Citta Vecchia -Cita Vecia
From Piazza Cavana we head up the narrow street where the crests of the “Tredici casade”, the thirteen most powerful families in Medieval Trieste, are displayed on a wall. Right away that gives you a sense of the time period of the Old City – Citta Vecchia in Italian or Cita Vecia in Triestine.
The old city is on the slope of a hill facing the sea and names of the streets are evocative of life at that time – Via delle Monoache –Street of the Nuns, Via dei Colombi –Street of the Doves, Via della Bora. The narrow streets of the Citta Vecchia are lined with tall, wooden shuttered, sorbet-coloured buildings. You wind your way steadily uphill along the streets that are paved with rectangular stones of all shapes and sizes laid out in a herringbone pattern. A lot of these buildings have been here since medieval times and I think about how many, many generations of people have made their homes and raised their families in these very same buildings.
Some of the buildings have been restored and renovated. There are some small trendy restaurants, bars, and pensione, antique stores, but it has not become gentrified and is still an area where people live.
We pass the Arco Ricardo, which legend has, is named after Richard the Lion hearted who was imprisoned here on his way back from the Holy Land. More likely it is a former gate to the city from Roman times (around 33B.C.) when the Emperor Ottavio Augusto had a wall built around the city then called Tergeste. The Arco is overlooked by the surrounding residential buildings and is in front of a restaurant. Just a normal part of the neighbourhood for over 2000 years. The name most probably derives from the Roman “cardo” which along with “decumanus” was one of the main roads in Roman cities. I saw only one tourist sign that pointed in the direction of the Arco Ricardo which as a bit of an indication of how quiet the area is. Not being surrounded by crowds of tourists you can walk along slowly and truly take in the beauty and history of the buildings, streets and “largos”.
No matter which street you take, and I know this for a fact because I have absolutely no sense of direction, somehow you always pop out at the hilltop and San Giusto Cathedral.
Another time I start out on the street where the Questura is located across from the Roman Amphitheatre. Sadly, a lot of the citta vecchia was bull dozed during the time of Mussolini to build these types of administrative buildings and social housing. But as luck would have it the bulldozing unearthed part of what was a substantial Roman Amphitheatre that at the time in the 1st-2nd Century A.D. would have overlooked the sea. This is evidence that Tergeste had some importance to the Romans.
I end up in a small piazza and see the glassed in remains of archelogical digs – an olive oil grinding stone, foundation stones, remaind of columns. As with many things in Trieste these beautiful ancient things are taken for granted and in effect if you are interested you have to do your own research to understand what you are looking at, or be lucky enough, as is my case, to have a very knowledgeable Triestine showing and explaining these things to you!
While it was a great idea to protect these ancient ruins, the glass front is muddy and rain streaked and there did not appear to be any lighting making it a bit hard to really see what was there.
The glass rooves protecting the ruins are surrounded by a terraced piazza. Large patio umbrellas are set up over a long table set with glasses, a bucket of ice, dinner ware, cutlery. A lovely treed and quiet place surrounded by buildings but I cannot ffigure out where the eating establishment might be.
The street takes me by some workers using very loud weed wackers to cut away the weeds from a site with some ruins. I continue up hill and to an opening in a small piazzetta filled with parked cars. This is another characteristic of Trieste. With all these hills and narrow streets, parking spots are hard to find. Everywhere you look cars are packed in. Being more accustomed to the wide open spaces in Canada, and sometimes I feel a sort of cramped in from seeing all these parked cars.
But not today. The view from here is of the Adriatic, particularly beautiful on this bright sunny summer day. The sparkling blue waters are dotted with white sails.
It is one of the many things I love about Trieste. I walk everywhere and I never fail to discover some aspect of the street, the façade of a building, a view, the everyday life of the building that I had not noticed before. I also very much like that at the end of a giro de cita you somehow always end up at Eppinger’s and an Epi spritz!
I am still going uphill and the narrow sidewalk is enclosed with a low guardrail and handrails on the building to help you get around when the Bora is blowing!
I arrive at more Roman remains – a forum and basilica – lie in the shadow of the 15th-century castello, a fortified residence for the Habsburgs with amazing views over the city and Adriatic. I am in the shady area infront of San Guisto – for another blog!
I head home to eat some sardoni in savor for lunch – a doggy bag I was happy to receive after a delicious dinner at a friend’s last night. My vita Triestina!