Trieste: Free Territory by the Sea

Trieste and the Adriatic


The first stop in Italy for Adam and I was Trieste.  Lacking the sights (and crowds) of our later Italian stops, Trieste offered a place to relax and become familiar with Italian basics like espresso and wine.


Easily overlooked by travelers, Trieste has an interesting history as a city at the crossroads of cultures and empires.  The area that modern Trieste sits on has been inhabited for several thousand years.  For several centuries it was a Roman settlement.  Later rulers of the area included the Byzantines, Venetians, and Austrians.  The Austrian influence is still evident in the city’s architecture.  It first became a part of the modern Italian state following World War I.  Trieste was occupied by Nazi Germany after Fascist Italy exited World War II in 1943.  The Nazis surrendered to Allied and Yugoslav partisan forces in 1945.  With this the city and the region was transformed yet again.  The surrounding territory was divided into two occupation zones- a northern zone controlled by the Western Allies and a southern zone controlled by communist Yugoslavia.  Under a United Nations agreement, from 1947 through 1954 the Free Territory of Trieste existed as an independent entity, though its actual administration was mostly carried out by the occupiers.  In 1954 the zones were incorporated into the neighboring countries, the northern zone, with it the actual city of Trieste, to Italy and the southern zone to Yugoslav Slovenia and Croatia.  Trieste is still a major center of shipping and trade in the Adriatic Sea.

Grand Canal with Church of St Anthony in the back

The Cathedral of Saint Justus is the most significant religious building in Trieste and serves as the seat of the bishop of Trieste.  It is named for the patron saint of the city who was killed from his Christian beliefs around the beginning of the 4th century. The interior has a number of frescoes and chapels that are of interest.

Exterior of the Cathedral of St Justus

Virgin Mary Chapel

As in other European cities, Trieste has a large main square that serves as a social and civic center.  The Piazza Unità d'Italia is next to the sea and surrounded by government and commercial buildings.  Unfortunately, the mood of the square was dampened while I was there by the rainy weather.

Piazza Unità d'Italia