Trieste’s love of coffee dominates the Italian affection to the drink
January 28 - 2022
Coffee Geography Magazine
Located in northeastern Italy the city of Trieste is a seaport which is the capital city, and largest city, of the autonomous region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, one of two autonomous regions which are not subdivided into provinces. Despite the number of companies which are operating on the entire production chain from trading to roasting, the city has something more to the deeply-rooted identification with coffee that permeates Trieste, something that goes beyond the economy.
First thing in the morning, "capo in b" a mini cappuccino served in a glass is a common ritual for many in Trieste. This is where social life often unfolds, as people from all generations gather with friends to share the latest news physically without the need of the social online network sites and pass the time. It is a coffee-obsessed city that can be called the “Coffee Capital of Italy".
Coffee is thought to have first arrived in Italy in 1570 when physician Prospero Alpini brought coffee beans from Egypt to sell in Venetian pharmacies. Though the drink was immediately beloved, it aroused suspicion because of its unfamiliar buzzy effects and associations with Islam. Catholics called it "The Devil's drink" and rallied Pope Clement VIII to ban it. But after one sip, the Pope declared it was so good that it should not be exclusive to the "infidels". By the mid-17th Century, elegant cafes were established in Venice and Vienna, and coffee was revered as a luxurious drink, enjoyed by aristocrats and intellectuals. Soon Trieste started to catch up with this coffee craze in 1719, when its port was declared tax-free under Austro-Hungarian rule. Trade began with coffee arriving from the Ottoman Empire, and Trieste was soon supplying beans to cafes throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire – including Vienna's famous coffee houses. From there on workers and entrepreneurs soon arrived in Trieste from all over the Mediterranean to start companies and build up successful shipping and coffee businesses that lasted until today. The coffee business is responsible for bringing all kind of cultures to the city where now enjoys diverse communities and hosting one of the largest synagogues in Europe, a mosque; and its 19th-Century Serbian Orthodox Church.
The city is also home for IllyCaffe, the Italian coffee giant founded in 1933 and dozens of other companies roast and blend the millions of bags of coffee beans that arrive from all over the world to Trieste's docks each year.
Let’s discover its best 5 ancient cafés:
Trieste’s most ancient café was built in 1825. Founded by TommasoMarcato, from Padua, was renamed after the Dalmatian patriot Tommaseo, after the annexation to the Kingdom of Italy in 1918. From Stendhal to Saba and Svevo, the café was and still is one of the liveliest cultural meeting point for many national and international intellectuals. Today it has the recognition of being one of Italy’s historical places and it widened the range of its products: it added the Bischoff wine-house’s trademark, one of Trieste’s historical places.
Address: Piazza Tommaseo 4 / c, Trieste.
Opened in 1915, the rooms of the café were finely decorated by Debelli, an artist who had already decorated the interior of two transatlantic ships at the begging of the century. Included in the list of Italy’s historical places, it received the plaque that certifies the authenticity of the interior furniture. Even though it was renovated in 2009, the café still preserves the original furniture, especially the valuable Art Nouveau style counter. The last management change gave to the café “Torinese” a younger atmosphere, respecting its history.
Address: Corso Italia 2, Trieste.
The bakery “Pirona” started its activity at the beginning of last century, in an Art Nouveau style place that still preserves the original furniture and atmosphere. Since 1991, it is enlisted as one of Italy’s Historical Places. Thanks to its delicacies, it became almost immediately a reference point for many intellectuals and writers who lived and loved Trieste: among others, James Joyce, who lived close to the bakery, Umberto Saba and ItaloSvevo.
Address: Largo dellaBarrieraVecchia, 12
4. Caffè Stella Polare
Since its opening in 1865, this café has preserved a look similar to the Viennese cafés, characterized by large mirrors and decorated with plasters and stuccos. The mirrors of the café’s small room are still the original ones. The café “Stella Polare” well represented, during the years, the cosmopolitan atmosphere of a port city such as Trieste. Appreciated by the German community, visited by many international and national intellectuals such as Saba, during WWII it became an Anglo-American ballroom.
Address: Via Dante Alighieri, 14, Trieste
5. Caffè San Marco
The story of this stunning café was quite troubled. Founded in 1914, the Ancient Café “San Marco” became immediately the meeting point for young irredentists (Italian patriots who wanted to be independent from the Austro-Hungarian Empire). The following year, some Austro-Hungarian soldiers devastated the café and imposed its closure. Luckily, the valuable furniture was carefully renovated thanks to the General Associations’ work, which, after WWII ensured its reopening. Today, the café lives again as a bar, a restaurant and a bookshop.
Address: via Battisti, 18 Trieste
Next time you visit Italy, make sure you reserve your time and pick these spots as your key destination to leave a mesmerizing moment that never fades away from the rest of your life.