When I arrived to Trieste the catchphrase I heard most often was “no se pol”, essentially a defeatist exclamation that things can’t be done. It is in part, what drove me to start this blog, because as an outsider, I feel that this city has boundless potential — if only it can get out of its own way!
Since the lock down, Trieste has proven itself resilient and innovative and in spite of a difficult year, new shops have opened (yes many have also closed), and the city itself seems busy with post-pandemic preparations.
Everywhere buildings are getting their face-lifts thanks to a law passed in 2020 essentially offering a 90% rebate in the form of tax credits on the cost of renovations to buildings’ exteriors (with no spending cap!)
Museums are quietly reimagining and re-working expositions in order to meet new guidelines.
The most stunning of these recent “re-births” are the gardens and trails at Miramare Castle, which, under the determined and expert guiding hand of Andreina Contessa, have been largely restored to their former glory. Gardens are planted, buildings repaired and re-painted, paths re-established transforming it into a living, breathing park filled with both tourists and locals enjoying the sumptuous gardens.
Citizen-led groups have also popped up in the defense of local landmarks busily circulating petitions. One of these projects, led by Adesso Trieste, is to save the Mercato Coperto in Barriera Vecchia.
The indoor market was made possible by Sara Davis, daughter and heir to an English merchant who upon her death in 1904, left in her will a hefty sum with which to create an indoor market to offer protection to the many “vendrigule” or street vendors, she had watched for so many years, braving the harsh and oftern unpredictable Triestine weather. While not aesthetically delicate or even beautiful, it is decidedly a very modern and avant-garde structure for having been built in 1936. A highly functional and adaptive space with its circular ramp makes one wonder if it wasn’t an inspiration for the Guggenheim in New York. Many call it, in fact, the “Triestine Guggenheim” Essentially, the Mercato Coperto was the prototype for what we would come to know as Malls. While vendors in the Mercato have fallen to half of what they were in 2013, there is some activity afoot, with a new fish shop opening up this week and many more requests for permits being filed with the city.
Another project in the works is the plan to reclaim and restore the garden of Villa Necker — the birthplace of the Italian Garden (inspiration and predecessor to the more famous English Gardens). The garden, which covers a little over 7 acres (3 hectacres) was once renowed the world over for the exotic specimens it housed and the many water features and follies that were particular to the home when it belonged to Antonio Cassis Faraone, a Syrian nobleman, politician and gatekeeper to commerce with the Middle East. He trasformed the villa and its gardens to befit the opulent lifestyle of Faraone, whose residence was often described as having been ripped from the pages of “The 1,001 Arabian Nights”. The Villa changed hand many times, even being owned by Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Gerolamo, King of Westphalia.
Eventually it was then taken over by the Austrian Navy and then it passed through several military commands until finally being claimed by the Italian Military as a command center. Over the years, the Villa has fallen into terrible disrepair. The balcony is being barley held up by massive nylon straps anchoring it to the main building and the garden is completely wild and overrun by weeds, invasive species and fallen trees.
Behind this salvage initiative is Ritorno Al Parco, again a citizen based group who succesfully circulated a petition to ask that the local government broker a deal with the Italian government and Military to release claim to the park and return it to the city.
The City is also looking to increase the “green” footprint in the city by adding other parks to a project of clean-up and renovations to make them more accessible, safer and enjoyable.