Wonderful squares and breathtaking architecture provide stunning backdrops for some of the oldest bars in Italy: the historical cafes of Trieste, the most authentic spirit of the city also known as “little Vienna on the sea”.
Illustrious intellectuals like Italo Svevo and James Joyce sipped many an espresso in these splendid bars kitted out in Liberty style, which were an important point of reference for the diffusion of culture and free thinking.
Trieste, the capital city of coffee
For many, the true capital city of coffee is not Naples, but Trieste. There are several historical reasons for this: the port in this Friulian city favoured the transit of precious fabrics, rare spices and exclusive products, including coffee. Since the 1700s, this was the port of arrival for the raw beans sourced in Africa and the New World, as it was one of the most important European ports for the importation of the raw material, a ranking it still holds today.
These particular historical conditions favoured the establishment of a long tradition and a special relationship with the rejuvenating drink known as coffee, which has a special place in the heart of the city’s culture.
Caffè Tommaseo – Trieste, Piazza Tommaseo
An old literary cafe, Caffè Tommaseo opened its doors in 1830 in the central Piazza Tommaseo, soon becoming a meeting place for intellectuals and artists. And that’s not all: it was also where the patriots of the Italian Risorgimento would gather.
In 1954, the historical café in Trieste was officially declared a historical, artistic monument, a status it has retained ever since
Drastically renovated in 1997, today the interior of Caffè Tommaseo still hosts the original décor with its wall decoration by Friulian painter Giuseppe Gatteri and large mirrors from Belgium. Its tables have been graced over the years by many great literary men such as Italo Svevo and Claudio Magris, who wrote some of their works here.
Caffè degli Specchi – Trieste, Piazza Unità d’Italia
Opened in 1839, Caffè degli Specchi is the only one of the four cafes originally present in the old Piazza Grande, today called Piazza Unità d’Italia. The sophisticated spaces of this café take us back in time to Princess Sisi and the unique atmosphere that reigned in the Habsburg Empire.
Over the course of its long history, Caffè degli Specchi was chosen by the irredentists in the nineteenth century and by the British Navy in the second Post War period as the ideal place from which to coordinate their activities.
Caffè San Marco – Trieste, Via Battisti
From when it opened in 1914, Caffè San Marco in via Battisti, Trieste was the headquarters of the irredentists. Here they would print fake passports for anti-Austrian patriots wishing to flee to Italy. The Austrian-Hungarian army, having detected the clandestine activity that went on there, closed the cafe down, devastating it in 1915.
Caffè San Marco only managed to get back on to its feet after the second Post War period, thanks to a number of intensive restoration projects which injected new life into the sophisticated interiors, flaunting fine furniture, marble, stuccos and the decorations of Vito Timmel.
Caffè Torinese – Trieste, Corso Italia
Founded in 1915 in Corso Italia, Caffè Torinese boasts a sophisticated interior featuring, for example, a splendid counter in Liberty style, decorated by Debelli, cabinetmaker from Trieste. Over a century later, this historical café in Trieste still contains the original furniture, which has been carefully restored.
Caffè Stella Polare – Trieste, Via Dante
From when it opened in 1865 until the present day, Caffè Stella Polare has always maintained its classic atmosphere reminiscent of a Viennese bar, sporting large mirrors and extravagant stuccoes. During the Second World War, the café was also used as a dance hall, attended mostly by the American soldiers stationed in Trieste.
Caffè Tergesteo – Trieste, Piazza della Borsa
Inaugurated back in 1863, Caffè Tergesteo is famous for its coloured windows and for its honourable mention in the Canzoniere of one of its most famous patrons, poet Umberto Saba.
The historical cafes of Trieste are not the only places where you can taste an espresso in an atmosphere brimming with history and tradition: discover the historical cafes of Bologna.