried to give little Umberto a Catholic education.
Caffè Stella Polare
It was at the tables of this elegant coffee shop that James Joyce, who was teaching at the Berlitz School at the time, began writing “Finnegan’s Wake”. Here you can breathe in the atmosphere of yesteryear, with waiters in livery and a tea room decorated with prints depicting views of the squares of old Trieste, ancient and long lost. Painting and photography exhibitions take place all year long in the main room, which the patrons of the establishment are welcome to check out in between coffees.
Caffè San Marco
The Caffè San Marco is much more than just one of the literary spots in Trieste par excellence: it has been one of the leading meeting places for intellectuals during the 20th century, and it’s also one of the city’s oldest establishments. It was founded in 1914, and still has the same furnishings that showcase Viennese Secession style, which was in full swing at the time of its opening. The walls and ceilings are decorated with male nudes, coffee leaves and flowers, while the marble tables with cast iron legs are adorned with lions’ heads.